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Cleaning and cooking essentials

Cleaning and cooking essentialsMoving away to university means learning a lot of new things – including how to clean and cook for yourself. Read on for our list of essential items that every student house will need.


Food probably causes more arguments amongst flatmates than any other subject. While there are few things more annoying than someone nicking your food, getting a reputation as someone who measures the level of milk with a ruler isn’t so great either, so you need to set down some ground rules about what food you’re sharing.

You could start a ‘kitty’ for basic everyday ingredients, like the ones listed below. A ‘kitty’ is where everyone puts in an equal amount of money per week to buy these items to share. If you’re cooking a meal on your own, you can then buy any special ingredients or favourite treats you want for yourself. However, it’s worth thinking about cooking big meals with your friends from time to time – not only is it a lot of fun but it’s also cheaper if you club together.

It’s normal to split the shopping trips between you but everyone should keep an eye on things and replace them before they run out. When you’ve got an empty stomach, you don’t want an empty cupboard as well.

Making sure you never run out of these ingredients means you’ll always be able to knock up a quick, cheap and easy meal, but you obviously can’t rely just on these things – as much to avoid boredom as for the good of your health – so try and pick up some second-hand cookbooks and share some recipes with friends.

  • Pasta
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Fruit
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • Teabags and coffee
  • Butter or margarine
  • Tinned soup
  • Instant noodles
  • Bread
  • Baked beans
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar

Of course, having loads of food is no use if you’ve got nothing to eat it with. Some people might bring things like pots, pans and cutlery from home and let you share – provided you ask first! – but if you do need to club together to buy stuff for the kitchen you can normally buy kitchenware quite cheaply from supermarkets or home furnishing stores like Ikea. You’ll probably have to buy a kettle as well, and maybe also a toaster or toasted sandwich maker for those times when cooking just seems like too much of a commitment.

  • Cutlery
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Mugs
  • Breadboard and chopping board 
  • Kitchen knives and other utensils like wooden spoons, sieves and spatulas
  • Pots and pans
  • Tin opener
  • Corkscrew


Friendly flatmates are one of the most important things for a happy household. But so are toilet roll and tea towels, because you’re only going to stay friendly if you all do your fair share of cleaning.
Most private accommodation or halls of residence will provide you with things like a vacuum cleaner, mop and bucket and dustpan and brush, but you might have to get a lot of stuff for yourselves. Like with food you might want to start a ‘kitty’ to buy all those boring things you need. Sure, they’re hardly the most exciting aisles in the supermarket, but if you make sure you don’t forget anything from our list of household essentials and try to get as many as you can in one go, you shouldn’t have to go back there too often.


Unfortunately, unless you fancy chipping off the remains of last night’s meal before you eat your next one, you’re going to have to wash and dry your dishes, as well as wiping down surfaces and sweeping the floor so you’re not sharing the kitchen with any nasty germs.

  • Scourers
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Tea towels
  • Dishcloths
  • Multi-surface cleaner
  • Binbags


Some students seem to spend half their lives in the bathroom. Others only venture in there when the call of nature arises. Whether you decide to keep your own personal toiletries in there is up to you, but there’s certain things that should always be within arm’s reach for everybody, whether you’ve gone in to pamper yourself or for a slightly less glamorous reason.

  • Toothpaste
  • Toilet roll
  • Soap or handwash
  • Handtowel
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Toilet brush


Since going through someone else’s dirty socks and pants might feel a little weird, it’s pretty unusual to actually do your laundry together. However, you might want to buy washing powder and fabric conditioner out of a kitty as well, and keep it next to the washing machine if you’ve got one in your house, or within easy reach if you have to make trips to the launderette.

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