Student Summer: What to Take to University #2

Food. One of the greatest loves of my life, as you can probably tell from this blog, and it was something I really agonised over before starting university. What food should I take to university with me? What will I cook after lectures? So this post is dedicated to the food shop, what meals you’re likely to be cooking, and what you should try and keep in your cupboards.

I’m lucky enough that my parents do my first shop of the school year, so I really stock up on goods that last then. I’ll also stock up on meat and spend the first few days batch cooking. Doing this really helps to keep my costs down for the rest of the year – generally I spend under £15 a fortnight, but even including my big shop my food spending is actually quite low. Now, in this list I’ve really only listed basics…in terms of this is what I always try to have in. Obviously you’re going to want other bits – green vegetables, other fruit, ready meals if you’re that way inclined…but I find if I have the following I can always make a good meal.

So, what food to take to university? And how long do you cook it for…?

Dried
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  • Pasta – in my big shop, I’ll always pick up a 5kg bag of pasta, usually penne. Then I’ll just grab some spaghetti. Value pasta is absolutely fine, I don’t see the point in spending more. Yes, fresh pasta is delicious, but having money is more important! Most pasta wants 9-10 minutes boiling in salted water, unless you are making One Pan Mac’n’ Cheese.
  • Rice – basmati is my go-to. Value rice is not fine, it is often far too starchy, to the point I’d rather have no rice. Again, 10 minute boiling in salted water is generally how I cook rice, just be careful to watch it as it can boil over.
  • Noodles – plain egg noodles are a must for me, as they are great in stir-fries and soups. I prefer thicker ones as they seem to fill me up more, and I also like to go for ones that just need soaking. I will usually soak mine for 5 minutes (just pour a boiling kettle over), and season with soy sauce.
  • Lentils – lentils seem to take very little time to cook, but they are great for bulking up meals and thickening sauces. A standard packet of red lentils lasts me just over a year – I will simmer a spoonful in with my bolognese or stew.

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  • Chopped tomatoes – if you’re a normal person and not allergic to them that is! They are obviously the cheapest way of making most sauces, so make the most of them if you can eat them!
  • Beans – whilst dried lentils are quick to cook, dried beans aren’t. I do prefer using dried beans, but for convenience’s sake its often easier to buy tinned as they only need heating up, though I tend to simmer with everything in chillis and stews.
  • Sweetcorn – I’m not a huge fan of sweetcorn, but I had a housemate who couldn’t live without it! Either buy tinned or frozen – I prefer tinned as I don’t eat it often enough to aware it freezer space. Again this only needs heating up.
  • Coconut Cream – cooking a lot of single-portion curries, it doesn’t make sense to buy coconut milk. Instead I buy coconut cream and stir a small piece into hot water before adding it to the dish. It’s not as rich, but it saves money and calories!
  • Sauces/pastes – if you have a favourite curry, stock up on the paste or ingredients to make it. I also always pick up soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, and a Wahaca chipotle sauce.
  • Gravy – I’m Northern, gravy is something I have to have. I always have both onion gravy and chicken gravy in my cupboard. For one person – two rough tablespoons in a mug, top with boiling water and stir well. This makes quite a thick gravy, so adjust as required.

Spices

 photo IMAG1089_zps0s7ngtng.jpgA whole paragraph for this one! I’m slowly building up my spice collection, having added to it bit by bit over the last two years. I’d start off with cumin, curry powder, italian seasoning, and cajun seasoning. And salt and pepper, obviously. Then add as and when you can afford – coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cinnamon (really only if you plan on baking), crushed chillies, thyme, ginger…anything else you fancy really. Over my placement year I’m planning on really expanding my spices in an attempt to ‘finish off’ and having something that will let me cook any kind of dishes. I’m heading towards Beef Rendang soon!

Fruit & Veg
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  • Bananas – on days I have porridge for breakfast, I always eat it with a banana mashed in. I also use bananas quite a bit in baking (nutella muffins, anyone?) – they great thing is that if you take them out of the skins, they freeze really well. You wouldn’t be able to eat it whole, but mashed into things they are great.
  • Potatoes – the slight Irishness in me makes it impossible to live without potatoes. I generally stick to mash (I’m not huge on roasties); for the perfect mash peel and quarter potatoes (red ones are the best I find), and boil in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain, add butter, a grind of pepper and a splash of milk, and mash away. Tip: don’t buy a cheap potato masher. I’ve gone through several in university as they seem to bend. And pour boiling water into the pan and over the masher once you’ve served up. Believe me, it makes washing up 10 times easier.
  • Carrots – despite not being a fan of carrots, I virtually always have them. I hate them boiled and served up alongside a roast, but chopped up in sauces, meltingly soft in stews, spicy in stir-fries and raw in slaws - they are great. If you are cooking them as a side, peel, slice into rounds and boil for about 4 minutes.
  • Cabbage – I love cabbage, I buy savoy and red types. I tend to only eat red cabbage raw and in stir-fries, but savoy cabbage wants slicing, and boiling for around 4 minutes.
  • Broccoli – I’m a fan of crunchy broccoli, so boil for 2-3 minutes, but most people go for 3-5.
  • Onions and celery – the basis for most sauces. I love braised celery too – it feels so filling, but has hardly any calorific content.

