In college, it can be easy to put cooking on the back burner — yes, pun intended. With balancing school, work and a social life, eating mac and cheese or spaghetti every night satisfies both a student’s busy schedule and their limited funds. However, eating well doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Here are 11 ingredients students should always keep in their kitchen to elevate simple dishes that won’t break the bank.
1. Cans of tomatoes
Always keep cans of crushed, diced or whole tomatoes in the cabinet. All can be used to make homemade spaghetti sauce, salsas, chilis, soups and more. Plus, they last longer than the fresh variety and are a great alternative when tomatoes aren’t in season.
2. Heavy whipping cream
Heavy whipping cream can transform any sauce or simple dessert into something that seems like it took hours to make. Also, someone could just whip it up to make a delicious bowl of whip cream to eat while you cry about finals.
3. Garlic — not in a jar
Garlic is one of the most universal ingredients that can be used in pretty much anything. Add it into omelettes, pierogis, sauces and more. Skip the weird jar stuff — it’s probably more expensive anyway — and buy it fresh.
4. A basil plant
Buying a basil plant for a couple of dollars will save you money from constantly buying the herb fresh regularly. Plus, it will make your kitchen look pretty. It’ll constantly regrow and you can throw it into anything or garnish dishes to impress guests.
5. Dijon mustard
Skip basic salad dressing and make your own. The condiment can elevate any plain lunchmeat sandwich with a flavorful kick.
6. Actual butter and decent olive oil
Buying sticks of butter is probably cheaper than buying a weird tub of mysterious butter-imposter anyway. Also, it makes everything taste way better. And nothing beats a simple weeknight dinner of tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with some olive oil.
7. Canned beans
Add your favorite variety of beans to tacos, scrambled eggs or make a bean salad. They last forever in your cabinet, so it’s good to stock up when you can.
Tortillas last longer than bread, and making a quick breakfast burrito in the morning or celebrating taco Tuesday can help spice up your week.
9. Salt and pepper
This may seem self-explanatory, but season your food. You don’t usually even need a full spice cabinet — plain old salt and pepper will do the trick.
Fix bland chicken or boring salads with a squirt of lemon. Skip the phony bottles of fake lemon juice too and buy the actual fruit— they’re usually less than a dollar each anyway.
Not only is honey delicious in tea, but add it to instant oatmeal or greek yogurt to make your meals seem less for substance and more for taste.