A stylish collection of kitchen essentials make great gifts for college-bound students.

Dear Debbie;

My niece and nephew are both heading out to college and I’d like to give them each a gift that will help them set up. They’ll be renting part of a house with two other students. Thanks for your ideas.
— Aunt Martha

Dear Aunt Martha;

Teens are always hungry so why not focus on kitchen stuff. Although it’s tempting to grab the nearest takeout it’s expensive and even pizza and Thai food get tired after a few months. For study and bedtime, a jar of peanut butter and bag of crackers are quick and easy staples. However, shopping and cooking are life lessons that should start now!

Kitchen essentials vary according to diets, but I’d purchase a good knife and cutting board for the veggies and fruit, a toaster for bagels, a toaster oven and if possible a microwave that will heat up or cook just about anything from coffee and cocoa to chicken fingers and pasta sauce. Look for practical novelty items such as an old fashion breadbox, decorative storage jars and reusable lunch containers. A kitchen wall clock will help everyone stay on time. Crockery and utensils are inexpensive and come in a great assortment of designs. If it looks good chances are they’ll take care of it.

Write out a few simple and healthy recipes to include with your gifts. Students can go on line for these, but I have a box of hand-written recipes that has been passed down through two generations and the memories and smudges and little notes on these cards are priceless. Categorize for fun and I bet fellow students will line up to help prepare and taste: family favourites, best snacks, splurge desserts, dinner-on-a-dime. A category I didn’t have but would add today is ‘be prepared’. Include a shopping list of staples that will get them started.

Dear Debbie;

I am passing along a tip that I put to use in my first tiny dorm room. To accommodate clothes, wet towels from swimming, etc. I strung a clothesline across two walls. I pegged up some poster art and my class schedule on the second line. It looked cool.
— Suzanna

Dear Suzanna;

Great idea. And when you can’t or don’t want to secure the lines with eye hooks drilled into the walls, tension rods work well. They are adjustable in height and move around easily. Tie one or two lengths of rope between the rods. Attach hangers or coloured ribbon to manage jewelry, scarves and belts. A clothes drying rack will serve the same purpose. The slender hanging rods are super useful for hanging art paper, books and magazines. When not in use this rack folds up and fits behind a door or under the bed. Both lines and racks are particular handy for drying wet hats and gloves in the winter.

For small spaces vertical storage is your best friend. Ladder shelves can handle clutter from floor to ceiling. Pile boxes on top of each other with top opening facing out. Decorate the inside of the boxes or cartons with brightly patterned shelving paper and you’ve got a unique display for books, files, toiletry bag and fun stuff. Apply removable decorative tapes to personalize shelves and pictures, even wall designs … but make sure it is easily removable and won’t mark the walls when it’s time to leave.