Frozen

I don’t tend to buy many frozen things (apart from B&J’s when it’s on offer *shifty glance*) but I do go for frozen peas. Bird’s Eye Garden peas are the only ones I will buy though, again there are some things I would rather spend a little extra on or go without! Other than that I do try and have either fish fingers or fishcakes in the freezer, although that’s definitely not an essential for me!

Bread

1441238_10152069947758516_1130915187_nWhat can I say, I like my carbs! I’m a lover of wholemeal cobs (Leicestershire gal!) – I’ll make up my cobs with butter and ham and freeze for the entire week. Then I will also get a load of the part-baked rolls. These keep in the cupboard for ages, making them a great standby option. You can also make pretty awesome garlic bread with them too…

Meat

Ah meat, if only it wasn’t so expensive! At the start of term I stick to the basics; ham, bacon, sausages, chicken breast, mince. The chicken and mince gets batch-cooked into bolognese, cottage pie, and curry. Bacon and sausage get frozen into individual portions. Cobs are made up with the ham, and frozen.

Other

  • Crisps – I stock up on things like hula hoops (I’m a big child) and tortilla chips at the start of the year. Mainly because I hate buying them and walking home with them, they are so bulky!
  • Biscuits – can’t resist biscuits! To save money, buy a big value pack and keep in a tub to avoid them going stale.
  • Alcohol – obviously a must for most students, I admit I do rarely buy it. But when I do I either like some good vodka, or a nice wine. Yep, middle-aged before my time.
  • Squash – something else to stock up on at the beginning of term, I like to buy big bottles of double strength; one of these will last me a whole 12-week term.
  • Juice – to stop it going off, I buy individual cartons.
  • Tea/Coffee – again, stocking up at the beginning of term.
  • Milk – definitely not something to forget! I also try to keep a bottle of long-life milk in the cupboard too, just in case.
  • Cheese – I will always have a packet of parmesan, but occasionally I also buy mozzarella and cheddar too depending on what my meal plan is looking like.
  • Butter- generally I prefer to use real butter (not spread!) for sandwiches, but also for frying and obviously baking. Yes, not the healthiest, but I don’t care!
  • Cereal – I always go for porridge oats, I make it up with water so its a pretty frugal option!

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Cleaning  Stuff/Household Items

  • All Purpose Spray
  • Dish cloths/sponges
  • Washing-up Liquid
  • Laundry tablet
  • Kitchen Roll
  • Tin Foil
  • Sandwich Bags

So there you are – what food to buy at university. I obviously cook quite a lot – I’ve known people survive on ready meals though so its not anywhere near an essential list. But its what feels essential for me to have ! I also hope that I’ve helped with some of the cooking times!

What food did/do you eat at university?

Student Summer: Best Student Blogs

I couldn’t write this series and not link to some of my favourite student bloggers – here’s the ones where I read every post, bookmark (and even try!) their recipes, and generally just love. Apologies for the lack of photos, for some reason Photobucket is playing up and I couldn’t access them last night…so have a picture of where I’ve found some of these blogs instead (PS – I was featured too, in the Guardian!)

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Lottie’s Little Kitchen – this is a lovely little blog with some great recipes. It’s more slowly updated nowadays *sob* but her chicken is one of my favourite meals (my version is here). She does some lovely little lifestyle pieces too, utterly jealous of some of the fabulous things she gets up to!

The Scrimpy Student – even the name of this blog makes me smile! A great lifestyle blog, full of money-saving tips. She has a love of the yellow ‘oops’ reduced stickers too!

Handbags & Cupcakes – if you are planning a Year Abroad, this is a must-read for you! Rachel has been on her abroad year over the last 12 months and has kept the blog updated regularly, there’s some fab guidance posts, and again the most lovely recipes. Any girl who seems to feature peanut butter and chocolate so often is definitely on my reading list!

Birmingham Student Foodie – probably for when you’re feeling a little more flush (most of the recipes seems to be out of my budget) but there’s some really lovely dishes here. They would be great for when you are trying to impress.

