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Living alone for the first time is a daunting experience for any student, regardless of where you’re from and what you’re studying. One of the most common anxieties students share about going to university is food related: how will I survive at uni if I don’t know how to cook? Well don’t worry because I’ve got you covered!
Before I started at Bangor, I was the worst cook (my parents even stopped me from taking Home Economics classes as part of my GCSE studies because they couldn’t stand the thought of eating any more of my cooking!). But after a few months of living in halls, my cooking abilities improved and now I would say I’m quite the chef (Jamie Oliver needs to watch his back). Here are some handy tips I learnt very early on in my university experience that will save you a shed load of money and make cooking effortless:
Planning is essential
Be sure to plan all of your meals. Not only will this save you countless trips to the supermarket, but it will also save you a lot of money! By deciding on my weekly menu at the start of the week in my first year, I would only be visiting Morrison’s once a week and I would not be spending money on items I didn’t need. Once I found meals that I enjoyed making, I started to accumulate a basket of herbs and spices which were used in loads of my favourite recipes. This also saved me a lot of money over the course of the year as a small jar of paprika goes a long way.
Invest in good equipment
Your inner chef cannot blossom without the correct equipment. Investing in the right utensils early on will make cooking effortless, and buying quality stuff will save you a lot of money in the long run. Buy a good-quality non-stick frying pan and treat it like your baby; looking after this god-tier kitchen item will revolutionise your cooking throughout your degree and beyond. Other essentials include: a wooden spoon, a sieve, various chopping boards (avoid cross-contamination by having a chopping board specifically for meat) and high-quality knives to make chopping your veggies simple.
Try your hand at batch cooking
Cooking extra portions of your favourite meals to freeze is such a useful student hack! I tend to cook for four people instead of one, and then pop the remaining portions in the freezer (when the food is cool enough of course) for when I’m feeling lazy or need something quick to eat before going out with friends. I use disposable foil containers from B&M to freeze my leftovers in (you can get 16 large foil containers for £1.99) but you can get freezer-safe containers from almost any supermarket. Remember to label up your portions with what it is and the date so you keep your shelf in the freezer organised.
Cook and share with your flatmates
Sharing essentials with your flatmates, such as bread and milk, will save you a lot of money and will also reduce the amount that you are throwing away. If cooking isn’t usually your vibe, why not try ‘spicing’ things up by cooking with friends? Taking it in turns to cook with your flatmates, old or new, can be a great way to have a laugh whilst also having someone cook your dinner every so often. Why not try doing a ‘Come Dine with Me’ style evening once a week with your friends? Each person takes a turn at cooking a meal and organising a post-dinner activity, before everyone scores the evening out of 10. Decide on a prize for the winning evening. “Dear Lord, what a sad little life, Jane” (iconic).
Always wash up after cooking
Once the fun of cooking is over, it is very tempting to just go back to your room or just hang out with friends without washing up. Dirty cutlery and other kitchen bits are really gross, especially after a day or two, so try to wash up as you go or do it straight after you’ve eaten so you can relax. You might lose a few mates if you don’t wash up – no one likes a dirty flatmate! If you don’t like doing loads of washing up, try chopping up any bits you need for your recipe in the morning and leave them covered in the fridge. Wash up your kitchen utensils from your prep, and then when it comes to cleaning up after dinner, you’ll have less to do! (Photo by PickPik (CC0))
Do not buy a student cookbook
Although your parents might think this is a good idea, it is such a waste of time and money! There are plenty of amazing websites out there that will support you on your journey to being awarded a Michelin star, such as BBC Good Food and Student Cooking.TV. Try to find one recipe that is your ‘go-to’ – this will make your life a lot easier and perfecting a recipe will make you feel like a proper chef!
Although all of these tips will help you on your way to becoming the ultimate uni chef, the most important piece of advice I can give to you is to enjoy yourself. Learning to cook, especially when you don’t know your way around the kitchen, can be challenging at first, but the more you practice and have fun, the better at cooking you will become.