One of the most daunting aspects of leaving home to go to university is learning to live by yourself. This includes the basic household tasks of cooking and cleaning when you are living in student accommodation as they are vital to get you through the year. To help you get started, take a look at our tops and ideas for student meal plans.
1. Be Prepared
Before you head to university, spend some time with a friend or family member who knows how to cook, learning from them, and preparing to live by yourself. Start off slowly by helping them with their dishes before trying to cook for yourself. This will increase your confidence levels before you move out and have to fend for yourself. Learning how to make some of your home comforts will help you out when you move away, as it will be a reassuring reminder of home if you begin to feel homesick during your first year. Meal planning will also help improve your stress and time management skills.
2. Learn the Staple Cooking Skills
It is also a great idea to work on some of the basic cooking skills and staple recipes that you can use to cook a variety of different meals. At first, stick to the recipe so that you nail the basics before playing around with it to add more flavours or ingredients to suit your taste.
3. Store Food Carefully
As well as knowing what to make and how to make it, it is also a good idea to understand how to store the food in order to keep it fresh for as long as possible. This will ensure that you are not having to dispose of food and waste your money. Most food can be stored in both the fridge and the freezer to help prolong its lifespan.
When it comes to your fridge, the lower shelves are the coldest part, and therefore you should store foods here that most easily go off, such as meats, fish, and yoghurts. This will ensure that they are kept at the lowest temperature possible and will boost their longevity. Cooked meats and eggs should be stored above this, while butter and cheese products should go on the top shelf. The fridge door is one of the warmest places in the fridge and is an ideal place to store sauces that have preservatives in them, as they are less likely to go off.
The drawers at the bottom of your fridge have a higher humidity level and are therefore better for storing both fruit and vegetables.
When batch cooking meals or storing prepared food, use reusable Tupperware containers that are airtight as this will make them last for longer. It is always a good idea to write a best before date on them so that you know how long you have to eat it. This is especially important if you are getting rid of the original food packaging.
4. Plan Your Meals
When moving to university for the first time, it can be difficult to manage classes, make friends, do assignments and meal prep. This is why planning your meals in advance when doing your weekly shop is essential as it will not only save you money but will also help you organise what you are eating every evening. This will help you avoid not knowing what to eat and spending too much money on takeaways. When writing a meal plan, take stock of what food you already have and try and base some meals around these. Then, decide what meals you will eat during the week and write a list of ingredients that you will need to buy to make these meals – this will become your weekly shopping list.
5. Collect Essentials for your Cupboard
When moving into university accommodation, it is a good idea to bring some food basics with you that can act as a staple item in most meals. These basic items should allow you to cook something quickly if you are on a limited budget and do not have time to do a food shop.
First, start with cooking essentials that you will need for most meals. These include ingredients such as oil, salt and pepper, flour and sugar. These will allow you to fry different foods, season them or create sauces. It is also a great idea to pick up some popular herbs and spices as these will last a long time and can be used for extra flavour in your cooking. Consider buying products such as paprika, chilli powder, basil and mixed herbs.
It is important to also buy some cheap carbohydrates that can be made into a tasty meal on a budget. These include dried pasta, rice and bread. Bread can be frozen to stay fresher for longer and can be made into quick lunches such as toasties or beans on toast. Oats can be used for a hearty breakfast and made into healthy snacks such as flapjacks. Pasta and rice match well with a number of different meats and sauces, as well as being great additions to a salad to give you energy that lasts throughout the day. These products are extremely affordable and last for a long time, making them the ideal student meal essentials.
Products in tins and cans also last for a long amount of time and are perfect additions to your student food cupboard. Consider buying vegetables in cans for longevity, such as sweetcorn, tomatoes, and peas. Pulses are also a great way to bulk up meals so add beans, chickpeas and lentils to your shopping list.
Other essentials that last a long time may include stock cubes, common sauces such as ketchup and mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce and gravy granules. These will all add flavour to your dishes for a low price.
Your weekly shop should mainly consist of fresh ingredients to complement the staples that you have collected over time. Consider buying fresh vegetables and basics such as onion and garlic to add to your dishes. It is also a great time to add some protein into your diet as this will help you stay fit and healthy when studying. Products such as meat or fish are a great way to add in protein, with tinned tuna being an affordable option. Tuna has well-known benefits on the brain, improving concentration and focus levels and can last a long time if in a can.
6. Bulk Cook
Cooking one portion for one person each mealtime is not the most cost-effective way to do it and leads to higher levels of food waste. There are two main solutions to this, both including bulk cooking. If you batch cook a larger meal using larger quantities, the price per portion tends to be lower. But what do you do with this excess food?
Well, consider sharing the meal with your flatmates – with each of you taking one night a week to buy and cook for each other. Alternatively, keep the extra food for yourself, but split it between containers and freeze the other portions to be eaten later down the line. Either way, you will be getting more for your money.
Easy Meal Ideas:
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Pasta bakes
- Chilli con Carne
- Baked potatoes
- Stews and casseroles
- Chicken and Rice
- And many more.
Cooking for yourself can be daunting when you are a student if you do not have much experience. It is important to practice the basic skills needed as this will help you in the long run. Try and plan out meals in advance, in order to make the most of your student budget and eat as healthily as possible. We hope our tips and tricks will help you for making the transition to university life, so start cooking today!