A student guide

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Get the term off to a flying start with our budget busting recipes and ideas

Leaving home for University is exciting but bound to feel daunting. Not only are you juggling coursework with a lively social life, but learning how to food shop and cook. Whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or an absolute beginner, our tips and recipes will help you make easy, healthy meals without blowing your budget. 

Planning and storing

Many freshers complain that they arrived at University not knowing how to cook. In the run up to leaving home, spend some time learning a few simple recipes. Ask your parents to show you how to cook your favourite meals and treat them to a weekly cooked meal. Not only will they have the night off, but you’ll arrive at University with a basic repertoire of great recipes. Learning how to roast a chicken is a great basic.  A whole chicken is better value and the leftovers can be used in multiple ways across the following days.

Learning how to cook is a skill but knowing how to store your food safely is just as important too. There’s nothing more disheartening than finding a cupboard of rotting food two days after shopping. 

See How to Keep your food fresher for longer for tips on how to safely store your food.

Get in the habit of planning your weekly meals and you’ll save money on your food shop. Our handy meal planner tool makes life simple. You can pick and choose meals and shop for all the ingredients in one easy place. Take a look at our budget meal planner for inspiration. 

Student store cupboard essentials

After years of living at home, where cupboards are often well-stocked with cooks ingredients and store-cupboard basics, the bare shelves of a student kitchen can be a shock. Get prepared by stocking up on the basics and you’ll never have to say “baked beans again for dinner tonight”! Plus you’ll have more to spend on fresh food.

Here’s our list of 20 basic store cupboard ingredients

1. Rice - a basic essential. Eat with curries, stir-fries and make creamy risottos. One quarter of the average sized mug is roughly an adult portion.

2. Pasta – the ultimate student staple. Not sure how much to cook? Buy a spaghetti measurer for perfect portions. Or 100g pasta will be plenty for an adult sized portion. Make a bit more and save for tomorrow’s lunch.

3. Oats – for porridge, muesli, flapjacks… this cheap and cheerful ingredient goes a long away in a student kitchen.

4. Noodles – add to stir-fries, curries and chuck into soup for extra depth.

5. Tinned chopped tomato – the most versatile of store-cupboard ingredients and used as the base to many everyday recipes.

6. Olive oil – use for cooking and as salad dressing.

7. Garlic– fresh garlic lasts 3-4 weeks in the cupboard. A little of this pungent herb goes a long way in meat and vegetarian dishes. 

8. Ginger – add to stir fries, curries and even slice into boiling water for a refreshing hot drink.

9. Onion – lasts 2-3 weeks in the cupboard.

10. Tomato ketchup – essential condiment for bangers and mash (http://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/heinz-bangers-and-mash-with-red-onion-gravy.html), fish-fingers, chips and can be squeezed into sauces to add flavour.

11. Dried mixed herbs and spices - such as chilli and curry powder are handy to season and add flavour to your recipes.

12. Baked beans – no store cupboard should be without this student staple.

13. Tinned tuna – provides a good source of protein. Add it to pasta salad and sandwiches with peppers and sweet corn for a great-tasting lunch.

14. Flour – for cakes, bakes and thickening gravy and sauces.

15. Sugar – sweeten foods and use for baking.

16. Stock cubes – Chicken & vegetable stock cubes are an essential ingredient for so many easy recipes.

17. English mustard– a quick way to add flavour to meaty dishes such as sausages and to salad dressings.

18. Pesto – hungry and need dinner fast? Pasta and pesto does the trick.

19. Ready made pizza bases – ditch the takeaway and knock together homemade pizzas from fresh and store cupboard ingredients. They’re fun to make with friends too.

20. Coconut milk – great for Thai curries and noodle soups

Share the cooking

Cooking for one can be pricey, so if you’re in halls of residence or a house-share make a rota with friends so you’re not cooking every day. Look for good value batch cook recipes where you cook once and eat twice – saving you time and money. Chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognaise are easy meals to make and portions freeze well. Don’t waste pasta or rice. You can freeze rice and keep pasta in the fridge for 2 days and use in pasta salads for lunch. You can use our leftover tool for more tasty and inventive ideas. See our nifty 50 recipe planner for more delicious and cheap recipe ideas. 

Brush up your cooking skills

One of the best ways to learn to cook is by copying the experts. Cook along with our videos. You can learn all the basics of cooking, from how to poach an egg to dicing and onion, plus we’ve 100s of tasty, easy-to-make recipes such as delicious Mexican quesadillas and home made pizza. What are you waiting for?

5 top student recipes

Cottage pie 

Simple sausage casserole

Fish pie with sweetcorn

Fresh macaroni cheese 

Mixed bean soup 

Thanks to Love Food Hate Waste

Ways to shop

Look out for this basket to buy recipe ingredients.
Learn more  

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Real Food Poll


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