Student Summer: A Filofax for University

My first Filofax is one of my most treasured possessions, and I’m rarely without it. It was a gift from my parents for my A-level results, and I was so, so, so sure it was the one I wanted. Sure it was expensive at the time (around £50) but it’s definitely been worth it. Its not fallen apart like past diaries, and I actually want to use it. Plus I’ve had offers/emails to buy at at ridiculously high prices (I’m not selling) as it turns out it’s actually quite a rare organiser. Anyway, I thought I’d do an update on the system I’ve got set up for now – it’s working really well for keeping me organised whilst on my placement, and also worked well during my second year. Here we go…

 photo 2014-09-24175026_zps64eef189.jpgI’ve finally found a pen that fits in the pen loop of my Malden! I was sent this Pink Gold Parker pen a few months ago from Pen Heaven (see here) and I keep it in my filofax all of the time. Means I will always have a pen with me, though I do wish it was black ink.

 photo 4bce8a46-d4a7-4f15-91af-c4b1efccba35_zpsefa76f54.jpgOnto the inserts, and I’ve finally found my perfect combination for keeping myself organised. I was going to take photos of the system in action, but I’ve gotten rid of last year’s inserts, and my placement involves some confidential details. So blank pages it is! I use the standard mid-year diary from Filofax – a week to view. Sandwiched between this is an undated ‘day’ planner for each week. This gives me enough space to add daily appointments/meetings/lectures, important things, deadlines, to-do’s and notes. For university, I’d generally put my lectures into the standard diary, and all other important things into the planner.

 photo 13bb4b5a-0572-4b23-93d0-fc022f362a89_zpsdefa7e5f.jpgTo keep track of deadlines, payment dates and boyfriend visits I like using a fold out year planner, though monthly planners are also useful. My pretty dividers are from an Ebay seller – I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but I do have her business card at home so will add it in soon. I also have inserts tracking finances and address of networking contacts, but obviously it’s not appropriate to post pictures of those on my blog!

I’ve found going simple with my Filofax is the key – I was using an undated planner for each day, but found that required a lot of work keeping it completely up to date. This way is much simpler, and it’s easier to keep track of the whole week too. I may get mocked by my friends for having a Filofax, my bag may be slightly heavier, but I find a paper diary so much easier to handle than typing into my phone. Plus technology always breaks on me – hence why my blog has been offline with a down server for the last few days (sorry guys!). Paper is the way I’m going from now on!

 photo 2014-09-24175015_zps1b3bd22c.jpgOh, a little note about Student Summer…with the sad end of summer, and the great reaction to the series, I’ll be continuing with University themed posts every weekend. Unsure yet whether it will be Student Saturdays or just University, but either way they will be sticking with the blog past summer now! So…

How do you stay organiser?

Student Summer: Freshers Discount at Hungry House

It’s been two years and twelve days since I moved to university. Now that was a stressful weekend – saying goodbye to my boyfriend, realising my stuff and us didn’t fit in the car (mum and sister ended up getting the train) and worrying about everything. Most Freshers this year seem to have started last week, so here’s a great deal to help celebrate surviving your first week.

 photo uk_140911_feedingfreshers_nl-3_zps01902254.jpgHungry House have a great selection of takeaways to choose from (Bombay Mela is on there – woo!) and this year all students with a valid university email address can take advantage of a pretty tasty 25% off. Just head over to their Student Portal, enter a few details and there will be 25% off for you until 5 October. Who knows, maybe there will be more student offers in the future too – definitely worth signing up in case!

Hungry House have also created a great guide to popular Student Takeaways, so if you’re in a major city it might be worth a look – a new favourite to be found perhaps? Either way, I know I’ll be signing up, and whilst I maybe won’t be taking advantage of the student discount (I’m currently suffering from Freshers Flu despite not being at university!) I know I’ll be bookmarking the site for future use.

Disclaimer: I will be receiving a Hungry House voucher for the post, but all opinions are my own.

What’s your favourite takeaway? Indian? Chinese? Pizza? Craving a curry right now…

Student Summer: A Shy Girl’s Guide to Freshers

I was too shy for Freshers. For one I rarely drink more than a couple of drinks (I was ill when I was 13, and it felt like I was constantly drunk. I genuinely don’t understand why I’d want to make myself feel like that!), and on top of the fact that I didn’t really know anyone, was missing my boyfriend like crazy and already starting to dislike my housemates I really wasn’t off to a great start. But I discovered you can have a good Fresher’s without drinking, without going out, without the ‘typical’ Fresher’s experience.

