If you’re planning to head off to university and live in student accommodation, it can be both an exciting and daunting time for parents and students alike.
For students it can be a time to relish in the freedom that living away will bring. Nights out without having to call back home every ten minutes and being able to eat whatever they like whenever they like. Although, let’s face it, it’s likely to be Pot Noodle every night with a bottle of Tesco lager.
Of course, living away from home has one major downfall that probably won’t be apparent until it’s too late. You see, when you’re at home, your parents pretty much do everything for you. They clean, they feed, they water you. Suddenly you have to do it all yourself and the panic sets in! Do you use a plastic scouring pad or a metal one? Do I vacuum under the furniture? How do clothes get clean?
And just as you’re cooking a slap up meal for you and your house-mates you realise you haven’t got a colander. Nuts. What next?
You’re going to need some basic kitchen equipment. Some people go to crazy expense and you’d think they used to work in Gordon Ramsey’s buying department, but you will need a few bits to ensure you can cook. Also, a bit of expense up-front could save a lot of money later on.
Being able to cook your own meals rather than buying pre-made stuff means you’re saving money in the long run. You’re also likely to be getting healthier food and when most of your diet will consist of Jaeger Bombs, you need the healthiest food possible!
So, here’s a list of essentials. I do follow up with a few ‘nice to haves’, too. If your relatives are eager to buy you some culinary gadgetry, there may be a few items there you can supplement your cupboards with.
By the way, some of these may be included in your rental – check with your landlord first!
At the very least I would advise you get a cook’s knife. These are the large ones that you see telly chefs using all the time. They’re the most versatile and even if a little big for fiddly, small items, a good one will usually do most of what you’ll need in the kitchen. However, shop around because for a little more than the cost of a single knife, you can often buy an entire set in a block. Check the supermarkets around summertime.
There are lots of these that claim to have lots of magic anti-bacterial properties but I’ve checked and the science it a little sketchy. Also, it may give you the false idea that you can leave them without cleaning between uses, which is untrue. Just get a simple, plastic chopping board and make sure you clean it every single time and you can be sure you and your room-mates won’t catch any nasty bugs.
If I’m being pedantic, I’d advise you get one for veg, one for meat. Again, you might get a deal on a set, but don’t be obsessed with those multi-coloured sets that offer different boards for all kinds of different uses. Meat and veg will do.
Very often forgotten and a second thought in many kitchens, but seriously, they’re extremely useful for so many things. Draining veg, thinning sauces, all sorts. Best of all? They’re cheap.
What can I say? These are essential and it’s worth spending a bit of money on one like a Magician, simply because anything less is a faff. I’ve seen people struggle with those ones that are just a thin piece of metal with a hook, but y’know? Life’s too short.
You can get away with just one, and they’re not expensive. Get a plastic one so you can use it in all of your saucepans, even the non-stick ones.
Now, you can get a set of four non-stick saucepans for a tenner from some places. Trust me, they’re really not worth it. It’s far better to spend a little bit more money and get a decent set, but you don’t have to spend a fortune.
Also, you don’t need them all to be non-stick. Get stainless steel medium and large pans (useful for soups, boiling veg, and pasta, pretty much everything) and get yourself a non-stick milk pan. I’ve found this to be absolutely the best combination.
You probably won’t use the milk pan for milk, who does? But they’re so useful. For example, if you’re an egg fan, scrambled eggs done the proper way is much easier using a non-stick pan. And delicious.
Necessary for cheese. You’ll use a lot of cheese, I guarantee it.
These are hands-down brilliant. Using your large saucepan above, boil up a load of vegetables and add in some chicken stock. Then, shove the stick blender in the middle and blitz away and you have soup. Grate some cheese on top and you’ve got a meal.
One of those Pyrex ones you can get from pretty much every shop in the world. Absolutely essential so you’re not left guessing with how much water to put in your ready-mix casserole.
I mentioned the stick-blender, but if you have an aunt with more money than sense, get yourself a Bamix. These are the kings of blenders and they come with a really useful chopping accessory, too.
Not only that, you’ll be using it when you eventually get a job and a proper home of your own. You’ll also be using it to prepare soup for your kids. They’re indestructible.
Also, for the juice fanatics among you, get a juicer like the Nutri-bullet. Amazing for blending fruit and veg, naturally, but how about in the summer when you’ve got friends round? How about if you could make the best smoothies in the world?A Mars bar, some ice-cream and half a pint of cold milk, blended up – nobody will want to leave. Friends for life, I guarantee it.