My university food essentials that will get you out of any hungry situation
Now the start of the new academic year is well and truly round the corner and the time for the big move to university is coming faster than we all expected! For many students, moving into halls will be the first time that they solely rely on themselves to cook, and there are two routes to go down – either be the King or Queen of frozen dinners and takeaways – or learn to cook for yourself. While the latter may seem less appealing to start with, trust me when I say you will learn a lot about food and be miles healthier than your flatmate who lives off Sainsbury’s microwaveable meals and Weatherspoons’ fry ups! Here are the essentials I think every kitchen should be stocked with to make university living the most enjoyable when it comes to preparing your meals.
Pasta is integral to surviving while at university, I don’t have any friends who don’t have pasta at least twice a week. It’s the most versatile carbohydrate: spaghetti, pasta, noodles, pasta bake, stir-fry, Bolognese, lasagne – the options are endless when it comes to pasta! Any meat, veg or sauce goes with it and there are a number of times where I’ve fried whatever I’ve got in my fridge, thrown in a sweet & sour or tomato sauce, hoped for the best and ended up with a delicious meal! If you want to be really organised, you can cook two or three times what you need and have it the next day or even freeze it! I would recommend having various forms of pasta in your cupboard at all times.
If you don’t eat eggs for whatever reason, you can skip this paragraph, but I find them a necessity. The main reason being that they can be eaten at any point of the day! Breakfast? Fried, poached, scrambled, boiled. For other meals they can be added to make egg-fried rice or noodles, put into a salad or used as you would for breakfast (who hasn’t had a fry-up for dinner once in their life?!) Omelettes are perfect for breakfast, or dinner with more meats and vegetables. Whether you keep them in the fridge or the cupboard, they are, for me, a complete must.
This is something I learnt about half way through my first year: season your food!! It makes the world of difference, if you’re making your mum’s special Bolognese but can’t work out why it doesn’t taste the same, try adding some herbs or spices into it and be blown away like I was! Garlic was the one for me. A flatmate had some jars of chopped garlic he didn’t use, so after a little experimentation it opened my eyes to what difference it makes! Herbs and spices can be expensive if you try and purchase a whole range of them in one food shop. Buy a few a little at a time so your food bill doesn’t suddenly just triple. Basic herbs and spices such as basil, thyme, paprika and chilli powder can be a good place to start. I promise you it makes your food taste far more interesting and is fully worth it!
This, for me, is extremely important. Through the whole course of my first year, I had a pizza in my freezer for cases of emergency. These ‘emergencies’ may vary, it could be that someone invites you out, and you need to eat something quick and simple so you get that emergency pizza, put it in the oven and shower while it cooks. Another emergency is that you overestimate how much food you’ve got left in your kitchen, and realise as you’re about to cook that you’re in dire need of a weekly shop but not to panic – emergency pizza! Finally, after a long day at uni (probably a Friday) and you can’t be bothered to get back to the flat and cook, so the emergency pizza saves the day! Bare in mind, that this type of convenience meal is not supposed to make up the majority of your weekly meals. Think of it as your Plan B when Plan A isn’t an option – pizza always in the freezer and nothing can go wrong!
Those are my four top items to always have stocked in your kitchen at university which doesn’t include the basics of milk, butter, bread and a few sweet treats like chocolate. All those things are very important but I don’t think they’ll be forgotten! Learning to survive on your own can be difficult, but you learn quickly that the piece of chicken in the oven probably isn’t cooked, and that milk isn’t supposed to smell like that. At first it’s trial and error but you’ll learn! A word of warning, though - don’t eat pink chicken or drink lumpy milk! That might not end up too well!
Emily Best lives in Liberty Works in Sheffield. She is studying English and is in her 1st year at Sheffield Hallam University.