My freshman year of college was the only time in my life when all daily meals were made for me by someone — with the exception of my formative baby years, of course. Since then, I’ve always had a kitchen to cook crafty late-at-night meals. Like most Millennials, I started with basic breakfast dishes and variations on mac and cheese, then I moved on to complex meat prep and even soups made from scratch. I have yet to try desserts or baking, simply out of shear fear of having to follow recipes to the T.
Being able to cook for yourself is a very satisfying feeling. Every time I make something tasty for the first time I feel a sense of accomplishment. Look Ma, I did it! As weird as it may sound, I’ve always felt the most independent when cooking for myself or my friends. As a writer I do not get a lot of physical labor thrown my way, so in a sense, cooking is the closest I can get to cutting down a tree and building a house.
Since graduating from college and living on my own I’ve come to learn some important nuggets of wisdom that I would like to share with you all. In particular, I want to share the items you should always have in your fridge and pantry to successfully adult. While some items will seems like obvious choices, my reasoning for having them at all times could help you out of a few jams. My goal is to have you saying: oh we can totally make that right now! Bonus — this list is also helpful to anyone who is on a budget like myself.
Pro tip: It is very important to keep you refrigerator organized and clean. Items that have expiration dates coming up or are highly perishable should be kept closer to the front of the shelf — easily accessible to you. That way you remember to use it and not be wasteful by throwing out perfectly good food.
Milk Or Other Dairy Products
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are what life is all about. You will constantly be using these items and buying more. Make sure not to store milk on the fridge door — at least not if you have roommates. My milk has gone bad quicker because the fridge door was constantly being opened and closed.
Breakfast, lunch, or (PLOT TWIST) dinner. Eggs are a super food. Always keep them above any heavy items and make sure to check the box before buying them for expiration dates and broken shells before purchasing.
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Once opened you can keep them for quite a while in your fridge, so stock up and save.
This will be your lifesaver when it comes to stinky food items. Baking soda sucks up the odors that sometime penetrate your cheeses and butters. No one wants a fishy smelling cheese. Arm and Hammer sells convenient boxes that you replace every 30 days. (I tend to replace mine less because I’m cheap and broke at the moment.)
Sauces On Sauces on Sauces
Always have a variety of sauces on hand. Even badly prepared food can get a dose of goodness out of a bottle. Soy, teriyaki, salad dressing, ketchup, and mustard will last a long time and really pull their weight, especially jazzing up meals on a budget.
Storing this in the fridge will keep it delicious for you.
I’ve found that I can keep my bread from going stale for an extra two weeks by keeping it in the fridge instead of the counter.
Fruits and Vegetables
Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re a surefire way to avoid scurvy! If you want them to last longer, consider buying whatever happens to be on sale that week and then moving it to the freezer.
… Is everything to me. It keeps for a long time, and even if you’re not a butter person, you’ll always have some random butter-related baking emergency, I guarantee.
Leftovers or Precooked Meals
If you live with other people and have limited fridge space, I suggest pre-cooking all of your meals for the week. That way you leave room for the perishables you haven’t used and know exactly what you need to buy.
Biscuits or pizza. No matter what your choice, it will be fast and easily accessible.
You should defrost your freezer every once in a while to keep it working well. Remember to move things around and away from the back wall where it is the coldest to keep your items from getting freezer burn.
Any extra meat or fish that you do not end up using should be put into plastic bags and placed in the freezer. That can delay your next shopping trip by a few days and save you money.
Sometimes you don’t want to cook, and that’s OK. Sometimes your friends come over and you need to entertain. Either way, frozen meals are nothing to be ashamed of. Stores usually have good deals so you can stock up and just keep them in the freezer for a long time.
Ice-cream is a gift, so keep it in the freezer at all times.
Put frozen grapes in your alcoholic drinks to avoid diluting them — TRUST me.