After a long car journey, with your possessions likely forcing you to wear your knees as headphones, you have arrived, unpacked and ready to settle in.
Your parents will set down the last entrails of your luggage, survey the room and then lay down the first challenge of independent life: “Let’s go and get you some food.”
This first experience will likely consist of you nodding your head while your parents put things into the trolley that you wouldn’t dream of buying on a student budget. But what happens when you’re left to your own devices?
To the experienced, a food shop is an easy task. To the majority of first years, shopping for food consists mainly of grabbing stuff you remember having one time and trying to create something that vaguely resembles a meal upon your return.
Food shops can be split into three categories: essentials which you will want to buy in every single shop, occasional items – the foods which should keep for a while and you can buy in bulk – and incidentals, such as herbs, spices, coffee and tea.
Before you think about anything else, think about what you want in your allocated freezer space. If you don’t fill it as soon as possible, somebody whose eyes are bigger than their freezer drawer will ‘borrow’ some space and you won’t get it back for the foreseeable, and quite possibly unforeseeable, future. Frozen pizzas, chips, frozen peas – for the inevitable accidents – and whatever else you fancy, just make sure there isn’t any room for someone to ‘share’ your space.
Bread, milk and eggs can be bought for a reasonable price from the on-campus shop Nisa. Breakfast can be sorted as simply as buying some cereal, or as complicated as purchasing the component parts for poached eggs and sour-dough toast. A good tip is to wait and see if your college is offering any ‘hangover breakfast’ events, which usually consist of bacon and/or sausage sandwiches.
For your main meals, you’ll need a few things before you even start to think about what you’re going to have. Oil is a must unless you have the utmost faith in your non-stick pan. Salt and pepper will help you paper over any cracks in your cooking skills at this early stage of adulthood. A few herbs won’t go amiss; there are only so many times you can have pasta and tomato sauce without wondering what they put in it as restaurants that make it taste so good – so have a go yourself!
Pasta and rice – items that should never be absent from a student’s cupboard – can be bought in large bags to save both effort and money. You can pick up 3kg of pasta for less than £3 online. There are 2, 5 or even 10kg bags of rice available! Should you be feeling a little adventurous or if you are sick of pasta and rice, noodles are also a good base for a meal and, if you buy dry noodles, do not have to be used quickly.
To go with the base of your meal, you will want some sauces, whether they’re stir fry sauces or pasta sauces, you will want something to stop your meals feeling dry. Next on the list should chicken – unless you’re vegetarian! Again, if bought in bulk, chicken doesn’t have to break the bank and is a quick and easy way to add some protein to a meal. It’s also a great way to take up some of the aforementioned freezer space. If you’ve got chicken, you’ll want cheese. It can be added to almost every meal to make it instantly better, albeit more fattening.
A good way to appease your parents with minimal effort is to buy frozen vegetables. Throw them into a frying pan for a few minutes before plating up your meal and you can feel healthy and smug without having to go through the arduous process of actually preparing fresh vegetables.
Away from the food, toilet roll should also feature in your first shop. Unless you’re accustomed to rubbing your backside on a belt sander, the standard toilet paper supplied by the university will make you walk funny for a few days if you wipe a little too enthusiastically. Live luxuriously and get yourself some 3-ply. It’ll be worth it.