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As appetizing as ramen all day every day might sound, let’s explore some alternatives.

6 Pantry Staples Every College Student Should Have

College Kitchen: Pantry Must-Haves

As appetizing as ramen all day every day might sound, let’s explore some alternatives.

By Olivia W. McCoy, University of Georgia


To all the college kids that can afford to live on campus and rely on the meal plan, I salute you, for you have done something right in your life to receive such fantastic karma.

For the rest of you guys though, you’re either in a house or an apartment, and your stash of frozen homemade meals your mom packed you at the start of the year ought to be dwindling out by now. Is the panic beginning to set in yet? Does all hope seem to be slipping away with the few remaining casseroles hoarded in your freezer? You’ve never shopped for yourself; you’ve never had to. What does grocery shopping consist of anyway?

6 Pantry Staples Every College Student Should Have
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But then, a glimmer of something truly remarkable lights up your life: There are no parents. This means no one to tell you what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, what constitutes a meal—pure unadulterated freedom. Finally, you may taste the sweet nectar of Fruity Pebbles without your mother nagging on you to finish the Wheat Bran.

The choice is yours, but, if I may, you might want to stock up on a few essentials before you blow your entire budget on ice cream and beer.

Here are the college kitchen must-haves to survive the semester without the addition of diabetes and excessive weight gain (Take notice that ramen does not make the list).

1. Rice

Rice is infinitely better than noodles because there are so many different varieties and it goes with anything and everything. Buy it in bulk, because whatever leftovers your roommates toss your way will absolutely be great in a surplus stir fry.

6 Pantry Staples Every College Student Should Have
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You can cook rice in large amounts and stock it away in the fridge because it takes FOREVER to go bad. Forty minutes and you’ll have food for weeks. All those veggies and meats you’ve been meaning to eat but never got around to, stack them on up and mix ‘em in for a surprisingly new taste in every bite!

It also works wonderfully as a filler for make shift burritos and soups.

2. Olive Oil

This is a two-fold essential: 1) it’s indispensable in terms of cooking, and 2) it removes temptation.

Bake vegetables and meats, fry up an egg or a chicken breast with some Ritz crackers, grease your dog’s head to get him out from the stair spindles—the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Best of all, it’s not vegetable oil. With canola oil, the temptation to bake brownies and other tooth decay activists will be overpowering. The urge to lick the entire bowl of cake goop spit spot clean will overtake you in one fell swoop. Your arteries will not make it out of there unclogged. Luckily for you, olive oil tastes very strange with sugar. It’s not too appetizing an offer and thus, your wallet will sigh in relief at the sight of the dentist bill.

3. Granola Bars

Some of those power bars can be pricey, but things like Nutri-Grain come in bulk and you can often find them in the store brand for that extra nickel in your pocket.

Perfect for rushing out the door, they can substitute breakfast when your warm bed eventually wins over your heart—and it will happen eventually.

Why eat when you can sleep for an extra twenty minutes? Breakfast is so high school anyway.

Not only all of this, but granola bars are also something easy to sneak onto the bus and eat hidden from the prying eyes of the rule-enforcing bus driver.

4. Chocolate

There’s no escaping chocolate, it’s an obligation, especially for girls. When test time comes around and you have three essays and two exams in the same week, you’re going to need a little Zen.

But here’s a way to keep you in check, because you certainly don’t want—or should I say need—to eat a four pound bag of Hershey kisses in one sitting. Have your roommates chip in for an emergency chocolate stash. This way, melty, sweet goodness is always at your disposal for those dire times and you won’t be damning your past self for trying to break the record for largest collection of sugar induced zits.

5. Cheese

This one came out of left field for me when I moved into my house. I’m not a huge fan of eating straight cheese like some others that I know (you know who you are), but I found it a basic staple in cooking.

Cheese simply goes on everything. It’s got calcium, it’s got flavor, and, best of all, it replaces your need for salt. No longer do I lick my fingers clean after finishing off an entire bag of movie theatre microwave popcorn. Instead, I just throw some cheddar on my rice and my salty snack craving is satisfied.

Oh cheese, where have you been all my life?

6. Saltines

This one is not so fun, but for those days when you can hardly get out of bed (whether it be due to your own devices or otherwise), it’s going to be a savior.

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Kind of bland and not that tasty, you won’t be enticed to down a whole sleeve—unless, of course, you’ve been dared to complete the saltine challenge or happen to be gifted a jar of Nutella. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and crackers will soak up that alcohol and/or settle your stomach so that you may live to regret another hangover.

7. Eggs

Eggs are worth the time-bomb expense. Yes, they go bad rather quickly. Yes, they run out easily. Yes, your roommates will steal them for their own selfish purposes. But, they are the versatile protein and thus, essential to the college kitchen.

Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, cheddar eggs, omelets, egg grilled cheeses, eggs in ramen (to spice up that cardboard bowl), boiled eggs—you name it, an egg will find a place.

Cheaper than meats and quicker than rice, eggs are a true and blue standby for you.

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