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Equipping a college apartment kitchen

My daughter is moving into her first apartment. She is a student at UC Berkeley. What should I buy to start off her new kitchen?

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  1. *george foreman grill
    *one of those toasteroven/microwaves....stainless steel is probably good/preferable
    *good blender for drinks, smoothies, etc
    *good frying pan

    3 Replies
    1. re: Xericx

      "*good blender for drinks, smoothies, etc"

      but not for margaritas, right?! ;-)

      - some not so nice plates, like I had some plastic, but not throw-away, ones that I used for everyday use
      - dish towels
      - measuring cups, spoons (Crate and Barrel has some inexpensive options for things like this... I got my "college" mixing bowls from them and am still using them)
      - plastic cups that she can take to class with her
      - along the same line, "tupperware" containers she can take her lunch in to class

      Some things I forgot to bring:
      - a can opener
      - cheese grater
      - potato peeler

      1. re: Katie Nell

        Margarita's a drink!

        As far as cheap plates, I like the basic line at Crate and Barrell for every day use. Just the plain white plates...stay away from those colored dishware sets...i like buying them individually and they are cheap. Plus if they break they are easily replaceable.

        Yeah, one chef's knife should be good for everything. Get a niceish one since those cheap ones she'll probably end up throwing away at the end of the year.. i know I did.

        oh yeah, get a nice stainless steel trash can too....can't stress how important those are..

        1. re: Katie Nell

          FYI Crate and Barrel has an outlet on 4th St. in Berkeley.

      2. It kind of depends on how often she cooks, and what she cooks.

        1. Set of knives, meltproof spatula, wooden spoon.

          Nothing she won't be heartbroken about losing to roommates...

          2 Replies
          1. re: LoDega

            there are a lot of good suggestions here. i do think that her cooking skill level/style and the kinds of food she likes will end up dictating what she truly needs.

            i'm a cook by feel, my teaspoon is the smaller spoon in the drawer and the bigger one my tablespoon. a glass ikea cup with rings for aesthetics poses as my measuring cup. i haven't had any problems with this method, but it's a mindset... some people need to have specific measurements to feel comfortable.

            anyhow, to toss in something else... i think a couple baking pans for an oven (assuming she has an oven) would be super helpful. along with tonnes of aluminum foil and parchment paper. if she's ever in a rush at all, she can do a set it and forget it type dinner by quickly prepping meat and veg into a packet and letting it cook/steam in the oven. no stirring, no mixing and dinner in 30 minutes.

            i'd also suggest something that she can make brownies/cake/cookies on/in. never underestimate the need for simple baked goods when you're away from home.

            i actually replied to this specific post because i completely agree on the roommate part. you cannot account for roommates actions with regards to burning the bottoms of pots, scratching teflon, losing items, letting items rust, bending items...

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Believe me, I shared a kitchen with nine other people. I learned this the haaaard way...

          2. Microwave (if it doesn't come with one)

            1. A decent chef's knife and some inexpensive but sturdy pots and pans. Both of these can be found at Target -- in fact, a gift certificate to Target will serve many uses.

              1. Ikea has one of those starter kitchen kits in a box. It comes with a bunch of inexpensive staples like glasses, dishes, flatware, pots pans, measuring items, kitchen utensils, etc. Very inexpensive if I remember.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Pupster

                  Ikea is disposible. I've thrown everything I've ever bought there away. Tables, kitchenware, even the garbage can!

                  1. re: Xericx

                    Hmmm. I haven't. I have quite a number of items that have lasted a while. Not glasses or dishes or pots, since I am a full-grown person who cooks a lot. But for someone just starting out it should last through college.

                2. Congrats! By chance, my daughter is just headed up there for her first semester as a transfer student.

                  I'll tell you what we did for my first college student daughter, we began buying her a small batterie of good stuff to start with that she can take into her first "real" apartment. For my son, we went to Target and bought a kitchen-in-a-box of cheap essentials — but he hardly eats and will NEVER cook. For the girls we're not wasting time and money buying things that will need to be replaced.

                  Target has really nice starter sets of Caphalon. They're high quality and will easily last 15 years and give her an opportunity to enjoy cooking. We also got a starter set of high quality knives — the same ones you want to use. If you don't get a set a chef's knife or santuko and paring knife would be essentials. To go with, get her a decent cutting board and teach her good technique and respect for an important tool. Dishes were different. Whatever's cheap and available — they'll get broken and go missing so you're/she's gonna be replacing that anyway. An alternate approach is one placesetting of something decent from Pier One or someplace that will be distinctive and other roomies will recognize and respect as hers. Truth is, she'll probably end up with a place setting or two from a dining hall. ; >

                  We got her one of those George Foreman grills but I think if I were doing it again I'd get a panini grill with the flexible hinge that would be more versatile. She'll probably want a water kettle or coffee maker. And then, how about the funds to decide what else she'd like when she settles in and decides how often it's more convenient to eat on campus and how often she needs to have some real food.

