Like many students, I came to uni with practically no cooking experience. But I liked home-cooked meals. So over the last few years I have trial-and-errored my way through learning to cook as a student. Here are my best tips and recipes.
Cooking requires shopping. But not all shopping is equal. Here’s some things to remember when you make the marathon trip to the supermarket.
Go to a cheap supermarket for the essentials!
- Shops like Aldi are perfect for keeping costs down, especially for store-cupboard essentials.
- Buying larger quantities (especially of dried or tinned things) can drive down prices and will stock you up with emergency food for when you forget to shop.
Have a strategy!
- Planning meals can be a pain so instead plan types of meals. For example, I like to make my big shops last 2 weeks. I buy fresh veg and meat for week 1, then I buy tinned pulses and frozen or long-lasting veg for week 2. Frozen onion and frozen peppers are particularly useful for many meals, and last much longer than the fresh versions.
Basic cooking tips
Herbs and spices
- As a student you probably don’t want to buy a cupboard full of herbs and spices that you might only use once. My tip is to find a cuisine you like, look up lots of recipes based on it and buy the herbs and spices they use. For instance, I like Spanish and Italian food, so I have paprika, oregano, cumin, rosemary and basil. If you like Indian food you might get cumin, coriander, garam masala and chilli. Once you know what flavours are often used together you can put them into all sorts of meals.
Learn to make sauces
- It can save you money and it means you can have macaroni cheese whenever you feel like it. Cheese sauce only requires flour, butter, milk and cheese and those are things you usually have around the house. Tomato sauce is similarly easy to make (it’s basically just chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion) and can make the student go-to meal of pasta much tastier.
One-Pot Pepper, Beans, and Spinach couscous
(Vegetarian with minimal washing up)
Serves 1 (but can easily be doubled). This recipe is good for week 2, when you’ve run out of fresh food, because the majority of the ingredients can be swapped out for store-cupboard or frozen substitutes.
You will need:
- Olive oil
- 1 Clove of garlic, chopped
- Half an onion, diced (or a handful of frozen onion)
- Half of 1 red pepper, chopped (or one large handful of sliced frozen pepper)
- A handful of baby spinach (or one log of frozen spinach)
- 5-6 Cherry tomatoes, sliced (or half a tin of chopped tomatoes, drained)
- Half 1 Stock cube
- Tin of beans (cannellini or pinto are best), drained
- Couscous (plain)
- Seasoning: salt, pepper, paprika
- Fry the onion, garlic and pepper together in a pan with the olive oil, keeping on a low-medium heat. Cook slowly, stirring, until the onion is browned.
- Add the tomatoes and the spinach, cooking until the spinach has collapsed (or, if using frozen spinach, until the log has defrosted and mixed in with the rest of the veggies).
- Put the kettle on to boil. Meanwhile, add the beans and season with salt and pepper. Add ¼ teaspoon of paprika if you have it.
- When the kettle has boiled, add couscous to the pan (I use around 40g for 1 person), crumble in the half stock cube and then pour in enough boiling water to cover the veggies and the couscous.
- Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until the couscous is cooked. Enjoy with cheese.
This recipe uses plain couscous but if you only have instant, flavoured couscous you can make that separately and add the veggie mixture on top. Alternatively, swap the couscous out for rice, or have the veggie mixture as a pasta sauce.
Honey Mustard Chicken
(Tasty and easy)
Serves 1. Sweet and sticky, good with mashed potato, or pasta, with veg.
You will need:
- 1 Clove garlic, diced
- Half an onion, sliced
- 100g Chicken, sliced thinly
- Mustard (whole grain is best)
- Runny honey
- Olive oil
- Crème fraiche or milk
- Half a stock cube in 150 ml hot water
- Add 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of mustard and 1 tablespoon of oil into the pan and heat it up until warm.
- Add the chicken with the garlic and onions and fry in the honey mustard mixture for around 10 minutes until browned.
- Add the stock and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of crème fraiche or milk. Warm through.
- Serve with potato and veggies, or with noodles or pasta.
Good luck and Enjoy!
Explore more student recipes