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The Basic Kitchen and Grocery Items You Should Always Have at Home

We’re taking the stress out of stocking your kitchen! Here’s a list of the essential cookware and grocery items you need.

Where Do I Start?

Unfortunately, that time has come. No more dorm food, no more of your parent’s cooking. Now you’re at the age where you need to start cooking your own meals, and the whole process seems so overwhelming. What do you need? What do you buy?

Well, the truth is cooking in college doesn’t need to be so complicated and stressful. Following this guide will help you kickstart your journey to becoming an everyday chef. We’ll look at what cookware you need to have in a successful kitchen, and some pantry and grocery staples that are good to always keep around the house. As you get into the habit of grocery shopping, having a basic list like this to return to will make it easier to plan ahead and provide yourself multiple meal options.

Kitchen Essentials

With cookware and utensils, everything really just needs to be functional, so don’t worry too much about everything being shiny and new. A hand-me-down or thrift store set will work just as well as a new purchase from Target. In creating your checklist, make sure you include the following items. With this you should be able to prepare just about any meal.


  • Frying pan

  • Large pot (with top)

  • Strainer

  • Spatula

  • Serving/stirring spoon

  • Cutting board

  • (At least one) sharp kitchen knife

  • Can opener

  • Scissors

  • Measuring cup set

  • Glass baking dish

  • Multiple serving plates and bowls

  • Multiple forks, knives, and spoons

  • Basic Tupperware set

As you continue to develop your kitchen, you may find it beneficial to add more cookware or appliances. As you do this, it's advisable that you always plan ahead and think of storage. Every kitchen (especially in college housing) comes with it's space limitations, so it is recommended you keep your cookware as simple as you can.

Pantry & Grocery Staples

When going shopping for the first time, look to this list for inspiration on what to buy. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of always keeping these staples in stock. These are food items that are always good to keep around the house, and can be used to create multiple simple meals.


  • Mac and cheese box

  • Canned soup

  • Bread

  • Tortillas

  • Pasta noodles

  • Pasta sauce

  • Olive oil or cooking spray

  • Taco seasoning packet

  • Salt & pepper

  • Other simple seasonings (paprika, cumin, etc.)


  • Eggs

  • Milk

  • Shredded cheese

  • Basic condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.)

  • Butter or margarine


  • Ground beef/turkey

  • Frozen pizza

  • Frozen fruits and veggies

When shopping for staple items, keep in mind where everything will end up. For example, if you are sharing a refrigerator with multiple other roommates it may help to buy more in pantry goods, where there is likely more storage space.

Buying Your Basics

As you learn what you like to cook and determine your meal routines, more essentials may be added to this list, but for now you can’t go wrong with picking up these items. Think of it as a safety net -- as long as you have these things at home, you’ll always be able to create a number of quick and easy meals!

It can be helpful to put a system in place to ensure you are never short on your critical items. For some, that means making a grocery list. For others, it may mean scanning your stock of basics before heading off to the grocery store. If you notice yourself running low on anything, it might be best to address the issue right away. It's better to be proactive in planning your shopping, rather than going to cook and realizing you are missing key ingredients.

Lastly, certain staple products are good to introduce into your grocery shopping ritual. By repeatedly buying the things you use often, the purchase will become second nature. For instance, if you go shopping once a week, you may want to consider buying milk and eggs weekly, or whatever else you consistently use.

Refer back to this post whenever you need to plan your shopping, and add to the checklists with the additional basics that are special to you!

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