Graduating from high school may have prepared you for hitting the books in college, but what about hitting the recipe books? The prospect of feeding yourself might be more intimidating than negotiating campus when you're finally on your own and away from a live-in cook. But not to worry! With the right equipment, you'll pass kitchen 101 with flying colors. Here's a list of items that will help you do just that.
First the refrigerator. Consumer Reports just published a great article about fridges for dorms that will help you shop for what's right for you. (Note their tip for checking school rules, which applies to all electrical appliances you might want to add to your dorm room.) This model by Igloo has scored 4 1/2 stars out of 5 by no less than 223 customer reviews at Walmart.com. It's a generous 4.6 cubic feet and at $119, the price is hard to beat. It's also only 31.5" tall, which fits the under 36" requirement many colleges have.
You might think a toaster is a good choice for the dorm room kitchen, but, really, a toaster oven will be much more versatile. This one by Cuisinart rates very well with Amazon shoppers and it's big enough to bake an 11" pizza or toast 4 bagel halves. One customer measured the unite to verify the dimensions and concluded it to be 16" wide x 9" high x 13" deep. At $80, it's not be the cheapest out there, but it might be worth the investment. Again, many institutions DO NOT ALLOW toaster ovens, so check first!
As for microwaves, most schools restrict wattage, so you'll want to check the rules again before you go shopping. Many--if not most--stipulate that they can't be over 1000 watts. That being said, this 700 watt, 7 cubic foot model by Haier ($54) snags 4+ stars out of 5 among 83 customer reviews at Walmart.com.
Coffee. Either people need it or they don't. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. Coffee Detective suggests the dorm-room bound buy single serve coffee makers. My sweetie used to have a Senseo, and liked it before it began to leak. After that he started sharing a co-worker's Keurig. Both made great coffee & tea, but he started to feel guilty about all the waste involved. He solved that problem by buying a re-useable basket for the Keurig.
Of course, these aren't inexpensive coffeemakers. The model pictured above is $80. And if you don't buy the re-usable baskets, the cups just might put you in the poor house. At home, Sweetie uses a 5 cup Mr. Coffee. It's programable, just like its big brothers, it works great and it was inexpensive, AND it's inexpensive to operate. All you need is ground coffee and basket liners and you're good to go. I think I bought ours on sale for $15, but you can find it at Amazon for $20.
If you're not a coffee drinker--or even if you are--a hot pot could be a great choice. You can heat water (for tea, cocoa, Ramen noodles, & etc) and even soup. Some swear they've used them to make mac & cheese. Super cheap, one of these babies will set you back about $14. This Rival 32 oz model gets good reviews from its users.
Although hot plates and electric skillets seem like good choices for dorm rooms, they're not. Many schools prohibit them. Other incidentals you'll need include plates (microwave safe, of course, so they'll served double-duty), a can opener and cutlery. As for glasses and bowls, I say skip them and go for big, bowl-type mugs. They'll work for hot and well as cold drinks and you can eat your Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and Cheerios out of them too.
This list concerns the foodie aspect of dorm-living, but there's other stuff to consider too. For those, check out this great PDF checklist from SquawkFox. Yes, it might include some no-nos, so--broken record here--check the dorm room rules first!! You'll also want to check with your roommate. No need to double up on these purchases when you don't have to.