If you are the parent of a student who is heading off for university in September, you have probably made sure their accommodation has been looked over, their courses are all booked and you have planned the journey to the campus by the mile. But have you thought about how they will feed themselves? If you are the student who is going off to new pastures and haven’t really had the time or the inclination to think about food, you’d better start now as prices may shock you once you get into the supermarkets. If you can cook you are off to a good start but this does not mean you will necessarily know how to budget your money or know how to buy the cheapest but best quality food and how to make it last. Follow our simple tips and you’ll get all your friends popping round for a quick lesson in home economics!
Firstly, you’ll need to stock up on a few stock cupboard essentials. If your parents offer to buy you a food parcel to take with you, ask them for these necessary items and you will find you won’t be rushing out to the supermarket for an important ingredient mid way through cooking. Main essentials to keep at all times are: stock cubes, we like Oxo rather than Knorr as they have a lower salt content, salt and pepper, tomato puree or/and passatta, tins of tomatoes ( don’t buy them already chopped but simply cut them inside the cans), dried pasta, rice, Worcester sauce, cornflower and a mixture of herbs (try Italian dried herbs, they go with practically anything).
Mince is the staple food of all students as you can make so many different things with it. Shepherds pie only requires a few onions, carrots and a gravy based stock with a potato topping to create a tasty filling meal. When buying mince, don’t go for the cheapest as this will contain a lot of fat, typically 20% or more and this will cook off leaving hardly any meat. Try for a mid range with 10% fat and bulk it out with more vegetables such as double the amount of onions and peppers etc. Chilli is also a meal you can bulk out with other ingredients such as beans (you don’t even have to use red kidney beans but can substitute baked beans instead) and buy value peppers and add two or three. Spaghetti bolognese can be made simply and if you happen to have some left over wine throw that in to add flavour. Wine can be frozen in ice cube trays to be used at a later date.
Buy whole chickens rather than breasts as this works out cheaper and you can make several meals if you use the carcass the next day. The cheapest roast is typically roast chicken and at the end of the week you can use up leftover vegetables and put the carcass in a pot of cold water, simmer for an hour and then pick off all the meat to make a stew of soup.
Value products are a great way to bulk out week day meals but only buy certain ones. Value beans have exactly the same quality as brand ones at a fraction of the cost as do value tins of tuna. Value tins of tomatoes are worth buying as are value potatoes, you may have to put in a little extra effort in preparing them but remember, anything the supermarket has to prepare for you is likely to cost you more money so keep this in mind when you are out shopping. Talking of potatoes, don’t buy potatoes that are classed specifically as baking potatoes, just buy a bag of value ones and keep the larger ones for jackets. And resist the temptation to buy prepared salads, not only do these come in chemically filled bags but the mark up is around 50% compared to a single lettuce. Good luck!