So you’re at university. You’ve probably spent most of your life at home up to this point. Some of you will have done a lot of cooking at home, others won’t even by sure which way up you’re supposed to hold a saucepan.
Of course, if you’re in part-catered accommodation, you’ll be sat back with your feet up, without a care in the world. But for those of you who, like me, thought “yeah, self-catering will be quick, easy and cheap, and I can eat any time I like”, you, like me, will now have realised that this actually means “it’s 7pm, I’m hungry, what do I have which takes 5 minutes to cook?”
So, here are some tips, from a fresher, about what to do and what NOT to do when using the student kitchen.
1. Washing up
We all hate it. It’s tiresome and tedious, and not what you need when you just want a quick snack before writing an essay. However, what you really shouldn’t do is stick to the attitude “I’ll do it later”. You won’t. At least, not until your flatmates get annoyed and you resort to eating out of Tupperware because it’s the only clean thing you have available to you. Try to wash up as you go along.
2. Kitchen malfunctions
Us students know better than anyone how irritating it can be when everything in our kitchens seem to intermittently cease functioning – a broken oven, a hot tap which is only hot half the time, and defrosting freezers. First thing’s first, you need to check that it is actually broken before you call anyone for help. Calling someone up to say your hob won’t heat up, only to have them inform you on arrival, in dulcet and disgruntled tones, that it’s not switched on, is a little awkward. However, if you’re pretty sure there is a fault with something in your flat, do something about it! It’s the only way anything’s going to get fixed, and you’re paying enough money to deserve at the very least a functioning oven which doesn’t inexplicably spurt out smoke every time you open the door, even when the food isn’t cooked.
3 . Cooking together
One great thing about self-catered accommodation at university is the idea that you get to cook with other people, which is great for sharing recipes and saving money. The key thing to make this work, however, is cooperating. There’s not much use in all of you deciding at the exact same time that you want to cook spag bol which will take an hour, so that all of you are battling for the few spaces available on the hob. Be logical and share it out so that someone’s sauce isn’t going cold because they haven’t actually had the chance to cook the pasta yet. This goes for storage as well; you should be provided with sufficient space to cater for everyone in your flat, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing the space if it makes sense. Just don’t be that person who says “sorry, I thought that Ben & Jerry’s was mine”, for the third time in one week.
You’re on a budget, so it’s tempting to get everything in bulk, which is fine to a certain extent. However, don’t just get two bags of bread because it saves you 50p: if you then leave one pack until it goes mouldy, you’ve wasted more than you’ve saved. Don’t just get the cheapest thing available if you’re not going to like it, and it then gets wasted.
5. The Archetypal Student
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE OFF POT NOODLE. It can be tempting when you’re on a budget, but it’s not necessary! It is perfectly possible to make food which is quick, cheap and healthy (okay, maybe not that healthy), even on a student budget. You can buy a whole packet of spaghetti for 17p, chuck in a bit of mince and veg, and you’ve got yourself a meal which is healthier and largely cheaper than a Dominoes, plus you don’t have to sit there tapping your foot for 45 minutes waiting for it to be delivered. No one is expecting Michelin stars (or depriving you of
the convenience of a takeaway or ready meal if you’re really stretched for time!).
So these are just a few tips, from one student to another, on how to survive the student kitchen without becoming The Messy One, The Unhealthy One, The Stingy One or even The One Who Inexplicably Steals Food From Someone Else’s Fridge Shelf And Never Owns Up (you know who you are).