2014-01-20 16.15.29My absolute number one tip is to try and find people to meet before you go. Be they on your course or living near you, everything will seem so much better if you have someone to go over and say hi to. Facebook is the number one place to do this (your university halls and schools will often have fresher pages), as is The Student Room. I actually met one of my closest friends on Facebook before moving to university; we spent the first evening of Freshers together, and she introduced me to another of my best friends. Not sure how I would have survived starting university without the people I met beforehand!

 photo 2014-07-08105917_zps2bada689.jpgI’d also go with reading about the official events planned for Freshers – there just might be something that interests you. Apart from going for a couple of casual drinks in the quieter bar, I didn’t actually go out on Freshers at all. Which brings me to my next point – I wouldn’t buy the wristbands you will no doubt be offered. Yes they might save you money, but more often than not you’ll have to commit to events when buying. New friends might end up going to different things, so it’s best just to wait and decide on the night.

And if you don’t drink, don’t. If you have the confidence, just say that you’re not drinking. No one will think bad of you, and I know a lot of people that will respect you more for saying so than playing along. If you’re too shy to admit to not drinking, take part in Sober October (note: this is not why I took part last year), or just be the first to get drinks. No one will know that the vodka-and-coke in your hand is actually sans vodka.

Now that (kind of) brings me onto Fresher’s Flu. This is a real thing, and you will probably get it. My friend Caroline had it really rather badly, and the episodes in both my years so far (it’s not just limited to first year!) have been made worse by health issues. Freshers Flu less than three months after a nose operation is not fun, though actually far more pleasant that have a dodgy nose. I digress, you didn’t come here to read about my nose problems. I recommend buying and taking vitamins, having orange juice on standby, and ingredients in the cupboard for nourishing noodle soup. And register at the local doctors as soon as possible after you move in. If When you come down with FF, take it easy, dose up on paracetamol, and get plenty of sleep.

Not sure how useful my ramblings will be, but that’s my guide to Freshers. Just be yourself, don’t get pressured into anything, and you’ll be fine. I was terrified during Freshers week, but when I spoke about how I was feeling most people felt similarly. Most importantly, know that there is an opportunity to have a great Freshers if you’re not into going out or drinking.

Disclaimer: I was asked to write this post for #StressFreeFreshers organised by StressFreePrint, and was sent a goody bag in return. Any opinions are entirely my own.

What are your tips for starting university?

Student Summer: What to Take to University #4

I really hope these posts have been useful to you! I know I’d have loved blog posts like this when I started university, but for some reason I only really started reading blogs well after starting this one. Strange I know! Today I’m going to witter on about stationery to take to university. So grab a pen and paper (aha!) and we’ll begin…

 photo 2014-09-11174233_zpse91a20d3.jpgPaper and pens. I have to say this is quite important to me. I’m a leftie so a decent pen is a must or I will smudge everything to an illegible smear. It’s happened before, even with biro. Pilot Frixion erasable pens are my weapons of choice, being able to rub out makes my lecture notes so much neater too. I’m also not a huge fan of colour until I revise, so I stick to black. But it’s up to you. I also like doing rough work in pencil, so I always have a handful of those on the go. As for paper I go for Ryman’s giant refill pads, bought on 3 for 2 with student discount they are the best value I’ve found, and the quality is high enough so you don’t get that dreadful scratchy sound when you writ.

Now, I’d just go with the organisational basics until you get started and learn what the module layout etc is going to be like. Pick up a single folder and some plastic wallets; buy more as you go. I have a system now (as an actuarial student) of one folder per module, with that upgraded to a lever-arch it the module is a thirty-credit one. My original plan of one lever arch per year is far from achievable; sometimes I fill a lever arch with a module!

 photo 2014-09-11174312_zpsbf6cbb15.jpgNext up is a diary. This is so, so, so important – you will absolutely have deadlines to write down. By all means use your phone if it works for you, but most people I know have to write it down physically. Me? I couldn’t live without my Filofax. I was bought a Pink Personal Malden for my A-Level results (over two years ago!) and I’m virtually never without it. Not only does it look pretty (and matches my satchel) it’s also so, so functional. I’ll be doing a post specifically on how I use it for university soon, if you like, but I do highly recommend a Filofax if you’re a stationery geek like me. With only the inserts to buy (or make) after the initial purchase you have a full customisable diary for a relatively decent price. Mine is always by my side or in my bag, it genuinely keeps my life on track!

Stapler, hole punch, ruler, rubber, pencil sharpener, scissors. Basics that are just handy to have around – you’ll probably need to secure coursework together at some point so a stapler is a must.

