After you equip your first college kitchen, you’ll need to figure out how to manage it. With the lovely independence of choosing your every meal comes the responsibility of having to clean up after yourself, which is no small thing. I learned most of these rules the hard way. Hopefully, you will be smarter.
Wash your own dishes – With roommates, it’s easy for dishes to pile up to the point of nastiness. Make a general rule that everyone will wash whatever dishes they dirty up and load them in the dishwasher if you have one. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash them and dry them and put them away. It will not be easier or more pleasant later.
Don’t leave a sink of dirty dishes overnight – Not only should you wash your own dishes, you should do it every day. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, unless you want to start some new exotic bacterial cultures for a cheese making experiment (you shouldn’t, btw). Seriously, nothing stinks up a kitchen faster than a sink full of dirty dishes left overnight. Just no.
If the dishwasher is full, start it – It takes two seconds to load detergent and push start. If you don’t do it, without complaining (too much), you can’t call yourself an adult. Of note: dishwashing detergent and dish soap are not interchangeable. Dish soap is for hand-washing your dishes, detergent goes in the dishwasher. Putting dish soap in the washer can cause major sudsy over-flowage and basically ruin your day.
Don’t leave cooked food or raw meat out at room temperature – There’s this range of temperatures called the “danger zone” where bacterias in food like to reproduce and wreak havoc on the guts of those who consume them. Keep food safe by heating it above 140F or chilling it below 40F. Food can stay in the “danger zone” for up to two hours before you run the risk of making people throw up. Raw fruits and veggies that are sold in bins at the supermarket are safe to be kept at room-temp for a few days, but those that get misted need to be kept in the fridge. Baked goods that aren’t too egg-heavy are ok on the counter for a day or two (cheesecakes need to stay in the fridge, cookies can hang on the counter). Canned and packaged things can stay in a regular old cupboard, unless they say “refrigerate after opening”.
Never prep vegetables on the same surface as raw meat – Meat is one of the more dangerous foods to handle (how exciting!). When it’s raw, it can harbor bacteria like salmonella, which are killed if they are cooked. Vegetables aren’t always cooked before they’re eaten, so cutting chicken and making a salad one after the other on the same cutting board is like dressing your veggies with asiago-peppercorn food poisoning. Hardcore antibiotics for dessert!
Take out the trash – I don’t care if it’s Josh’s turn. Overflowing garbage is the best way to invite mice and ants into your apartment. Not cute or sanitary. Get it done.
Label your food – You’re probably not in the financial position to provide sustenance for everyone in the apartment, so if you want to keep track of what you’ve bought and intend to use, grab a sharpie and write your name on it SO big, nobody will be able to say they didn’t know whose it was. In extreme klepto situations (it happens), you may hide your food. Just don’t forget where you put it.
Don’t eat someone else’s food without asking. A text will do. If you do eat someone else’s food, replace it quickly – This is just the golden rule here. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to yourself. If you need to use a teaspoon of your roommate’s baking soda to finish your cookies, text them (or walk over to them if convenient) and ask. They probably won’t mind, but at least they won’t flip out on you when there isn’t enough soda left for them to bake their cake. Next time, you get to buy.
Share sometimes – But really, you can’t bake cookies and fill the place with lovely smells only to hoard them for yourself. Nobody needs a full batch of baked goods anyway. Share. Maybe you’ll get some friends from it.
Above all, don’t be a douche – It’s inevitable that even if your cohabiters agree to this list of rules, they will be broken. Try to be gracious about it, and if you end up doing more than your share of kitchen cleaning, congratulate yourself silently (10 points for Gryffindor!). The status of the kitchen is not worth any tears or slammed doors or boyfriend stealing. You don’t need to be everyone’s mom, and you don’t need to be a doormat, but you don’t need to be a jerk either. Use tact and grace. You has it. How very adulty of you!
Up next: the collegiate pantry. Let’s go grocery shopping!