Writing Essays with Wine – a new find for me, and also a new favourite. This blog is a great mix of all studenty-lifestyle posts, and she’s also writing a great “Guide to Starting University” at the moment!

Life and Times of a Student – another new find, but one that I’m really loving. This blog provides an excellent insight to student life through the interview style posts, it’s a must if you are feeling a little bit nervous!

Nouvella Daily – not specifically a student blog, but there’s some great posts here and here. There’s also some lovely and budget-y recipes on this site, so its definitely worth taking a look.

Diary of a Maths Student – go mathletes! Other than (I assume) a shared love of maths, this blogger and me feel so alike. I love the mix of posts, the gentle guidances through university. This post made me feel a whole lot better during my exam period!

 So there you go – some of my favourite student blogs. I’d love to know if you have any must-reads for me – so what are your favourite student blogs?

 

Baking: Autumnal Blackberry Brownies

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgI love autumn. I can’t be the only one who’s starting to long for pretty scarves, chunky knits, and lovely boots. Actually, I’m not longing for boots as I can’t find any that fit – if anyone knows of any affordable wide-calf-narrow-foot brands I’ll pay with brownies… On my walk to and from walk I pass by a long hedgerow that’s absolutely brimming with blackberries and plums. Sounds idyllic, although the reality is it’s right next to a trainline, and right under Gatwick’s flight path. But for those few moments I could be on a country walk, and so after a week of waiting for blackberries to ripen (and moaning when others got there first) I came home with a small handful. A good wash and they were as good as any I’ve picked from a field.

 photo 2014-08-21083403_zps5a2e9b2d.jpg photo 2014-08-21083320_zpsd8818175.jpg photo 2014-08-18083254_zpsfe4444fd.jpgI debated making a crumble, but lack of ripe fruit meant that was a no-go, and I wanted something I could share. Half my love of baking is sharing the goods around, so a crumble doesn’t really fit the bill. Then I remember the raspberry cheesecake brownies from Edinburgh, and decided to do something similar. Sans cheesecake.

 photo ed98a75c-345b-40ed-903b-fe6668b4059e_zpsdc01713c.jpgI ended up loving the combination of dark, fudgy chocolate brownie with the burst of sharp blackberry, the crunch of the seeds adding a welcome element too. The brownie mix is adapted from my Mayonnaise Brownies; I’ve made it simpler, easier, less washing up. Whilst here I did add a little nutella, I’m not too sure its necessary, and if I’m honest these were a little too fudgy. Just use your judgement – if its looking dry, add nutella!

I’m now convincing myself that using a low-fat brownie mix, and adding fruit, means it’s acceptable to eat four of these in a day. Agreed? Here’s the recipe to convince you…

Ingredients

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 220g sugar
  • 1/3 mug of hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 150g mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tsp of nutella, if needed
  • 1 handful of blackberries, though I wish I’d had more!

 photo 2014-08-20182138_zpsdc448439.jpgMelt your chocolate in the microwave, and leave to cool.

 photo 2014-08-20182641_zpsd25ae499.jpgMeanwhile mix the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar together in a bowl.

 photo a041942d-61ec-41a9-94e0-eac3006540df_zps5ca06735.jpg photo 3274b40a-e9a9-4d6d-92b8-2f3003c99040_zps3071bb9c.jpg photo cfb47624-4c67-4915-91b5-6c9e98e79c28_zps24c6b28a.jpgOnce the chocolate is cool, pour it into the dry mix, along with the mayonnaise and egg. Mix together, don’t overbeat. Add the water gradually until you have a gunge-y mix – add nutella if necessary.

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgStir through your blackberries, tip into a prepared tin (lined and greased – or just covered in tin foil if you’re lazy like me) and bake at 180C for 25-ish minutes.

 photo c987daed-3407-4bbc-97ed-1057a80e6e3e_zps3986e105.jpgAs with all brownies, do your best to wait until they are completely cool before cutting, or they will fall apart. Then stuff your face with five of them. After all, they are pretty damn healthy ;)
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Are you an Autumn lover?