                  Your own kitchen probably has some things that will be useful: silicone spatulas, a can opener, a decent whisk. Got an extra baking dish or two for mac & cheese and warming things up? A mixing bowl will be helpful too.

                  Does she already cook? What are her favs and what do they require? Are you teaching her some basics? My older daughter got through her first year on mac & cheese and got pretty creative with risottos.

                  Forgot to add if she's living with roomies there's an advantage to planning to spend an extra day up there after you see what everyone else has already provided. I'm not kidding you, when we delivered my son to Santa Cruz last year, they had 5 sets of dishes for 4 roomates!

                  1. Great suggestions! My SO just got his college bound nephew this College Kitchen Survival book based on the recs from a few hounds... We flipped through it and it's pretty darn good! :)



                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy

                      I cannot recommend this book enough. Each time someone posts a query about 1st. college apartments or kids moving out to be on their own for the first time I have to say, "GET THEM THIS BOOK".

                      I used to sell a ton of them in a kitchen shop I worked in, in a college town. It is full of common sense advice about equipment, care and use abdn what is needed, good recipes and common sense.Lora Brody worte this for her sons as they were sprouting thier wings and it is quite valuable. As a Realtor who works with a lot of single, young, first time buyers it is often a closing gift to my clients.

                      1. re: Candy

                        If your daughter cooks at all, I might instead recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It was the ONE cookbook I needed to get me through college, and you really can get a recipe for just about every sort of basic thing in there. I still use it as a reference when dealing with new or different ingredients, and still do much of my baking from the recipes in it.

                    2. All are great suggestions so far. I'd suggest a good coffee maker if she likes coffee, a tea kettle that whistles (in case she gets engrossed in studying and forgets she put the kettle on like I did) and a gift box from Penzey's that has an array of spices that she'll need. If you are looking for good deals I'd check out Tuesday Morning. I especially like their prices on linens.

                      1. Thank you to all of you for some great suggestions! I am teaching my daughter to cook (mostly Asian) but I don't use recipes so she is having to learn my techniques. The suggestion for the book is a great idea!

                        1. Something nobody has mentioned - cleaning supplies! Don't forget sponges, cleaning pads, liquid soap, extra trash bags, etc. I remember running out of these things all the time and getting quite lazy about restocking. Nothing worse than a sinkful of dirty dishes and having to scrounge around for something to take out the garbage with.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sivyaleah

                            Good tip but, borrowing again from my experience last year, every single family turned up with a full complement of cleaning supplies. Again, I suggest one extra day to the move-in process for taking stock and visiting local housewares stores and a grocery store.

                          2. I would recommend a slow cooker, too.

                            She can makes stew, fricasse, chili, bolognese sauce and so on. Portions can then be frozen and microwaved for quick meals.

                            It's a great no fuss cooking tool for a student without a lot of time to cook.

                            1. i used my rice cooker all the time in college.

                              1 Reply
                              1. Hello,

                                I love my immersion blender! It is convenient and does multi-duty. IIt comes with all sorts of fun attachments It is great for pureeing soups, making smoothies and drinks, and came with a small food processor atachment that I use to make hummus, pesto, etc. It also came with a whisk attachment that I use to do up frothed milk for latte or cappucinos or of course whip cream and egg whites.

                                Also, I find the simple box grater it great for numerous uses that you could otherwise buy gadgets for: of course grating cheese, and on the small holes I use that for what others might use a microplane (graing citrus zest, grating ginger while and unpeeled, grating fresh nutmeg).

                                A toaster oven is a great idea when cooking for one...you can make everything from pizza to lamb chops in it. You don't have to heat the whole stove so cuts the cooking ime as well. It is perfect for cooking for one.


                                1. Having done this a couple of years ago, I suggest going to Target to buy one of their "kitchen in a box" sets. They're about $50-60, and have all the basics for a college student's first apartment. It's the easiest, most cost efficient way to outfit a kitchen that will be shared with other students. You can fill in with a couple of decent knives (paring and chopping), and other odds and ends. I found that roommates aren't always very considerate or careful when sharing things, so making an investment in good stuff is a waste of money.

