Student Summer: Simple Sunday Chicken

One of the things I missed most when I moved to university was a good Sunday lunch. Well, a roast dinner – they aren’t just for Sundays really! Sure you could go to your nearest ‘Spoons (or as I did – the local cafe that did roast dinner baguettes) but it wasn’t quite the same. In the end I turned to my own oven, and after nearly two years of experimenting I’ve come up with a basic Sunday Roast Chicken that doesn’t break the bank, and doesn’t take an awful lot of skill. Perfect for students really!

 photo 2014-08-09203043_zpsf27a197c.jpgThe best thing about this is that it is completely and utterly adaptable. Sausages going spare? Throw them in! Fancy something more summery? Add tomatoes and some lemon juice. In the mood for spice? Rub spice mix into the chicken. If you want more traditional roast potatoes then you’ll probably want to use a large dish so they aren’t covered by the chicken – but I think they are pretty great as they are. Another great bonus is that pretty much everything is ready at the same time – all you need to do is cook some green vegetables, and you can do that whilst things are resting. Exactly as the title says, simple!

On a savvy-spendy note, chicken thighs are super cheap compared to breasts, and I’ve actually started really liking them now I appreciate crispy skin. They are also really difficult to dry out, so a bonus if you forget about them in the oven!

 photo 2014-08-09203447_zpsad055189.jpgIngredients

  • Chicken thighs – 1-2 per person depending on appetite. You can use any leftover meat the day after, or freeze it for a bit.
  • New potatoes – chopped into bitesized chunks
  • Garlic – 2 cloves per person
  • Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you fancy
  • Olive oil

 photo 2014-08-09175130_zps5643c4ed.jpg photo 2014-08-09181122_zps80ba6ee8.jpgTo start off, par boil your potatoes in salted water for five minutes. Drain and toss with the garlic (don’t bother to peel) and olive oil. Season.

 photo 2014-08-09195552_zps1f0caab7.jpg photo 2014-08-09195645_zps99b0fcd4.jpgPlace the chicken skinside up ontop of the potatoes, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Use your hands to rub the olive oil over the skin, then season again.

 photo 2014-08-09203054_zps0e474cd6.jpgPop in a pre-heated oven (200C) for 45 minutes – the chicken skin should be golden and crisp. To check – remove a piece of chicken and place on a plate, then piece the thickest part and press down. Juices should run clear without any pink; if not your chicken isn’t quite cooked. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes whilst you prep and cook any other veg, then serve up.

This recipe is so quick and easy, plus so tasty and reminiscent of home. It’d be a perfect dish to make if you and housemates joined up for meals – my second year house tried to do Sunday dinner together, although we rarely did a full roast, and it was definitely a highlight of the week! When Currys asked me to produce a recipe for their student cookbook this was the first thing I thought of – so I had to share!

Are you a lover of the Sunday roast?

Student Summer: Barrel Bag Giveaway

I promised giveaways during my Student Summer series, and here is the first. The lovely people at Unineed offered to donate this fabulous Zatchels bag as a prize. Now, I have no experience with this particular bag brand, but I do love the design and colour. Its small, so the perfect size for taking on an evening out, or nipping out to the shops.

As a site, I’ve become really impressed with Unineed. Some of the savings are pretty impressive, and I’ve not had a bad ordering experience. I still prefer to buy makeup in a shop, purely cos then I know if it gets damaged its my fault, but this site is great for just about anything else you could want. It reminds me of an online duty-free shopping experience!

Onto the giveaway  you’ll win the lovely bag that’s pictured throughout this post. It’s run through Rafflecopter (obviously given the widget below!) and I’ll be picking one winner at random in two weeks. I’ll give them 48 hours to get back to me before picking another. Oh, and I’ll also be checking entries. Please no serial comp accounts! Finally, the prize will be sent out directly by Unineed; I bear no responsibility to damage, loss etc caused by shipping – though obviously I doubt this will happen! Here you go…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is also great timing – it celebrates A-level Results Day two days ago (so congratulations if it applies to you) and the publication of some of my blog work (ok, two little snippets!) in the Guardian!

Are you liking the Student Summer Series? What would you like to see more of?

