A Student's Guide to Cooking at University

September 20, 2021

Starting University means there are a lot of exciting new things to discover; one of these being your inner master chef. However, a lot of students don’t enjoy cooking for themselves. The Independent reported that 1 in 10 students never cook and 1 in 4 pay for a takeaway every week. In the long run this is not always the best for you. So, we’ve made a simple guide to how important cooking is at university. With these top tips and tricks, you won’t have to live off takeaways and instant noodles.

The essentials

Starting University is hectic and busy. You want to get a big shop of essentials out of the way as early as possible, so you have more time to settle in and get to know people. Our kitchen essentials include pots, pans, cutlery, mugs, and glasses, and the more you get, the better! Aim for at least three different sized pots and pans so you can work on cooking multiple items at once. Even if you aren’t good at multitasking, it’s good to have spare items in case something is in the dishwasher or they end up ‘mysteriously’ going missing…

On your first shop, buy big packets of food such as rice, pasta, tea, coffee, herbs, and spices, these are items you know you will need on a regular basis and best of all they don’t have an expiry date! If you buy in bulk, you won’t have to keep running back to the shops because you’ve run out of food. This in the long run can be a huge money and time saver. Try to get your new housemates on board too, then you can split the bill and save even more! 

Try to do a big shop when you get to a large supermarket, as you may not end up having one as near as you hoped. You can always freeze food if you do end up buying too much. Just remember to defrost it with enough time to cook when you do want to eat it. Food deliveries are also useful, especially if you don’t own a car. Keep your eyes out for discounts on deliveries too. 

What to cook

Go simple at first. If you overcomplicate your recipes too early, things might not go to plan and the time and effort you put in might discourage you from trying new things in the future. There are so many easy recipes available in cooking books and the internet that you can try, some of my favourites are Lentil Lasagne, Chilli con Carne and Spaghetti with prawns, so get cooking and see what works for you! Remember you don’t have to stick 100% to the recipe, if you don’t have an item, see what else is in your cupboard for you to use as an alternative.

As deadlines start to approach and you find your schedule getting busier and busier; it can be almost too easy to forget meals. According to studentbeans.com 65 percent of students skip breakfast, 59 percent miss lunch and 29 percent pass up dinner each week. Don’t let this be you! Skipping meals can really impact how well you perform in exams. Instead, try eating blueberries, eggs, fatty fish, whole grain bread, green vegetables and drinking tea, and coffee. They all can boost your mood and memory making them fantastic brain foods to have over exam periods.

Cooking can also be a fun social activity to do with your new flatmates and friends! You could try out a halls ‘Come Dine with Me’ with your neighbours, where you each take turns cooking for each other. Or you can have a themed night with your flatmates. For example, Italian night where you make pizza from scratch. This is fantastic for when you have flatmates who have specific food requirements or like different foods to you, as you can pick your own toppings. You can also make a whole experience of it by listening to Italian music or watching an Italian movie after dinner together.

Plan your meals

Once you’ve got your favourite dishes to cook, you should consider planning and preparing your meals in advance. This will make cooking quick and efficient, something important as the kitchen might get too busy if everyone is cooking at the same time. Planning can minimise food wastage too. However, if you do have some leftovers try to make them into something else, perhaps a soup or a stir fry.

Make a real effort to do the washing up. The flat can get very dirty quickly and it can be annoying for you and your flatmates. It’s always best to try and wash up as soon as you finish a meal, if you get into a regular routine with this it won’t feel as much like a chore. If your flatmates are leaving the kitchen dirty, try to speak to them politely about it. This is one of the most common issues in university accommodation, so there is a good chance you might experience it. 

Treat yourself too

Cooking for yourself is a real money saver, can be a healthier option and is a great way to bond with your new flatmates. However, you can still treat yourself from time to time too! Go for a sit-down dinner at a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try out, try a new take away or check out the coffee in your Student Union! You can get student discounts for a lot of places so make the most of it while you can, and it would be a great way to get to know your new area! Just don’t make it too much of a habit, as it can be very expensive in the long term.

So, is it instant noodles or home cooking?

Our guide to student cooking is all about balance! Make sure you keep a healthy diet and routine and talk to your housemates and course mates about cooking together – chances are they will want to join in as much as you do! As with all the other skills you will pick up at university, your cooking skills will become another lifelong benefit. 

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Sadiyah Zaman

Sadiyah is our Content Writer and Tutor Manager, who loves everything creative, having studied architecture and linguistics at university. She has previously worked as an English language teacher in both the UK and Italy and is passionate about equal education for everyone.

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