University: Where To Pick Up Essentials

I’ll do an updated “what to buy for university” post ASAP, but for now I’ve got a handy guide of where to shop. I have no doubts that most of you heading off to university in the next couple of weeks are on a tight budget, and I’d like to think that myself heading into final year (gulp) means I’m reasonably well-qualified to help out.

 photo 2014-09-03 18.21.39_zpsmdzfytc1.jpgI’ve just sorted through all my university stuff (virtually a whole garage worth!) and that’s part of the reason I wanted to write this post – it turns out that pretty much all my stuff has survived throughout the years, and is fine to use for my fourth and final year. I did splurge on a few items, I did spend a little more than others (though thanks for Tesco vouchers it didn’t cost a huge amount of money), but I can honestly say I’ve spent less over the years than a lot of my friends. I haven’t had to buy new pans, my knives are still sharp, my towels are still soft. The only reason I’ve bought new bedding this year is because I fancied a change!
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Kitchen Stuff

The majority of my bits were from Aldi (I wish my dad had waited until I was there to pick them up though, I would SO prefer matching colours…). At only £X per item, it’s cheap and cheerful, but not particularly bad quality. I would, however, avoid the potato mashed and can opener. The can opener blade blunted very quickly. And the potato masher? Well…let’s just say it bent and became unusable at first mash. (Sidenote: best potato masher I’ve fund so far has been from Matalan!).

As an added disclaimer, I was gifted some bits from Aldi for the purpose of this post, however the kitchen utensils are all my own, bought pre-university in 2012. Their one-egg frying pan* is seriously the cutest, I can’t wait to make some perfectly round pancakes! I am also super impressed with their tea towels* too – soft but still able to actually dry (anyone else find cheap tea towels just spread wet around plates/dishes?!

But saucepans, I went a little more spendy and I really don’t regret it. They’ve all had heavy use for the last three years and yes, they are a little scratched, but they are still non-stick, still perfectly useable. I actually went to Home Sense for mine, a home-only version of TK Maxx, and I think we paid around £20 for three pans and a wok. My roasting tins I’ve picked up from Wilkos, no complaints there. Likewise with my plates, bowls etc – mainly from Wilkos, though I have a few of those ‘free’ Mexican bowls through McCain Wedges! My mugs were all gifts, but I do adore Cath Kidston ones!

I also have some expensive baking dishes, all from Le Creuset. So yes, pricey, and I wouldn’t say they are worth the money for students. However I picked up my first for around £5 in Homesense and it started an obsession – so there’s always a few bits on my birthday/Christmas lists! It’s just so non-stick, so easy to clean, and prettyyyy….

Finally, knives. Again, it’s really, really not worth buying the cheapest possible. I picked mine up in Switzerland, the exchange rate was good but I think they are around £5-£9 each in the Victorinox shop in London. I’ve heard good things about the knives in Wilkos too.

Bedding

I’ve tried bedding from budget stores, splurged on more expensive sheets, and in all honesty there’s not much difference.

I would avoid Primark at all costs, after having an allergic reaction to their sheets (I still have marks on my legs 23 months on), but I’ve really enjoyed using bedding from both Tesco and ASDA. I’ve recently been trialing some from Aldi* too, which I’ve also got no complaints about!

I’ve used cushions and blankets from Homesense, BHS and Tesco, all of which have been fine. My splurge bedding has been from H&M, at £35 for a double bedding set it’s more than I’ve ever spent before, but it is excellent quality and has lasted well. It also has handy little ‘holes’ at the top to enable you to pull the duvet through nicely!
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Towels

An interesting one this. My boyfriend bought his from Jown Lewis, I got mine from Tesco. Three years on, his are slightly softer, but equally have had less ‘student’ use as he has lived at home for two years (student laundrettes aren’t the nicest on clothes!). As long as you buy relatively soft towels to begin with, washing with plenty of fabric conditioner will keep them soft.

That said, the flat we are currently in has provided towels. The labels imply a rather expensive brand, and they are glorious. SO unbelievably soft…
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Cleaning Products

I would always recommend having a stock of cleaning products and, a word of warning, supermarket basics brands aren’t that great. I’m a bit funny about cleaning products, I don’t believe that bleach is necessary to use in a home, and I prefer gentler, more natural solutions. That said I’ve recently been trialing some cleaning products from Astonish*. They aren’t natural, but they are gentler than bleach and cruelty-free. I’ve been particularly impressed with their grease lifter tablets – perfect for cleaning up roasting tins!

