Whilst I’m frantically trying to navigate the adult world, for lots of us a fresh term of university is starting. During my three years at Durham I learnt rather a lot about cooking on a time and money budget, so for those lucky ones still hitting the books: here are few ways to beat the stereotype and be a boss in your student kitchen.
- Pre-planning. If you plan your meals, you might only need to go shopping once a week, which will save loads of time and effort. Just make sure you hit the shops with a list, or you’re bound to forget something.
- Bulk buy the basics. If you’ve got room in your kitchen (or under your bed), try to stock up store cupboard items like pasta and rice in bulk. You could even get on a bus at the start of each term and find a cheaper, out of town supermarket to do your bulk buying. If you’ve got the space, you could even bulk up on meat or fish – if you see a good deal, chuck it in the freezer for a rainy day.
- Know the things you can scrimp on. With a bit of trial and error, it shouldn’t take long to figure out which things you can buy the cheap alternatives on. My housemate joyfully went through about five brands of Weetabix equivalents to find out which gave the best for her buck. And my sister reckons Sainsbury’s own version of Marmite is better than the real deal. Everyone has their things they won’t scrimp on of course – for my mum it’s tinned tomatoes – but it’s important not to be too snobby when you’re a student.
- You don’t need that much meat. When I don’t buy meat my weekly shop is significantly cheaper. Often, alternatives like halloumi, chickpeas, tofu and eggs are much lighter on the pocket. You don’t need as much meat as you think you do – and certainly not at every meal. There are some wonderful veggie recipes out there to try.
- Cook for a family. You’ve got the energy, you’re putting the effort in, so why stop at one portion? Not only is it easier to buy and cook in larger quantities, it also means you’ll have dinner sorted for tomorrow, and maybe even the next day. Or you can stock your freezer with a few more homemade ready meals – and all for the same amount of effort. Ideal.
- Keep learning. Try not to stick to the same old stuff. If you’ve got a bit of time one evening, try a new recipe; expand your horizons. The more you try the better you’ll get at throwing things together, and you’ll get better at saving time. Whilst you’re at it, why not make the most of your efforts? Invite a pal round and treat them to your latest experiment.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was as reliant on packet ramen as much as the next student, but I did try my best to look after myself with tasty meals. And for me, enjoying every plate made all the difference. If you think you don’t have time, think again. And if you see cooking as a chore, here are my thoughts on the matter. Happy eating!