When it comes to cooking at university, you need a stable of recipes that are cheap, quick and easy to execute. Filling foods are a bonus and ideally your meal will have some kind of nutritious value. After all, you need the brain power.
Up-market supermarket Waitrose has been trolled by pretty much everybody since its in-house magazine recommended a “Student Storecupboard” that included organic soya sauce (to “lend oomph” and “elevate your meals from bland to brilliant”) and organic Italian seasoning (an all-in-one herb blend that “cuts the faff of buying multiple jars that can all too often collect dust”).
Supermarket challengers Sainsbury’s and Iceland piled in to ridicule their rival, posting their own versions of the essentials for students: mostly cheese, pasta, beans. More hate cuisine than haute cuisine.
With students admitting they’ve created meals from very little, plus leftovers – kebab on toast, Super Noodle sandwiches – maybe even Iceland’s suggestion of frozen avocados (“if you’re feeling fannncy”) there won’t be any Michelin stars in most uni kitchens across the UK. Other student examples include processed cheese (with everything), a Red Bull cake and exploding horse-meat burgers.
There is something in Waitrose’s suggested shopping list – the items are flavoursome and versatile, and an pep up any combination of basic ingredients, to add taste sensation to the list of qualities your student cooking has.
Alternatives to add flavour to your food include tomato ketchup, baked beans, garlic and lemon juice. Food writer and campaigner Jack Monroe recommends stuffing to work magic on your meals, saying “I use it on top of a mac ‘n’ cheese or lasagne, to thicken soups and add flavour, to batter nuggets and anything else than needs a crispy coating”.
There are some practical ideas that will help you budget too. Shop, buy and cook with fellow students – it’ll help your money go further. Batch cook and freeze meals for quick and easy sustenance. Make a meal plan so you’re only buying what you need. Be prepared to travel – you pay for the convenience. Visit local food markets for fresh fruit and veg which will probably be cheaper than what your supermarket sells.
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts has shared her own list of student essentials:
Basic carbohydrates – pasta, potatoes, rice, noodles; tins of beans and tomatoes; porridge oats (“all the qualities of wet cement, but with more nutritional value”), and oil for frying or marinating. While green pesto may not be everyone’s choice, the “something homemade” is a great idea, a taste of home to remind you that you’re loved, and that there’s someone waiting to restock your student cupboard, and probably do your washing, when you next go home.