Setting Up a New Kitchen
If your new year of university also heralds in the exciting time of moving out of home and renting somewhere, then it comes with the fun but slightly headache inducing task of stocking a new kitchen.
It can be fun for the first week or two, living off Red Bull, hummus and pita bread. However, that’s not exactly the healthiest (or tastiest) option and take it from me, once you’ve worked through the flavoured hummus, you will hate the goop for a while.
Fortunately, with a bit of planning, setting up your new kitchen can be made a whole lot easier.
I think investing in one or two good cookbooks and some staple ingredients is the best method. I swear by Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Everything is simple, delicious and, while it took me a bit of practice to work fast enough for the ’15 minutes’ part, they are very simple and easy recipes that can be whipped up after work/study; or on a lazy weekend and frozen for a week of microwave meals without the MSG. A few other books that are awesome include Save With Jamie, Bill Granger’s Easy, The Hungry Student Cookbook and The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook.
Living with house mates can be great due to the fact some items often become communal and, therefore, cut costs (and definitely saves having four different bottles of olive oil and the entire contents of a spice factory taking up space). As for the rest of it, your menu is whatever you want. And if that includes popcorn for dinner then go forth and prosper.
I love this list of Jamie Oliver’s pantry essentials. I would probably add other important items, like coffee, wine, beer, pizza, and chocolate, because those are very essential for a student’s daily life. With these items on hand you can easily pick up fresh veggies or meat throughout the week to add to meals, depending on what you feel like cooking.
Also, do not feel afraid of the frozen meal. For the days you cannot be bothered to cook, or are schlepping home from an awesome night out, or are sick, or it’s 3am and you’re hungry, a delicious meal in three minutes is great – so keep a few frozen meals in the back of the freezer.
If you’re in a share house, it’s a good idea to start off by discussing the utensil situation with house-mates and work out what you have and what you need to buy – saves having a kitchen with 25 spoons, 3 forks and no drinking glasses. If you’re living in a university accommodation, the kitchen may be stocked with some items (i.e. kettle and toaster) but have no plates, so make a list of everything you need and get it in one hit. It’s far nicer to have everything you need on hand then struggle through without – especially when you buy baked beans but no can opener (true story).
Jamie has a list of essential kitchen utensils here, and he is pretty true in what he says – a good set of knives and great quality pots and pans will definitely improve your cooking and save money in the long run. Other items like cutlery, tongs and mixing bowls can be bought for less money from Kmart or Ikea. It’s also a good start to check in with friends and family who might be more than happy to help you establish yourself in the culinary world by giving you stuff they aren’t using in their kitchen.
In stocking a kitchen, it is also good to consider what kind of meals you will be making regularly to help decide what appliances you need. I personally think a rice cooker is fantastic – it frees up space on the stove and since they turn off automatically, you’ll never burn the rice or yourself. If you’re a green smoothie fan then get a good blender.
Keeping things in easy, logical reach is a must. Oil, spice, utensils like tongs and stirring spoons should all be near the stove; things rarely used – mix masters or serving platters given by a well meaning relative can be put on a top shelf. Cooking and life in general is made so much easier when everything you need is just there.
Similarly, keep plates and glasses away from the stove – open cupboards might look fab in a magazine, but they and anything on the shelves will attract grease and smoke when you start frying. Store these on the other side of the kitchen.
Also, consider the function of utensils and storage over the design – it may look pretty to have a set of pastel measuring cups, but if they don’t stack, hang or store in your kitchen then they will just become annoying. Make sure tins and canisters are easy to open, and items are of good enough quality to not fall apart 5 minutes out of the box.
So, armed with this knowledge, you can now go forth and be a master chef in the University of Cooking! May the Forks be with you.