I’m a College Student with a Tiny Apartment (and Budget) — These Are the Kitchen Tools I Swear By

updated Jun 24, 2021
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Small studio apartment kitchen with blush pink walls and white cabinets

When I moved into my college apartment at the beginning of my junior year, I couldn’t contain my excitement about cooking for myself and saying a permanent goodbye to the dining hall, but I quickly discovered that my cramped little kitchen didn’t have quite the same bells and whistles as my parents’ kitchen back at home. I had to be strategic about which products I bought in order to accommodate my limited storage space and tight budget, and it ended up being a lot more doable than I’d expected. With the right products, you can still whip up a ton without overflowing your cabinets and emptying your pockets. (And you don’t have to give up every little cooking luxury — I keep a small jar of Maldon sea salt on my counter.) Below, I’ve rounded up six items that I recommend to make the most of your limited space and funds.

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This Farberware ceramic santoku knife was one of my first purchases when outfitting my apartment — and let me tell you, it is a jack of all trades. Its medium size means it works for slicing, dicing, and paring, while the strong ceramic edge cuts through anything from onions to apples to blocks of tofu. The plastic sheath is handy for stowing it away safely in a drawer (someday I'll own a knife block ... ), and while the knife is handwash-only, it cleans and dries quickly.

2 / 6

They might not look as pretty as a fancy wooden board, but plastic cutting board mats do the trick and are so much easier (and cheaper!) to use. They're dishwasher safe, so you don't have to toil away hand-scrubbing them, and they won't retain odors or dull your knives. Plus, they're super flexible, so you can bend them to funnel chopped ingredients into a pan. Since they come in three different colors, you can use them for different types of food — I'm vegetarian and my roommate is a total carnivore, so it's nice for me to be able to avoid the cutting board dedicated to meat prep.

3 / 6
Bed Bath & Beyond

If you only have space or funds for one pan, a nonstick frying pan is a must. It's incredibly versatile, and you can basically make anything in here. An eight-inch pan is great because it takes up relatively little cabinet space and easily fits into the sink for cleaning. Plus, the beauty of nonstick pans means that they are easy to clean, distribute heat evenly, require less oil and fat, and are helpful for newer cooks (since you don't have to monitor the food like a hawk).

4 / 6

I'm a huge fan of citrus-forward recipes and drinks, and a compact juicer like this one from OXO makes my cramped apartment life easier. The reamer itself stacks on top of a body with measurement marks up to one and a half cups, meaning that you don't have to clean a juicer, reservoir, and a separate measuring tool. This juicer comes with two reamers — a larger size for oranges and grapefruits, and a smaller one for lemons and limes — that nest for easy storage and snap apart so they can be thrown in the dishwasher.

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Bed Bath & Beyond

Every kitchen needs cooking utensils, but buying a complete collection can get a bit pricey. At just $6 apiece, these silicone kitchen utensils from Our Table are the answer for cooks on a budget. They're safe in the dishwasher and on nonstick or metal surfaces, and the interior metal cores make the tools strong and durable. The set features spatulas, spoons, tongs, turners, and a whisk, and since they're sold a la carte, you can buy only what you need.

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Bed Bath & Beyond
was $99.99

The price tag on this coffeemaker might not be appealing at first, but the money I've saved making my morning cup of joe at home instead of running out to a coffee shop makes it totally worth it in the long run. This single serve machine makes one cup of coffee at a time, which is great for those living alone, and it's extremely compact — just 4.5" wide and 12.1" tall. It takes K-Cups, but one of my money-saving hacks is using a universal reusable K-Cup, which allows me to use my own grounds instead of constantly replenishing my stock of pricier K-Cups. I also use my coffeemaker to boil water for tea and some recipes, so it's like getting a kettle for free! Bonus: this machine comes in a selection of colors, including aqua, red, and teal, so you can use it as a decor piece, too.