First Year Food
One thing that may be on the mind of freshers heading off to university is food. I know it was a big consideration for me personally. Growing up with TV shows and films where students live off of nothing but take away food every evening gave me a very specific impression of what the situation would be like at uni but expectations and reality very rarely seem to line up and I was honestly shocked at how infrequently I ordered take away in first year.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about the reality (or, at least, my reality) of food at university for a moment.
Perhaps food is a stressful consideration for you at the moment but eating can be a very sociable and enjoyable experience especially when you are living in accommodation with a shared kitchen. My strongest piece of advice would be to make the most of the daily mealtime opportunities.
I all too often get stuck in my plans. I’ll schedule all of my meals for the week at the weekend and then I’m very hesitant to stray from that. Don’t be like me! Leave some flexibility in your plans and cook together, eat together or go out together as much as you can. Through this hopefully you’ll look forward to meals rather than dreading that you have to cook.
Of course there are the financial considerations of food as well. Unless you are in a particularly fortunate position, you probably won’t be able to afford eating out for every meal. That doesn’t mean that food should become unnecessarily stressful. You can take simple steps to economise in your weekly food budget. My top tips would be to plan ahead, share and avoid waste.
My process is that I like to plan out a list of meals for the week and then build a shopping list around that. I only ever use a basket in the supermarket because, a) if it doesn’t all fit in the basket it’s probably too much to carry home and, b) that stops me being excessive and making unnecessary purchases. With these steps I find I only buy what I need (most of it fruit and veg or tinned goods) and only end up with a minimal amount of waste. In addition, even though I’m not a vegetarian I tend to eat a lot of veggie meals at university because they’re cheaper, simpler and really no less tasty once you develop confidence with a wide range of flavours and spices.
Then of course there’s the practical side of food. If you want to cater for yourself you need to know how to cook and it can be easy to get disheartened when things go wrong at the start. Again though, there are some simple steps.
I love to research dishes (probably when I’m procrastinating university work) by flicking through recipe books or watching YouTube chefs and then I’ll probably make some amalgamation of a bunch of different takes on the dish I started researching. This is a great way to learn but if you’re completely new to cooking I would advise playing it safe at first. Master those home cooked favourites that you are familiar with and then perhaps add in something here or swap something out there until you have expanded your knowledge of different foods.
Once you reach that point your free to do whatever you want, to make whatever you want and to be as inventive as you want. That’s when the fun begins!
Perhaps you’ll start off with all of these great intentions but find the workload and social life at university doesn’t leave time for cooking in the evenings. I would always argue that time spent cooking is just as valuable as other parts of my day as it becomes a relaxing, sociable and rewarding experience. It can be very easy to slip into unhealthy habits that leave you feeling less enthusiastic and having less energy towards the end of term and I completely understand how this happens.
To get around this I would say to try and make sure you follow some variation on the steps I’ve mentioned above. Find what works for you and make cooking (whether alone or communally) something you enjoy doing. Have a set of simple yet nutritious recipes that you can whip up quickly when time is of the essence and save the more extravagant meals for events with flatmates and friends.
With food it all seems to be about perspective. Some, myself included, see food as very important while others are quite content with whatever’s easiest. I think having this positive attitude towards food right from the beginning of university will set you up well and cooking will never fail to be a useful asset. Learning to love cooking even more so than when I started university has been one of the best things about living at uni so give it a go and see where it takes you.