Pantry Staples You Need as a College Student

Lately, I’ve been embracing my body more with the #ThickGirl movement, which means eating delicious and nourishing food without feeling ashamed of myself. However, sometimes as a poor college kid, it’s hard to get ahold of good food for cheap, especially while living in dorms without a kitchen. For your convenience, here is a list of staple pantry items you need to dress up plain food or leftovers.

1. Garlic Powder (and Other Mixed Seasonings)

This essential seasoning can be used in spice blends to season veggies and meat. It can also be used on popcorn if you’re tired of just salt and butter. My mom likes to roast chickpeas with garlic powder instead of eating popcorn, but if you live in a dorm without a kitchen, that wouldn’t really be an option. Other inexpensive mixed seasonings can be found at Wal-Mart. Adding different seasonings to ramen could make it more bearable when you’re low on cash, as will other items on this list.

2. Lime & Lemon

Put some lime in your ramen too! If you’re a tea-drinker, lemon in your herbal drink can brighten the flavor and wake you up a little more if you need a bit of an afternoon kick. Plus, you can use those leftover limes for tequila shots if you’re 21+.

3. Home-Grown Herbs (if possible)

Adding some fresh basil to a $1 can of tomato soup and cooking it with milk can make a huge difference in the flavor and texture. Growing mint, basil, rosemary, chives, lettuce, coriander, and other salad greens all grow well in pots and if you have room for them in your living space, these herbs and veggies can spice up your meals.

4. Cheese!!!

Cheese can go in nearly EVERYTHING. Cheese on pasta, cheese and fruit for a snack, cheese and nuts in a bag for an in-class snack, cheese on instant made grits, cheese on wheat bread on a slice of tomato that’s broiled for a couple minutes in an oven. And there’s so many kinds to explore. One of my personal favorites is goat cheese with pears, or grapes, and pita chips. Try it!

5. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce lasts forever, and you can always use it for the nights you splurge on Asian take-out. And again, a great addition for your ramen if you’re craving pho. Putting some soy sauce, steamed carrot slices (which you can do in a microwave), cilantro, hot sauce, sprouts, and a hard-boiled egg in some ramen completely transforms the dish.

6. Pickled Veggies

There are many different styles of pickled vegetables: Mexican style, you can use on tacos or quesadillas; Indian style can be used on plain rice (which you can microwave in a packet) to make it nutritious and delicious; Chinese and Japanese style are usually used on rice and with sushi (which you can get at an HEB or Kroger nearby). Most Asian styled pickled veggies can also go into ramen if you like the taste. 

Plus, regular ole pickles are great in a baggie for on-the-go during a busy day.

7. Powdered Drink Packets

A large variety of iced teas, lemonade, and Kool-Aid are all super cheap at Wal-Mart and basically never expire. Just add water, stir, and refrigerate for a thirst-quenching drink when you’re tired of tap water.

8. Nuts

A great snack with plenty of nutritional value. Add some salt, garlic powder, or chili powder to raw nuts if you want to spice things up. Eat them with fruit, cheese, or yogurt. Put them in a ziplock bag for your study sesh at the library. Take advantage of the nuts.

9. Honey*

As a natural sweetener, honey has a variety of uses. It can be added to tea, especially if you have a sore throat, try lemon and honey in warm green tea. You can use it as a condiment for chicken nuggets for a little bit of sweetness. Even toast with peanut butter and honey feels like a treat because of the richness of honey.

10. Hot Sauce

Use it on wings, rotisserie chicken from a grocery store, in ramen, on literally anything your heart desires. If you really think you’re badass, try it on hot Cheetos as a challenge with your friends.

*Save the Bees: buy local honey and support the bees in your area to raise the bee population so we can keep using their honey and they can help pollinate our beautiful flowers and crops.