Tips for students starting university. How to plan, shop and cook healthy meals while juggling coursework, money and socialising.
The first few weeks at university can be a very expensive time. Freshers week (or weeks!) gives students the opportunity to make friends and there are lots of different clubs and societies to join. Students may wish to join a gym or a sports club, all of which invariably costs money. Halls of residence may be some distance from the university and may necessitate the purchase of a bus pass. Some degree courses require students to purchase essential equipment, books, etc. And it is important that students use this time to make friends – and socialising costs money!!
Where is the time or money or inclination to eat healthily?
It will be so very easy for students to forget that their maintenance grant and/or money they have, needs to last a term.
Although eating at fast food restaurants sounds attractive and convenient, students will not be getting the nutrients they require for their lifestyle. Freshers’ Flu is real!!! A good diet is needed to give your body a chance to defend itself.
Students Eating at University provides information for students just starting university, and has several tips as well.
When it comes to eating healthily it is essential that students plan. Plan what and when to eat, and also what and when to purchase food. It’s horrible coming home on a cold evening when you’re tired and hungry only to find there is nothing to eat.
Make a Meal Plan
Plan what your meals are going to be for each day of the week. By planning your menu you won’t waste time trying to find something to cook with the limited ingredients you have in your cupboard. Here is a weekly menu to assist you.
Naturally, there will be occasions when you don’t stick to your meal plan. Friends may invite you out, so go. You’ll just have to adapt your meal plan slightly so that the food isn’t wasted. Student life has little routine, especially at the beginning when you are making new friends.
Make a Shopping List
Once you have planned what meals you are having, make a shopping list of the ingredients you will need and stick to it. Going shopping without a list will cost you more as supermarkets are skilled at tempting you to buy items on impulse.
There is no need to buy recipe books. There are plenty of recipes online that cost nothing. Take a look at some of our Student Meals.
Make a Budget
It is imperative that students work out how much money they will have for spending on food. Once the rent money has been put aside, provision must be made for food. Socialising is an important part of a students’ life, and it is so easy for this to take priority over food – but without a proper healthy diet all other areas of your life will suffer.
Food Shopping for Students
It is advisable not to shop on an empty stomach as you are more likely to be tempted by the supermarket offers.
There may be a corner store near you but only use this for emergencies otherwise your weekly shop will cost a lot more. Supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi will reduce your shopping bills.
The Students page on our website gives lots of useful advice on how to keep the cost of your shopping bills to the minimum.
Shopping Deals of the Day
Don’t forget to look for special deals and discount codes.
Equipment for Students
Most students move into Halls of Residence in their first year, and the majority of these are self catered. Students Eating at University includes suggestions on the equipment you are likely to need to purchase. There are some items that are best left until you arrive, as you may wish to share the cost with other students. For example, items such as a kettle, toaster and microwave – as you are likely to share these.
Plenty of shops at the moment are offering student starter kits, for example
One kitchen appliance worth considering is a slow cooker, like this one here.
With a slow cooker it takes only about 10 to 20 minutes to prepare the ingredients, and then 4-5 hours later you have a wonderful aroma that will make your flat mates envious.
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How Parents Can Help Students to eat Healthily
It just can’t be helped – as parents we worry about our children, from the cradle to adulthood. I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will stop worrying!
As a chef and a parent, I have always taken care to ensure my family eats healthily. My ability to do this was curtailed dramatically when my daughters left home to go to university. One way I could ensure they had healthy food to eat was by batch cooking before they left for university, and during holidays and weekends when they come home.
Although the freezer space is limited in student kitchens, there is usually sufficient space to house a number of frozen meals.
My daughters have commented on how convenient it is, when they don’t have time to cook, and they can simply re-heat a nutritious home-made meal.
I purchased 50 silver foil food trays from Amazon and these cost me £5.40. You can also purchase these in smaller quantities from supermarkets.
There are numerous meals that can be made for freezing and re-heating. A fortnight ago I made 18 meals for one of my daughters’ – lasagne, chicken pie and chicken curry (her choice of meals!). Here are some photographs of the preparatory stages.
Of course there is nothing stopping students from batch cooking themselves – other than, perhaps, time.
Another option for parents is to pay for and arrange a delivery of nutritious foods to the students’ home, when you are certain that they would be in to take the delivery.
My daughters have excellent culinary skills and often send me photographs of the meals they have prepared. Some of these have been posted to my website. Fortunately they enjoy cooking, and generally eat healthily at university – apart from the occasional visit to fast food restaurants!!!
This blog has been written based from my experience as a student and as a parent of students. Please feel free to share.