Home-y Trinkets

Not entirely necessary, but nice to have around. I’ve picked up a nice clock from Tesco, and photoframes are always easy to find cheaply. I love Wilko’s home range, though it has increased in price over the years, and larger Primark stores also have a good selection.
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Stationery

I do love a bit of stationery. I’m far more of a practical user though, you’ll never find me picking up a pretty notebook in Paperchase. I recommend waiting until you start university before deciding on a note-taking system, but good places to shop are Wilkos (I promise they have had nothing to do with this post!), Rymans and Home Bargains.

I actually got sent a few bits from Home Bargains and loved the quality of it all – definitely worth having a browse in! I really like the academic diary* (£0.49 – amazing value!) and the calculator* (£0.79) – though do consider that if you are doing a mathematical degree you might be restricted to the types of calculator allowed!

So, definitely check out discount stores rather than the usual supermarkets, but don’t always rush to buy the cheapest bits – the cost of replacing them soon adds up! And remember to check out Aldi’s student special buys on Thurs 27th – they’ve even got a bit of a techy bargain for those looking for a mini laptop…

Where did you shop for your uni stuff? Where would you recommend and where would you avoid? I hope this has been helpful if you are off to university this year! 

  • Jennifer K

    I need to find a nearby Home Sense some point soon! My uni things come from all different places – some John Lewis goodies from my parents when I first left and some Wilko’s cheap bits that I could leave in my kitchen and let my housemates wreck without caring too much. Now that I’m in my final year and living with just one other person, I’m more likely to start investing in things to last me for years with good care.

    Jennifer x

    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    • ninegrandstudent

      Home Sense is my absolute favourite shop – I could spend hours in there! x

  • Siobhan Rothwell

    I have the same diary from home bargains and LOVE it! Got a nice notebook from there too. Going into my fourth year too so I kinda knew most of this, and couldn’t agree more with the pans and knives. I made sure to get decent ones and they’re still just as good

    x
    http://www.siobhanrothwell.wordpress.com

    • ninegrandstudent

      I’m so glad I went for more expensive options. I mean, I LOVE some new ones but they are absolutely fine… x

  • The majority of things I’ve picked up so far have come from IKEA but a few things my grandmas house as she doesn’t use all her pans etc. I might have a look in Aldi next time I pass though : )

    Kathryn | nimblenote.blogspot.com

    • ninegrandstudent

      I’ve never been to an IKEA, I really need to go! x

  • Knives are definitely worth spending a little more on.

    I find sainsbury’s often have a lot of good offers on kitchen/home ware so are definitely worth looking at!

    Rosie

    x

    http://www.anenglishrosie.blogspot.co.uk

    • ninegrandstudent

      I’ve actually just got back from a browse in there, some fab bargains! x

  • I love those Victorinox steak knives and they are my go to knives. About £4.50 from Nisbets, they go in the dishwasher, are really sharp and last for years. I had one set of 4 for 15 years and have only just replaced them,

    • ninegrandstudent

      They are such a good buy! x

  • good luck and have fun in uni!

    http://www.heyprettything.com

    • ninegrandstudent

      Thanks – can’t wait to get back for final year!x

  • Wiko is my absolute go-to for home bits – especially bedding, I love their designs! I don’t have an Aldi near me, which is super annoying as they always seem to have ace cheap stuff!

    Milly // http://www.mini-adventures.com

    • ninegrandstudent

      I’m not sure I’ve tried out their bedding, but I do agree their designs are lovely! x

  • Lucy Cole

    This is soo helpful, I’m planning on buying things for university this week!! I was going to look in TKMaxx for a lot of bits, you can find some really good quality peices for good prices!Xx

    http://www.lucy-cole.co.uk

    • ninegrandstudent

      TK-Maxx actually own Home Sense – two great stores! x

  • life is a shoe

    great post and tips!

    lifeisashoe

    • ninegrandstudent

      Thanks! x