                                  1. I do NOT recommend the Target "kitchen in a box" -- it's all very bad quality. My daughter and I did this last year, and it was a BIG disappointment. Buy: a decent chef's knife and paring knife, with a good cutting board. A Lodge Logic frying pan. A pot big enough for pasta/ braises/stews. A smallish non-stick skillet for fish/omelet/lots of stuff. Cheap gadgets we all use:peelers/microplane/etc. The most-used item by my son was a (cheap) rice cooker.

                                    The absolute best thing to send with them is a collection of hand-written recipe cards of their favorite dishes that you cook.
                                    My freshman year in college (in Munich), I made my mom's pies using a wine bottle as a rolling pin and other 'emergency" substitutions. The inspiration of her recipes was all I really needed.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      I used this kit for my first year of law school. Although I'd lived in an apartment before, my roomates owned most of our pots & pans, so I needed to stock up. Most of the set has been thrown in the trash, but it got me through a couple of years -- and I like to cook.

                                      When I was in college and law school dorms, the pieces I used the most were:

                                      (1) Toaster oven. It's great for baking, cooking AND reheating leftovers. No need for a separate toaster.

                                      (2) A large DEEP saute pan that I picked up between my freshman and sophomore years at a grocery store (although it is at least T-Fal) is STILL one of my go-to pots and pans. It's a great multi-functional pot -- I've made everything from soup to spinach to hamburgers to spaghetti sauce in it. I now have many more pots and pans, but still use this OLD pan often.

                                      (3) If your daughter has gas, skip the George Foreman and get her a pan that's a grill pan on one side and a griddle on the other. We had a George Foreman in college, but food never quite tasted right. The griddle/grill takes up less space and has more functionality.

                                      (4) A blender, as many have pointed out.

                                      (5) Trivets. We managed to put a hole in our kitchen counter senior year -- remember, most collge apartments are formica, not the wonderful stones that many of our kitchens now have. This can be costly.

                                      (6) A wok-like skillet. We now have a real wok, but it takes some effort at keeping clean and I don't like to use it for anything I'm worried might stick. Again at a grocery store, I picked up a non-stick generic wok pan that I have used since college. You can stir-fry in it, but you can also use it to saute all sorts of other things.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Good point, pikawicca. You might want to check out Ikea (there's one near Berkeley in Emeryville) for inexpensive non-stick pots and pans. I picked up a couple of non-stick frying pans there for under $10 a couple of years ago, and they're holding up just fine (and I'm many years past a college kitchen!)

                                      2. I won't so much point out what she needs so much as point out what she doesn't need. Unitaskers. I'm guessing her kitchen will be cramped. Keep it simple. Give her as much stuff that'll go under the counter or above it. Give her stuff that has many purposes. Give her stuff that is easy to use and more overly easy to clean up.

                                        One last thing I will add. Give her a fire extinguisher.

                                        All the best to her.

                                        1. Don't forget to get her a SALAD SPINNER and a colander ! I can't tell you how much time would be saved by having both. Ooh, and scissors! Knives aren't the only sharp thing a kitchen needs. She'll also need dish towels/rags, perhaps a paper towel dispenser, apron, dish washing gloves, and maybe a bread bin if she actually eats bread (I'd recommend keeping this in the room if the kitchen is a common space, as I've seen way too much bread get "borrowed"). I remember when I went abroad for a semester, I got really frustrated and had a friend who visited from the States get me a measuring cup-- a cheap plastic 4-5-cup measuring cup. I used that thing more than anything else. I also agree about the kettle-- unless you get the automatic plug-in kind that shuts off once it reaches a certain temperature, it could be dangerous. And mesh strainers always go with tea...Why not a stove-top espresso maker if she likes espresso as opposed to coffee? If she opts for one and gets her own beans, she could use the grinder for certain spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and have some lovely spiced coffee ^^

                                          Congratulations to your daughter! Who knows, I might've met her among the ginormous number of students, but I decided to take another graduate program's offer ^^ I'm also planning my kitchen out for a first apartment. Garbage cans are a must.

                                          1. Ha! Back in the day.. we made do with an electric popcorn popper (NOT the one that works on air; the one that works with GREASE!), a hot pot, an electric immersion coil... and... uh... that was IT! I really think it is an ability/reality proposition. If she is gonna be studying, she's not gonna wanna cook, guys!! And that's why the dorm was so good for me. I got to study, and not worry about my groceries etc.

                                            But, hey.. Given my son's experience, studying is just not that important anymore. Get her whatever she wants. Calphalon? SURE! Get it! She'll scrub out the dust before she gives it back to you in a coupla three years! And it will be (other than the dust) pristine, as she will never have used it.

                                            My dorm's salad bar was wonderful. And they are probably better than back in the day. Sorry... I am just so disillusioned... later..........