Student Summer: Money At University

 photo 2013-11-20155825_zps0db604f4.jpgAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, money was a huge worry for me prior to starting university. For one, my first term’s accommodation (the cheapest on campus) cost more than my student loan installment, so straight away I’d be at the limit of my overdraft. Here’s a few tips on how I cope with tight finances at university.

Entitlements

ScholarshipFirst of all, find out what you’re entitled to. You may have to think outside of the box here, don’t just rely on any university bursaries. If you’re from a religious family there’s a large amount of grants available to apply for, there may be subject specific bursaries to apply for outside of university. I even came across a grant for student coming from families working as greengrocers – such a shame my grandfather retired from this many years ago! I was unlucky in that I came across very few grants to apply for, but I was fortunate that my university offers an academic scholarship; £2000 each year given good academic progress to all those achieving in excess of AAA. I freely admit this hugely influenced my choice of university; both my firm and insurance both offered this amount, and I honestly feel that had I not attained this I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university. At the very least, it would have been extremely difficult for me; given how little is left of my scholarship, I would say impossible!

I’d suggest looking here and here for grants and bursaries – and check every year as new ones do appear!

Employment

I’ve had a part-time since I was 16; I went to interviews throughout my GCSEs and started two days after my final exam. I worked regularly up to university, including overtime as and when I could take it. I saved a large chunk of money, which financed a lot of things I bought for university (and huge thanks to my parents who helped out incredibly!). I also got a job at university; a found a zero-hours based one which enabled me to work when I could. I chose to avoid working during busier periods towards the end of term, and I was also free to negotiate which weekends I could have off to see my boyfriend. Having a job, even a lowly paid one, really helped my finances. My university job completed financed train fares to my boyfriends; without it I’m not sure how I would have afforded visits!

I would say, though, that only take on a job at university if you can manage your time well, or if its sensible hours. I ended up with a routine of working the early shift from 7-1; I’d then have the afternoon and evening to study; sometimes more time than if I’d allowed myself a lie-in!

Spend Savvy

One thing I didn’t do before university was buy the cheapest, most standard bits of equipment available. I worried at the expense at first; did a student really need non-stick pans?! I have (admittedly well reduced) Tefal ones, bought from Homesense (major love for that store) and yes they were probably four times the price of the ones I was originally going to buy from Wilkinsons. But two years on I have friends on their second or third sets of saucepans, and bar a few scratches from enthusiastically mashing potatoes, mine look as good as new. Money well spent – these will last me the four years of my degree, and possibly even into life post-graduation!

In terms of spending whilst there, the key is to make a budget and stick to it. I set myself a strict budget every time I shop depending on how empty my fridge is – it varies each week as sometimes I only need salad, whereas others I’ll need more of a full shop. I try to only buy meat when it’s reduced; late nights spent at Waitrose are some of my favourites! I also make sure there’s a little room in my budget; I don’t want to deprive myself of any real treats. Sometimes its a magazine for the train, others its a coffee, but I try to have one little treat each week.

Save

Despite all this, I have found a few ways to save money whilst at university. Whenever I get a scholarship payment (not loan – that all goes on accommodation!) I put 1/4 of it away. Admittedly a lot of the time I end up having to use it, but putting it in savings means I’m not tempted to blow it on excessive treats.

 photo 2013-11-20155825_zps0db604f4.jpgMy biggest saving tip – if ever you pay with cash and have change left, put it in a pot. I try not to ever carry cash as I will spend it easily; putting the pennies away saves me between £30 and £50 a term which is pretty scary as that’s money I’d spend without thinking otherwise! I pop all mine in this ironic money box which was an 18th gift from my parents – unfortunately even filling it definitely comes nowhere near my student debt level!

So that’s a few of my tips – also remember this fabulous guest post about finances at university from a few months ago – its well worth a read as there’s some great advice there!

Do you have any financial advice for university?

Student Summer: University & What I Worried About

I’m struggling to believe it’s been nearly two whole years since I started university…the time really has flown by. I thought I’d continue my student summer series by talking about what really worried me before starting university.

