Target is your one stop shop for essential kitchen items perfect for your college dorm or first apartment. 
Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

It feels like just yesterday I was walking around Target with my mom as we packed our cart to the brim with items I thought I would need for my move into a dorm room. I knew cooking was going to be a big part of my time in college, so as soon as I (finally) settled on my comforter pattern, the kitchen section was our go-to spot. 

Now, two dorm rooms and two apartments later, I can finally say I've built quite the collection. Here are my picks for your must-have dorm room kitchen items and a few gadgets to add to your collection when you move off campus, straight from a recent college grad.

Dorm Room Essentials

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Stainless Steel Travel Mug ($9.59)

An essential for running out the door before that 8 a.m. class. Even if you aren't a coffee drinker right now (college may convert you) it's also great for tea and hot chocolate. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Zip-Top Sandwich Bags ($4.69)

Sandwich bags are perfect for some carrot sticks or almonds as a quick snack in between classes. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Mini Refrigerator ($64.99) 

This is crucial in a dorm-room for holding drinks, milk, yogurt, and coffee creamer. Be sure to check with your university about size restrictions, and consider if you want a large or small freezer. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Vacuum ($39.99)

Most dorm rooms have carpeting, which means a good vacuum is fundamental to keep tidy when eating and cooking in the space. A small handheld vacuum is doable for a dorm, but it's best to get a large one if you plan to move to a bigger space.

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Stainless Steel Santoku Knife ($5.99) 

A good chopping knife is imperative for any cooking space. I opted for this Santoku knife and a small paring knife, which have lasted me four years without the need for any more. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

16 oz Mug ($1.99)

You may pick up some free mugs during your school's orientation week, but a few good ones are necessary to start. A solid mug is not only useful for hot drinks, but also cold beverages and microwave soups or oatmeal. If you get a few sturdy ones, skip purchasing cups for cold drinks. You won't need those until you move off campus. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Measuring Cups/Spoons ($1.97)

These won't be used as much as they will off campus, but a cheap set of measuring cups and spoons are helpful to have on hand. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Plastic Water Bottle ($6.99)

Keep hydrated with a light, durable water bottle. Avoid heavier options, like glass, so they're easy to carry. Don't invest in something too expensive because water bottles tend to be forgotten in lecture halls. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Filtered Pitcher ($14.99)

Dorm room sink water isn't always the best tasting, so a filtered water pitcher is required for filling water bottles, making coffee, and pouring a glass before bed. Make sure to buy a pitcher that will fit in your mini fridge, so you can enjoy cold water every day. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Kitchen Towel ($2.50)

Invest in one good kitchen towel to dry your cereal bowl and coffee mug. Once you move into something a little bigger and expand your kitchen items, you can snag a few more. 

Single Set of Dishes and Utensils 

There isn't enough space yet (or need) for a four piece dining set. Snag a few essentials for now, and upgrade to a full set when you move off campus and can invite company over. You'll need a stainless steel fork ($1.00) for leftover take-out and a stainless steel spoon ($1.00) for cereal in the morning. Then get one solid plastic cereal bowl ($0.99) and a matching plastic dinner plate ($0.99)

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Pots and Pans 

Consider the foods you'll realistically make in whatever kind of dorm kitchen you're provided. I was lucky enough to have a small stove on my freshman floor, so I purchased an 8-inch skillet ($9.99) for cooking eggs and a larger 10-qt stock pot ($49.99) for making pasta and soup. When I moved off campus, I purchased a few more varieties like a larger frying pan and smaller sauce pan. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Nylon Tool Set ($4.49)

This combo set comes with a spatula, ladle, serving spoon, and slotted spoon so it's a perfect bundle for any starter kitchen. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Coffee Brewing System ($79.99) 

A coffee maker for a college student is a very personal choice. I (still) own my mini Keurig coffee brewer, which I used for a cup of coffee every morning and the occasional hot water for tea, oatmeal, soup packets, and hot chocolate. Some college students prefer a coffee pot that brews multiple cups, or a simple hot water boiler. Consider what you'll be using the machine for, and be sure to purchase tons of K Cups, tea bags, and hot chocolate packets. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Faberware Flex Poly Cutting Board ($5.99) 

These flexible cutting boards are great for fitting into tiny dorm drawers, while still keeping a clean space to chop veggies. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Food Storage Containers ($2.19)

Keep dining hall leftovers and tomorrow's lunch stored safely in these reusable containers. A five count package is good to start with, but I encourage college students to invest in more (or save some reusable take-out containers) once in a larger apartment. 

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Manual Can Opener ($3.59)

Cans of soup are a super easy dinner to make in a dorm room, so it's imperative to have a good can opener for those late night tomato soup cravings. 

Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Mini Meals 

Be sure to check out Target's supermarket area for tons of dorm room fundamentals you should stock up on. Purchase salt, pepper, and oil for some basic cooking and pick up non-perishable items like pasta, canned soup, oatmeal packets, popcorn, cereal, and granola bars for quick breakfasts and snacks.


Apartment Check List

Once you make the move off campus, be sure to update your kitchen appliances with ones that are made for hopping off your school's dining plan and having more space to cook. The first thing to do when you move into a bigger space is to purchase a few more pieces of cutlery, cups, plates, and bowls for company, and then update your new space with a few must-have items. 

Keep your apartment kitchen well stocked with cookware and wholesome food choices to have a healthy start at college.