Kitchen Cupboard Essentials for Freshers

By Abby Wilson.

When first arriving at university, it can be very tempting to fall into the trap of often ordering takeaways. I mean, who doesn’t love Domino’s or a good curry? Living on a budget and no longer being able to rely on your parents to do the food shopping and cooking can be quite daunting. It can also be difficult to balance studying and having a social life resulting sending food shopping to the bottom of a day’s to-do-list. Filling your cupboards with the basic kitchen essentials at the start of term can help you to easily rustle up something delicious and yet equally affordable. So here’s a list of basic and cheap, cupboard essentials to buy saving you from tiresome trips to the supermarket throughout the year.

The first bit of advice: remember, university towns do have shops, so you don’t need to worry about taking all of your kitchen cupboard essentials from home! Upon arrival, you can head to the nearest supermarket and follow this handy kitchen cupboard shopping list.

  1. Salt and Pepper

The two most obvious kitchen essentials. Seasoning food with salt and pepper will instantly turn depressing meals into flat-mate impressers.

 2. Cooking oil

Pretty much essential for most cooking. Olive oil is arguably the best bet for most recipes, but cheaper options like sunflower or vegetable oil are equally as useful.

 3. Herbs and Spices

The herbs and spices you buy are completely dependent on your preference. Find a few that you like as a great, quick way to make almost anything taste delicious. Mixed herbs are perfect in a simple spaghetti bolognese whilst paprika is always a good bet for spicing up a dish.

  4. Pasta

Essential for students – different types of pasta with different sauces and ingredients – you will never get bored. Tesco do 3kg packs of penne pasta quills or fusilli pasta twists for £2.80. A bargain that will keep you busy for weeks! When buying pasta on a budget, it is best to buy dry, and in bulk. There is no point in buying fresh pasta as this doesn’t last long and works out more expensive.

  5. Rice

Another dried essential that goes with many dishes. As tasty as it is, Uncle Bens microwavable rice can work out quite expensive, so similarly with pasta, it is best to buy in bulk. Tesco do 2kg bags of long grain, basmati, or brown rice, ranging from £2.25-£3. 

 6. Sugar

Although putting too much sugar in your food isn’t a good idea, a small amount of sugar can be good to add into many dishes, or even cups of tea!

 7. Preserves and table sauces

From jam to ketchup, having a good selection of preserves and sauces will help to keep your food exciting and delightful. 

 8. Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate

Depending on preference, it can be good to have a selection of cupboard drinks. You will often find that you and your flat mates will sit around chatting for hours and drinking endless cups of tea!

 9. Pasta sauce

Having a good selection of pasta sauces is good for times when you aren’t feeling too adventurous with your cooking. Pasta and a nice sauce is an easy comfort meal that can be cooked in less than fifteen minutes!

 10. Chopped tomatoes

Tinned tomatoes can last for years in your cupboard and can be used as a base in many meals, from chilli con carne to curry sauces.

 11. Baked beans

A student staple. Delicious on a jacket potato, toast, alongside meat or as part of a breakfast. Baked beans can be served with pretty much anything.

 12. Potatoes

Equally as versatile. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. A cupboard essential. But do beware if you keep your potatoes too warm or for too long, you’ll find yourself with some sprouts starting to grow!

 13. Onions and Garlic

Both ingredients can be added to pretty much any dish to immediately add heaps of flavour.

 14. Tuna

A healthy, protein-packed cupboard staple that can be added to salads, sandwiches or pasta.

 15. Soup

If you’re lacking the energy to cook but fancy a home-comfort dish, soup is a quick, hearty and healthy meal. Perfect for lunch or dinner and can be bought in many different flavours. Although Heinz soup is heavenly, it can work out quite pricey. Asda do a 4 pack of tomato soup for just £1.35 which is just as good!

Remember that at uni, you are on a student budget and although Waitrose and M&S food may seem tempting, it is probably best to stick to value supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, or Asda. Similarly, although Heinz baked beans are delicious, it’s best to stick to supermarket own-brand foods, as these are often equally as delicious and more often than not, almost half the price!

Additionally, if you or your parents have a Costco card, it can be a good idea to have a browse around as you can bulk buy things that you will use often. For example, if you’re a big coffee drinker, you can get a 1.13kg pack of Kirkland Signature Roast Ground Coffee for £9.99, which should last you quite a while!

Lastly, bare in mind that your uni kitchen will have limited cupboard space. Although food shopping can actually be quite fun, do remember that you will only have one or two cupboards in your kitchen, so don’t go too mad!