Beauty: A Little Duty Free Haul

My parents went on a (seemingly lovely) holiday to Turkey recently, and to make up for leaving me at the 9-5 grind I gave them a little list of things I might like to receive from duty free. Now, this list wasn’t overly long, and it also makes up my 21st birthday wishlist – I was also asked to make it longer than just a few items so they had a choice, and I wouldn’t end up disappointed if they didn’t have specific items. Plus it meant I got a surprise in terms of what I actually received! Here’s what I got…

First of some Toblerone. This was technically for my boyfriend, but I’m sure I can get him to share! My parents also brought me back some Turkish biscuits. They are packet ones, not traditional, and cost about 30p for each packet – they are delicious and I’ve actually dreamt about them in the four years it’s been since I went out there. I may or may not have about six packets now…

 photo abc24cbd-b0eb-4a18-8a34-4e6612072a6a_zps8b51875b.jpgI also have a lovely new perfume. Since my operation last year (I had what is essentially nose-job, but not for cosmetic or beauty reasons) I’ve found my sense of smell has changed quite a bit. I’m now not as in love with some of my older perfumes, so I took the chance of asking for something new. I love a lot of the Miss Dior fragrances, but was given the original. This is a really sophisticated scent, it smells great on my skin, lasts ages, and just smells light enough for the office, but strong enough to actually smell distinct. I’m in love!

 photo c5c3b973-f52b-4e0a-91fd-e4159c8f53df_zps27f371a9.jpgFinally I have one of the (many!) MAC lipsticks I asked for. A lot on my list were either bolds or neutrals, but my lovely mum picked up Craving. On me this sits somewhere in the middle. Its not a nude colour, but it’s not totally bold either. It’s a lovely pink, but not berry toned (as I do tend to wear a lot of them!), and not the dreaded barbie pink either – you’ll know from this post last week I hate barbie toned pinks on me! I’m really looking forward to wearing this for work, as I’m conscious of nude colours washing me out under office lighting. I do wince at the price tags, but for the colour choice and wear-time I do think MAC lipsticks are worth it. If anyone has a recommendation for a dark, almost burgundy red, then please do suggest away!

Do you have a duty-free wish list?

Student Summer: Logitech Wireless Mouse Review*

I find that a laptop is pretty much essential for university, even for a maths-related degree. Yes, I hardly use it, it gets more use for blogging, but when I do need it for coursework I’m pretty much glued to it for a few weeks. A desktop for me wouldn’t cut it as I know there are occasions where I need access to it on campus, so laptop it is.

However a laptop isn’t ideal for someone, like me, who has Repetitive Strain Injury tendencies. Since suffering badly over exam period I’ve been prone to really painful twinges (in my other hand) if I use my laptop too often, so I started looking for a decent wireless mouse. Imagine my delight when Logitech contact me wondering if I’d want to review some products – the answer to my problems!
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After a great deal of discussion they sent out the mouse they felt would suit me most, the T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse*. I have to say, I love it!

 photo 0173c082-ed07-4c07-94e1-8c03bde0f1e9_zps995d0527.jpgIts small and lightweight; I can take this to work and pack in my pocket if I need to. It doesn’t aggravate any pain in my wrist, hand or fingers, and best of all its incredible easy to set up. I did have to order a Bluetooth Adapter as for some reason my laptop seems to have forgotten it’s got one built in, but other than that getting this mouse good to go was painfree. Quite literally!

 photo 1ed69b5c-3422-4edc-aff9-fdef090ac401_zps470ae2a0.jpgIt is pricy for a mouse, but the quality is so, so high. If you do a lot of tedious work using a touchpad I’d highly recommend investing in a mouse. And if you are going to be using it often, I’d go for the best you can afford; I’ve actually gone through several cheaper ones throughout university so you’ll be getting your monies worth. Maybe not a university essential, but it’s an item that’s pretty damn important to me! So whilst it is a luxury item, its also something thats necessary for me!

Disclaimer: The mouse was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I received no monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own – I genuinely loved this product!

What necessary ‘luxuries’ do you use?

Student Summer: What To Take To University #1

I’ve decided to split the ‘What to Take’ post up into a few sections; bedroom; kitchen; study; clothes/makeup in order to make it a little easier for reading, and also so I don’t scare new students as you do need quite a bit of stuff. Today I’ll be covering the bedroom list. Here’s where you can really spend or save to be honest, as its up to you how much you want to get. I’ll take about the essentials first, then any nice luxuries. I’d say stick to the basics, then treat yourself to anything else when you arrive – you never know how well equipped your room is, or whether it will be big enough to hold much!

Bedding

 photo 2013-06-11162302_zps6e984899.jpgThe most important part. I suggest firstly trying to find out what size bed you have – and if you can’t; pick up a flat sheet, and a double duvet. Universities seem prone to having funny sized beds; my boyfriends was 4ft wide (too small to be a double, too wide to be a single); mine was extra long. Standard fitted sheets wouldn’t have fitted on either of our beds, so flat is the way forward. Though admittedly more difficult! In terms of what’s provided; I got a mattress protector, mattress (quite glad it was covered, it wasn’t pretty) and pillow but it does vary. I’d go for picking up a duvet and pillow set; they are generally packaged quite well so will fit into the car!