Now, a printer is something I’m unsure about. I had one in my first year, then sold it in the carpark whilst packing up as it was that one thing that didn’t quite fit. In my second year we shared one. I *think* I’ll pick up a cheap one for my final year as it’s just so much easier to have one. Printing on campus is extortionate in my opinion, and I can rarely bring myself to do it. I’ll admit though, most of my printing is saved up til I’m at home and then someone else foots the ink bill!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgBooks. No doubt you’ll have a long list of ‘recommended’ books that you ‘have’ to purchase at the ‘reasonable’ price of 10 billion pounds…sarcasm is a strong point here. I’d leave off ordering any until you get there and work out what’s in the library, and whether you actually need them. In terms of recommended books, I’ve only bought one in two years (and it was worth it), and borrowed one from the library. My tip is to google your module name and find other books on Amazon (quite often just older editions of what you need) – you’ll find similar books, and quite often you’ll get used copies for a fraction of the price. I bought loads and loads of books for second year this way, I paid around £40 for 10 books including delivery. Great for when I was recovering from my operation that summer as it gave me something to do! Even though the books can be quite old, they are normally fine though I’d avoid if you’re doing a degree with changing information..I was quite amused when one book came not with a CD, but a floppy disk…

 photo 2014-09-11174422_zps284c6e51.jpgIn terms of revision gear, I’d recommend buying it when you need it. But I use erasable highlighters, erasable colour pens (sensing a theme here?), post-it notes, record cards and lots and lots of paper.

What stationery do you use at university/college/school/work?

Student Summer: Taking Your Relationship to University

My post on Long Distance Relationships remains one of the most popular posts on my blog; I’ve had a lot of positive comments and tweets about it, and I’ve loved hearing other people’s LDR stories too. Today I thought I’d concentrate specifically on taking your relationship to university, whether that’s going long distance or moving together.

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Side note – my boyfriend cannot pull a ‘normal’ face in photographs anymore…

As I’m sure you’re all aware, I was in a relationship for two years before starting university. We both live in the Midlands; I moved South to university, and he moved (slightly) North – good planning! We picked our universities completely independently of each other, although having said that there was nowhere offering both our courses, and so knew for a good while we were heading towards long distance. Other couples I knew ended up purely coincidentally heading to the same university, which really worked for them. Funnily enough, the majority of couples I know who ended up splitting actually went to the same universities because of each other.

If you’re ending up going to the same university, I recommend making sure you give each other space. University really grows you as an individual, and it would be a shame for your and/or your partner to miss out on that. Don’t plan to move in together straight away, have your own friendship groups – basically just carry on as normal just away from home. Of course, moving in straight away does work for some people, but it isn’t something I’d necessarily advise at 18.

 photo 2014-04-26123410_zps4e0140e9.jpgObviously I’ve already written a whole post about long distance love, so do go there for more advice, but if you are going straight into a long distance relationship when you start univesity, I do have a few more targeted tips.

  • Have a talk. Realistically, if you aren’t sure about being together for a significant period of time, going long distance is unlikely to work. You need to sit down and have a serious chat – are you committed to each other? How often will you visit? We sat down several times over the summer before university and ultimately decided that we were sure we were ‘it’ for each other – and that was enough for us to know that we needed to make it work.
  • Sort out visits in advance. Whilst we have graduated from a calendar to a spreadsheet (I AM a trainee actuary!) its so helpful to know when we’ll be seeing each other over the coming months. Gives us something to look forward to, and it means we won’t accidentally arrange things and then be unable to see each other. We see each other roughly every fortnight, any more and we both get moody – it works for us as its often enough to avoid missing each other loads, but far enough apart to give each other space to get out with friends and get on with work.
  • Make some ground rules. What do you class as unacceptable behaviour?
  • Arrange time for each other. Have specific nights where you chat on the phone or Skype. Let the other know in advance if you can’t make it. Making time for each other when you’re apart is key to lasting long distance.
  • Get to know each others friends/housemates. I won’t lie, it is very easy to get jealous when your partner is making new friends. One of the best things for me was running into them whilst visiting and them saying ‘we’ve heard so much about you” – it honestly made me so much more relaxed.
  • Make plans for visits. Even if its just try that nice cafe for lunch, or making a yummy dinner, its important to make the most of your time together. You want to look back on the last visit and know you had fun, and not just sat waiting to say goodbye.

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgI have had friends ask me whether I’ve felt that I have “missed out” on university or felt “held back” due to my relationship – but really I feel the opposite. I’ve moved away from home and really, really grown up, and I have had the support of a lovely young man to help me. Yes I sometimes turn down invites as its a weekend I’ll be away visiting, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve managed to do everything I want, do fantastically well in my degree so far, get offered not one but two work placements, all whilst keeping a long distance relationship going. And because I work out all my assignments and revision so I don’t do any when I’m with him, it works out that I get a mini-holiday every fortnight!

 photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgStarting a serious relationship at a young age doesn’t mean it won’t last, and likewise it doesn’t mean that you say goodbye to other life opportunities.  I wouldn’t change any part of my life; its not easy, its not perfect, but its right for me. Going to university in a relationship is something to be proud of, and it is entirely possible. So don’t worry if that’s what you’re about to do this month.
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What happened to your relationships when you went to university?

