From my experience, these are the most basic things you should have in your kitchen to begin cooking effectively.
1 non stick saucepan, 12 inch pan is probably most versatile
1 small pot (for heating water, warming sauces etc.)
1 medium pot (for soups, pasta)
1 chopping board
1 simple, cheap spatula (get the cheapest cos this spoils really easily)
1 simple set of kitchen knives
2-3 simple bowls
normal forks, spoons, steak knives
tupperware to store leftovers
toaster oven (i prefer toaster oven to a toaster as its more versatile)
Basic Food Items -- these should always be present:
garlic (buy either fresh ones and chop yourself which is a pain, or buy the ready chopped/minced ones like me)
butter / margarine
plain pasta sauce (or for more advanced users, tomato puree)
cooking oil (or olive oil)
your favorite cereal
frozen vegetables (i like french cut beans but always have 1 bag of your favorite ready)
frozen french fries (or tater oats)
rice if you like
General rules of thumb for effective, stress free graduate student cooking life:
1) Meat is a luxury. Or more precisely, cooking meat is a luxury. Meat has a very short shelf life, and is relatively expensive. Nothing hurts you more than seeing meat go to waste. Save meat for special occasions and eat it on the day you buy it, or simply just go to a restaurant.
2) Eggs are amazing. Period.
3) Make use of your oven. It is extremely versatile and you can cook a huge variety of things with it. Best of all, clean up is much easier than cooking on the stove.