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BA (Hons) English

Jessica-AlexanderTwo of the most important things that come with independence and living away from home are knowing how to cook and learning to fend for yourself and if you’re like me, sometimes this doesn’t always come easy.

Many of us are used to our parents preparing and cooking a lovely homemade meal for when we return home from school or college (and if not they’ll pay for the takeaway instead). However, at university there is no parental chef to whip up a fancy dish, or wash the plate up when you’ve finished. All of this is down to you.

I started off in my first year cooking the basics – pasta, rice, jacket potatoes, using the cheapest foods in Asda I could find (I would much rather spend my loan on clothes or shoes). I would cook or prepare a meal in no time at all and probably 9 times out of 10 wouldn’t enjoy it that much. If any of you are like me, you normally only enjoy food cooked by someone else and because of this the takeaways start rolling in and money (you didn’t want to spend) starts rolling out. This can be expensive and unhealthy, so in my second year, I decided to start varying my meals. I still used relatively cheap foods, but I made meals that could be re-heated, or shared with my other house mates which lowered the cost. One of my favourites was lasagne. I had no idea how easy and affordable it was to make:

£2 mince from Iceland

2 for £3 on Dolmio tomato sauce and white sauce (you can opt to make your own if you have time and are feeling creative).

£1 pasta sheets

£3 cheese

  1. Cook the mince in a pan
  2. Add the tomato sauce and heat through
  3. Layer the bottom of the lasagne dish
  4. Add mince and sauce and another layer of pasta
  5. Repeat
  6. Add the white sauce to the top layer of pasta and then grate some cheese
  7. Cook in the oven for 30-40 mins – or until the pasta is soft and the top is golden. Use a knife to check it’s ready.

I tend to eat with a side salad and freeze the rest for another day. 4 meals in 1 and I actually enjoyed eating them!

I try to stick to a food budget of around £25 a week, but depending on what I am cooking or whether I grab a takeaway that week it varies. This helps me work out what kind of foods I can make that particular week. My house mate and I have also started to make homemade pizzas for dinner (and yes, we make the bases ourselves) and some yummy salads for lunch (as the summer has now arrived).


Just remember, before heading off to university, buy yourself a student cook book, they have some great, affordable ideas for some really scrummy meals. Always budget and never be afraid to experiment. If anyone has some other great recipes, feel free to comment below.

Jessica Alexander

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