Student Summer: What to Take to University #3

We’re in the kitchen today. That’s right, what kind of kitchen stuff should you be taking to university? I have to admit I actually really struggled to write this because as a keen cook there’s a lot of kitchen things that are necessities to me but luxuries to most students. So as always, take this “list” as a guide rather than definitive.

One thing I don’t agree with is waiting til you get there to see what your housemates bring, then team up. Fine in later years when you’re living with friends, but the majority of people I know would have rather gone hungry than share equipment with people they lived with in halls. Myself included…the provided white chopping board was black by Christmas.

 photo 2014-09-03182139_zpsa66d8208.jpgKnives

Knives were the things I was most worried about heading to university – I needed good ones, but didn’t want to buy the earth. Luckily the summer before university I was treated to the most lovely holiday in Switzerland, and whilst I was there bought four Victorinox knives for the equivalent of about £2. Bargain, though I was terribly nervous about them in my suitcase flying home! Turns out they are amazing quality, so so sharp (I sliced a chunk out of my finger in second year, wasn’t pretty), and they haven’t deteriorated at all. I know take them home every holiday as I can’t bear to be without them…As a minimum, get a sharp straight bladed knife, and one with a serrated edge.

Baking Trays/Dishes

You definitely don’t need to spend a fortune here. Get a cheap flat baking tray, and a dish (pyrex or ceramic) that is the right size for a single portion. As a guide – if its lasagne sheet size, it’s about right. I love, love, love my Le Cruset dish, but they don’t come cheap. That said it looks brand new still (was an 18th present), as a quick soak means any burnt things come straight off. And trust me, I’ve burnt things…

Crockery & Cutlery

I’m of the belief that whilst you don’t need that many plates etc, it’s probably easier and cheaper to go and buy the cheapest, most basic dinner set you can buy. The one is Wilkinson’s is about £7 and I don’t think you could buy the things separately for less than that. In addition, I’d grab a big mug (you’ll need it when you have deadlines!) and a large soup bowl. Cutlery-wise, go as cheap as possible. But buy a few of everything. And lots of teaspoons, I lose about four a term…

 photo 2014-09-03182241_zps60f86fd8.jpgSaucepans

At a minimum, get a frying pan (mine doubles up as a wok too), a large saucepan, and a small saucepan. The saucepans should ideally have lids, and all should reallyyyy be non-stick. You’ll thank me for it!

Electricals

I would advise against buying many electricals until you’re there, as many will be provided. My kitchen had a kettle and microwave (however dirty they may have been), and a decent grill setting on the oven. Electricals weren’t allowed in rooms, to the point we were ‘supposed’ to straighten hair in the kitchen… One thing I would suggest is some weighing scales – particularly if you are starting out cooking as you’ll need practise before guestimating ingredients such as rice and pasta.

 photo 2014-09-03182415_zps3a6ecf68.jpgUtensils

Oooh, a list!

  • Cheese grater
  • Wooden/silicone spoon
  • Spatula
  • “Fish slice” – sounds fancy, but in reality you probably have one at one. The wide flat thing used for scrapping off food that’s stuck to a tray?
  • Tin opener – I am actually really impressed with the quality of the £4 one from Wilkinsons
  • Pizza wheel – because cutting it with a knife just isn’t the same
  • Sieve/colander
  • Potato masher
  • Decent scissors

Baking

If you’re going to be doing a bit of baking at university, I’d suggest a few little extras. Measuring cups and spoons are a lifesaver for me, as they are great for speeding up recipes. A couple of different trays and tins will expand your baking repertoire, and I’d also consider stocking up on cupcake cases and ingredients such as vanilla extract. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Peanut butter too.

Other Stuff

Woo, another list!

  • Tea towels
  • Oven gloves – though I’m from a family who just uses tea towels. That said, oven gloves look pretty…
  • Pan stand – most worktops aren’t heatproof
  • Chopping board – plastic is cheapest, though I’m desperate for a wooden one!
  • Plastic boxes/sturdy freezer bags – great for freezing portions of food in.
  • Pyrex jug
  • Mixing bowl – also quite handy for times when you’re feeling a bit queasy apparently!
  • From the food shop – kitchen towel, cling film, plastic food bags, tin foil
  • Cleaning things – washing up liquid, clothes, disinfectant, scrubbing brush

Luxuries

Ah, luxuries. Go wild here. My luxury of choice from the kitchen would be a mini-food-chopper. Seriously, when you can’t be bothered to chop up onions, its the best. I’d also love a blender for making soups.

Have I forgotten anything important? What do you recommend for a student’s kitchen?

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?

 

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?