teenager cooking egg in single skillet

Going off to college can be a magical time.  Incoming freshmen have visions of fun, freedom, and adulthood dancing in their heads.  In addition to the schoolwork and maybe even real job work, freshman have a new challenge they have probably never worried about before, feeding themselves three meals a day.  Yes there is the campus dining hall, but those hours don’t always work with a student’s schedule, and sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a home cooked meal.  Even in the small space of a dorm, students can cook up some tasty meals. It’s a little different than cooking in the family kitchen, but with a few tips they can be whipping up dishes in no time.

1. What they can, and can’t put in the microwave.  It might seem like common sense that tin foil doesn’t go in the microwave, but common sense is not something most teenagers have in spades.  Explaining to freshman-to-be that tin foil in the microwave is a great way to burn the dorm down is a must.

close up microwave

2. Contamination station. Once raw chicken touches a surface, it’s contaminated and nothing else should touch it until it’s been thoroughly washed.  No exceptions, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just start scrubbing.

3. It’s nice to be nice. Teens need to be considerate when cooking.  Dorm kitchens (if the unit even has one) are small shared spaces. So, cleaning up, not cooking anything too smelly, and being aware of roommates’ food allergies are all part of being a good roommate.

4. Put it away. Food should not be kept out for more than two hours.  Even if it’s takeout like a slice of pizza, there are no exceptions.  Leftovers can last up to a week in the fridge (use the smell test after a few days) and in the freezer for up to two months.

5. Get the funk out. Even by avoiding cooking anything especially pungent in the microwave, it can still get a little smelly.  An easy and cheap way to de-funk the microwave is to mix two cups of water with lemon juice in a container with a lid, microwave on high for five minutes and leave in the microwave for twenty minutes, and smells should be gone.

6. There is more to college life than Ramen. Ramen has long been the dorm room staple of college students, but there are other easy food options out there.  Arm college-bound kids with some easy recipes, like egg dishes and stir frys.

heart healthy stir fry in skillet

7. Choose your equipment wisely. Space is limited in a dorm kitchen, so although it would be great to have an ice cream maker and a waffle iron, bringing them to college doesn’t make a ton of sense.  Just bring the basics: frying pan, spatula, wooden spoon, large knife, small pairing knife, cutting board, mixing bowl…nothing too crazy.

8. Get a Brita. Water in whatever town a new school is in could taste very different from the water at home, and could even be kind of junky.  A water filter can be a real life saver.

9. Know the rules. Every college has their own set of rules for what students are allowed to bring, so check them out before doing any dorm kitchen supply shopping.  It would blow to get kicked out of college over a crock pot.

10. Have fun. Cooking should be fun, especially just starting out. It’s like an adventure!  Try out new recipes, use new exciting ingredients, but always have the makings of peanut butter and jelly on hand, just in case.

college kids walking in building

Kids going off to school have a million things to worry about, and there’s no need for cooking to be one of them. Take a load off and share some wisdom!  Any cooking or kitchen tips someone gave you before you ventured out on your own that you still use today?  Or maybe some advice you found especially helpful?  Let us know in the comments below!