How to Cook at University

Student Cooking
Hayley Lawson

As a gloriously fussy eater known to quiver at even the thought of vegetables, my nourishment plans for university were certainly ambiguous for a long time in the lead up to moving to Nottingham. I very quickly became exhausted by jokes that my cupboard would quite simply be overflowing with pasta and rice, and I did begin to worry about what I would actually eat. Hayley Lawson delves into cooking at uni and how to get through. 

To ease your alarm, it isn’t as bad as I had expected – but you will need more than rice and pasta. There is, from day one, this stereotype that university students eat pot noodles, pizza, and more pot noodles – which is in truth quite discouraging; in my first food shop, I found myself feeling like I should be adding these items to my basket and thus almost immediately gave up on healthy eating and actual cooking before I’d even made it through freshers’ week. So, (considering my previously stated role as a gloriously fussy eater) I decided to switch things up. The key thing that I’ve learned so far is that there is zero harm in trying new things and making new dishes; sometimes they will fail miserably (I horribly burned a lasagne last week) but that is half of the fun. But with experimentation comes finances; I would say to give yourself a set amount of money to spend on food per week. I make my limit £25 and then if there is any leftover then I pop it into a tin to buy more pricey foods that I don’t get as often. Everyone is different with this, but I find that having this set budget is the most effective way to ensure that you never get too hungry and you never spend too much. Furthermore, I would advise that you never go food shopping when you’re hungry. I like to go every Saturday after I’ve had my lunch so that I’m not thinking about snacks too much.

I find that having this set budget is the most effective way to ensure that you never get too hungry and you never spend too much

Recommended meals:
All over different websites there are these lists of things that you supposedly need to survive in university but then there’s hardly any ideas of what to make with said staples. I figured that it may be helpful to share some different go-to meals that some friends of mine tend to make.

  • Jacket potato with cheese and beans
  • Roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and paprika with an avocado salad and bulgur wheat (I’ve never tried this, but I have heard good things)
  • Fried tortillas with cheese
  • Chicken (or Quorn) nuggets with potato skins
  • Pesto Pasta with ham and cheese (there will be more on pasta because I got a lot of different types of pasta in the responses)
  • Oven baked risotto
  • Chicken fajitas
  • Corned beef pasties made with wraps (you can use weight watchers wraps for a healthier option here)

What should I do with my pasta?
I truly felt like I had this one down to a tea – I used to be a loyal tuna and mayonnaise girl, but I’ve already experimented with far more than this. For starters, I was profoundly ridiculed for not adding salt to my boiling water (so either my family hid this from me or we’re all lunatics) and was subsequently mocked for never having tried butter in pasta. It is important to note that neither of these options are particularly healthy, but a treat every now and then does no harm. However, my true life saver so far has been Dolmio sauce which honestly tastes like it’s come straight from Bella Italia (or a Tesco ready meal, according to my flatmate). I also thoroughly enjoyed my flatmate’s fajita chicken pasta which she made using a fajita seasoning sachet from Asda. So, the moral of the story is that whatever the food is, you’ll probably enjoy it in more ways than one.

I was profoundly ridiculed for not adding salt to my boiling water

The social side of cooking
Not only has the university cooking experience broadened my palette, but food is also a strangely effective way to bond with your flatmates. For my first week living here, I had a flatmate who I genuinely only spoke to about food. Our only exchange was “what are you making?” (One couldn’t possibly imagine the mortification I felt when my response to this on the first time round was simply “coco pops” whilst they proceeded to cook a full meal) and this has already resulted in hours of chatting in the kitchen. At first, I was insanely anxious with what I was eating because I was so worried about what people would think about my food habits but honestly, it is so much more relaxed than I expected. My flatmates and I often discuss the different meals that we have, sometimes in a comical way (and this never feels like mockery) but we mostly learn from each other and recommend our favourite dishes to one another. Three of us have decided to do a weekly movie night where we take turns cooking for one another which is a great way to socialise and try new food. I truly cannot suggest doing this enough.

Hayley Lawson

Featured Photo by Kevin McCutcheon from Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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