As for bedding covers, I really recommend ASDA and Tesco; the ones I have from there are really high quality, wash well and are comfortable. If you fancy a splurge, I bought a duvet set from H&M and it is admittedly the best one I’ve ever had; so, so, so soft, and handy holes in the top corner which makes making your bed so much easier! A word of warning – I had a pretty horrific skin reaction to Primark sheets last year, so personally would steer clear of those. I still have scars on my legs eleven months on…

I’d also try and pick up various cushions – great for if friends crash on your floor, and just for making it that bit more cosy. Don’t forget your cuddly toys too!

Hangers

Things a lot of people seemed to forget; generally your new wardrobe won’t come with hangers. Its a lot easier to pick new ones up as they will be packaged well, but if not just pack yours as you pack your clothes.

Alarm Clock

 photo 2013-06-11162131_zps894477ed.jpgI wouldn’t rely solely on a phone to wake me up – generally I never need it but as well as having my phone set three times (not just snooze settings!) I also have a traditional alarm clock which I set every night. It terrifies me if it does go off, but its something that I could never sleep through, and I know the batteries won’t fail! It looks great too, another Tesco bargain of two years ago!

Towels

Don’t buy towel sets; they don’t actually contain what you need. You’ll need a bath sheet; the really big one, and what’s usually left out of towel packs. Then a bath towel (which is what I use to towel dry my hair), possibly a hand towel, and a load of face cloths. I probably have at least 10 face clothes; one I get through them so quickly, and two I’m sure the washing machines eats them!

I highly recommend Tesco towels, they last forever and are so soft – they have survived two years of university washing machines and are still as good as new!

Washing Things

Another thing often overlooked is a washing basket, but its great to have a place to store all of your washing neatly away; and throw your floordrobe in when friends come round! They are available pretty cheaply, I have a really useful collapsable one.

I’d also recommend picking up a clothes airer for things that can’t go in the dryer (though I worked out most things can, regardless of label!), and an overdoor hook. Hooks are great for coats and bags – things you want out of the way but not in the wardrobe.

Extension Cable

An absolute essential. I actually had two of these in my second year room, but just one will do to start with. Go with something slightly better than the cheapest one you will find, ones from Argos are a good bet. You’ll thank me for telling you to get one when your laptop and phone needs charging, your hair needs straightening (though of course, you were meant to do this in the kitchen in my university halls…) and it’s dark enough to need the next item on the list!

Lamp

Yep, a lamp. Perhaps not an essential as such, as there will generally be a desk lamp provided. But I found the provided lighting quite harsh in my halls, so having a lamp for softer lighting before bed was really important to me.

Year Planner

You may get given one in Freshers, but I’d pick up a better quality one. I use mine heavily every year, for me this is a must-have in my room! Just check the rules on how you are allowed to fit it to the wall…

Pictures

 photo 2014-07-08105724_zps7e93b646.jpg photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgI’m not going to lie, you probably will get lonely at some point during your time at university. I know I did, despite surrounding myself with friends I still missed people back home. One of the things that helped me was having lots of photos around – I’d suggest printing some off. My friend Libby had a wonderful way of displaying photos in her first year, it was a little like a mini washing line with pegs all the way round her room, it looks great!

Luxuries 

I’d always suggest a few little homey touches, trinkets, things you love – just bits and pieces that give the room your personality! I went with some lovely Salt & Pepper pots, cute jars, and coordinated stationery items. I also stacked cake tins on the floor, which I loved – though not when they slid off each other in the middle of the night. I also bought some cheap small canvases from Argos, which I stuck up with blue-tack (again check the rules!), and I filled my bed with blankets and cushions.

Don’t Bother

Personally, I’d forget about an iron/ironing board if you are thinking about it. The last time I actually picked up an iron I was probably 15 or 16 – I probably couldn’t even use one now! I’ve never needed to iron anything at university – hanging well after washing always seems to work, as does hanging creased items in a steamy bathroom. My halls actually provided these items too, so one of the guys I lived with found out after a few months!

And finally…

I ended up having ridiculously high shelves and a stupidly placed cupboard (on top of my wardrobe). Combined with being given the highest cupboard in the kitchen and being vertically challenged, I ended up buying a stepladder from Wilkinsons. Turned out to be a great investment, and I’ve used it a lot during university…without it I’d have had a lot less space!

You can read more about my university bedrooms here and here. What are you taking for your university room?