Getting lost around campus, meeting new people, sitting through long lectures whilst hung over from last night’s antics. Yes it’s a hard life for first years and then homesickness and missing mum’s cooking sets in.
There is only so long you can survive on (or afford) a diet of pizza, kebabs and other take-aways. Cooking can be fun, but it can also be intimidating when you have never had to do it before. For intellectual university students it should be a pretty easy though right?
Not according to Melissa Ford a third year majoring in creative writing and Halls Receptionist at Kingston University.
“You wouldn’t believe some of the things I have seen in the last couple of years working,” she said. “I once had someone come and see me, really angry that his toaster wasn’t working. I went up and had a look to see what was wrong with it. I found frozen chicken nuggets stuck in the bottom, they were all burnt on the outside and still frozen on the inside. I have also seen kettles that don’t work due to people attempting to boil pasta in them. It’s pretty funny.”
So there you have it. A first piece of advice: use the right appliance for your cooking needs. Pasta goes into a pan of boiling water and chicken nuggets in the grill or oven.
Other food advice from Ford is to keep your most expensive items locked in your room or be prepared for your food to become communal food. Food going missing is a common complaint when living in halls but the culprit isn’t always who you might think.
Ford said: “If you live on the ground floor always make sure the kitchen window is closed. There have been cases where people actually climb through open windows to steal food from kitchens. Also watch out for pigeons. They seem to love student kitchens and will come through the window and peck away at any food they find”.
So what do students live on in their first year of uni? Katerina Yiakoumi, a third year history student, said she tried to be healthy in her first year but ended up living on a high carbohydrate diet of salads and pasta. “Pasta and salads are so versatile and pretty easy to make,” she said.
Whilst Ford decided she had better things than food to spend her money on, she said: “I blew my loan on new clothes and then ended up having to live off noodles for 3 months. Me and two other girls went and spent £100 on noodles and literally that was all we ate until our next instalment came in.”
While take away food is easy, it is expensive and unhealthy. One slice of cheese and tomato pizza contains 158 calories compared with 92.5 in a slice of cheese on wholemeal toast. There is 1.3g of fibre in the pizza but 2.5g in the cheese on toast, fibre is an important part of your diet. The NHS website states: ” A diet high in fibre has many health benefits. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health. However, many people don’t get enough fibre. On average, most people in the UK get about 14g of fibre a day. You should aim for at least 18g a day”. so swapping that pizza slice for a slice of cheese on toast will have you on your way to the reccommended amount of fibre.
Now lets look at the cost. A small cheese and tomato pizza costs £9.99 from a popular local pizza place. Adding other toppings and sides or a larger pizza and you are looking at a £15 -£20 bill. If you took that £20 to a local supermarket it would go so much further, feeding you for at least a couple of days.
When shopping use the supermarket’s low cost range where you can and be wary of offers, which sometimes are not as good as they seem (often supermarkets will put food on offer that is nearer to spoilage, or of lesser quality). Here is a basic shopping list priced from a local supermarket using their low cost range range:
Bag of frozen mixed vegetables (1K) £0.80
White rice (1K) £0.45
Dried egg noodles, medium (250g) £1.00
Wholemeal medium slice bread (800g) £0.55
Block of cheddar cheese (300g) £2.00
Vegetable stock cubes (10x10g) £0.90
Chicken mini fillets (250g) £3.00
Medium Eggs (6) £0.90
Salted butter (250g) £1.00
Semi skimmed milk (2 pint) £0.90
Cooked ham (125g) £0.65
Packet sweet leaf salad (250g) £1.00
Whole cucumber £0.70
Tomatoes (450g) £0.70
Onions (3) £0.55
Bananas (5) £0.90
Olive oil (250ml) £1.25
Total Cost = £15.25
So for the cost of one take away pizza with sides, you could buy all this, which will feed you for a week and still have some change left over for a home cooked pizza. From this shopping list you can make a number of healthy, quick and easy dinners, lunches and snacks.
Here is one of Ford’s favourite cheap and easy recipe ideas:
1 Vegetable stock cube
1 cup Frozen mixed vegetables
Dry egg noodles
Salt and pepper to taste
Dissolve the stock cube in boiling water as per cooking instructions and add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the frozen vegetables to the stock, once soft add in the egg noodles, simmer for about a minute.
This recipe involves no prep and is ready in under 10 minutes. You can play around with it, by adding different spices or herbs. You can also add chicken but this may take a little longer as you want the chicken to be cooked thoroughly.
For more recipe ideas, have a look at these websites: