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Essentials for Cooking in College

You finally have your own apartment after suffering in the dorms, you have cute decorations, and everything is falling into place… Until your parents tell you that you can’t have a meal plan. You start to panic as you realize you have no idea how to cook for yourself, but don’t worry! Here are the basics you need to know about cooking in college.



To get yourself started, you need to have the right basic tools:

  • Casserole dish- Casseroles are super easy! Simply prep and stick it in the oven.
  • Baking sheet- For cooking frozen chicken and roasting veggies. (And, making cookies!)
  • A decent sized skillet- Big enough for two pieces of bread is good.
  • A medium sized pot- Big enough to boil pasta and rice for one.
  • Spatula- Get plastic or silicon, as metal ones will scratch your pan!
  • Foil- Use it to cover the baking sheet for easy clean-up.
  • Sharp cutting knife- For fruit and veggies.
  • Oven mitts- Safety first!
  • Patience! Learning to cook will take some time.



  • Frozen chicken breasts/tenders- Put them on a baking sheet for 45-60 min, season them half way through the baking process, and ta-da! You have an easy source of protein that can be paired with so many dishes.
  • Frozen hamburger patties- These can be used to make easy burgers in a skillet or cooked and chopped up to add to pasta sauces for extra protein. (Turkey or veggie burgers are good too!)
  • Spaghetti- Probably the easiest thing to make, and the hardest thing to mess up. It can be used with a variety of sauces, veggies, and meat. (Or, to make spaghetti tacos!)
  • Rice- Brown or white rice is easy to make and can be used as a side or as a base for fried-rice and Mexican dishes.
  • Eggs- Add to fried-rice, make an omelet, or hard boil them to use on salads. Get creative!
  • Fruit/Vegetable- These can be canned but should be fresh whenever possible. Veggies can be sautéed in a pan with olive oil and added to many dishes or be eaten as a side. Fruit is good for breakfast and mid-day snacks!
  • Oil- You can use a small amount rubbed around the pan on a paper towel to prevent your food from sticking or use a larger amount to sauté veggies. (Olive oil is probably the healthiest option!)
  • Salt/Pepper- Basically the only seasonings you need are salt and pepper. Even if you don’t like pepper, adding a small amount to chicken and rice takes it from boring to pretty good. (Garlic powder is great too!)
  • Popcorn- When the late-night urge to snack hits, you can give in to the temptation in a healthier way. Popcorn is much healthier than chips, and it’s super easy to make.
  • Oatmeal- Oatmeal is a great breakfast because it will keep you full for a long time, and you can customize it with fruit, brown sugar, cinnamon, or peanut butter. (If you never have time to eat breakfast, you can use it to make overnight oats that are easy to eat as you walk to class the next morning.)
  • Bread- Use it to make toast, sandwiches, and French toast!
  • Peanut butter- The easiest source of protein in the book. You can put it on toast, in oatmeal, on apples, in yogurt, and in smoothies (or just eat it out of the jar for a quick snack). The possibilities are endless!

This list is not comprehensive, and there is definitely room to make things more exciting, but it gives you a great place to start while you learn the basics of cooking. As you go, you can add more spices to your collection and start trying more advanced recipes. YouTube is a great place to go if you want to learn more about cooking techniques! If all else fails, at least you won’t starve (or spend your entire paycheck on chick-fil-a in a week).



Hi everyone! My name is Emmy Rinehart, and I am a sophomore at WVU. I am majoring in strategic communications with an emphasis in PR and a minor in psychology. I am a Feature Twirler in the Pride of West Virginia Marching Band, and I love writing. I can't wait to share that love with you!
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