This time two years ago, I was focussed on one thing, and one thing only; results day. I don’t mind exams, but I always think I’ve done worse than I really have; I was terrified I wouldn’t get in. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a backup plan – I want to be an actuary, and that’s it! I needn’t have worried as I ended up with a rather respectable A*AAAa, although I do admit to being a teeny bit disappointed! Once I had my place confirmed, the real worries kicked in…

My biggest worry was that of leaving my boyfriend behind. You can see my tips for a long distance relationship on a post a few weeks back, and I am planning on writing one more specifically for students. Thinking back two years, I was terrified to jump into long-distance. I was a phone-call away from changing university to one closer, I got more tearful the closer term became and we had some pretty meaningful conversations in those weeks. My worries ranged from him finding someone better, to just not being able to cope…all of which were unfounded! I can’t say it’s easy, but without a doubt it’s worth it!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsa014bdc0.jpgAcademically I worried I wasn’t going to be good enough. I had a bit of a nightmare in my last maths exam at A-Level – something inside me panicked, and I spent the whole time in tears. I knew the material inside out, but I barely answered any questions. Pretty sure I cried for days afterwards – I felt like I’d let myself down! I still feel that way about that exam; it was significantly lower than everything else and lost me the A* I was virtually guaranteed. It also knocked my confidence completely, and I certainly didn’t think I’d be okay with the course! If I couldn’t ‘do’ A-Level maths, degree level would certainly be out of my reach! To be honest this feeling didn’t disappear for a good few months, and I do still have wobbles. Just remember they wouldn’t have accepted you on the course if you weren’t good enough!

I worried about leaving home – I have a great relationship with both my parents and little sister, and I knew I’d miss them. I did miss them, and still do, but I actually found leaving home easier than I expected. I think it helped that I had nice rooms; even if my housemates weren’t perfect in first year I still had somewhere nice to hide away! Skype is a godsend, although I’ve never actually Skyped my family successfully. Instead I talk to them on the phone, regularly, for a good while. Something I really recommend is ringing if you are walking to/from lectures on your own, makes you feel less lonely!

I worried about feeding myself – I was a good cook, but I was worried about the kitchen, whether I’d be too tired etc…all unfounded worries really when you read back over my blog! Best advice I have is to practise over summer, do a big shop (with parents’ money!) when you move in, and stick to simple recipes.

 photo 2013-11-20155825_zps0db604f4.jpgMoney was a huge worry for me. I’m one of the awkward people whose parents earn enough to get me minimum loan, but not enough to hugely help me out. They do the absolute best they can, and I’m hugely grateful for everything they do – but I can’t lie and say it’s been easy. There’s been times (start of first year, finding a place for second year) when I have had to really beg and borrow funds as I literally didn’t have the overdraft or credit limit to cover it. The upshot? I’ve become damn good at budgeting, cheap meals rock, and I have saving installed on the brain for my placement year. To my parents – thank you for going without when I’ve really needed help!

I worried about not drinking. I’m not a huge fan of alcohol; it doesn’t mix with my body well and I actually feel quite ill when I drink it. Don’t get me wrong, an occasional cider or cocktail is something I will go for, but its rare. I have to admit this has been the most difficult part for me, as a lot of people are really rude and judgemental about my attitude to drinking. Even friends who claim not to be actually really upset me occasionally – but I’ve learnt to live with it, and I now feel happier as I’m not conforming to peer pressure. I even played drinking games with a cup of tea…

 photo 2014-07-08105917_zps6e2cc3e9.jpgAnd finally? I worried about fitting in. I’ve found it hard to make friends quickly since a child; generally when I do become friends with someone it’s for life, but that bond takes a while. I was actually really lucky in that I met some amazing people on my first night – I lived with two of them in my second year, and miss them immensely during holidays. I met my third housemate in the very first lecture, and again she’s one of my closest friends – I was so lucky to meet them all so quickly. In fact, the people I met in the first week are the people I still spend most of my time with. I recommend using facebook groups to find people on your course or in your accommodation – that’s actually how I found most of my friends!

 photo 2014-01-20161529_zps30f7be06.jpgWorrying about it is a natural part of any change – and starting university is a massive, massive change. But I can virtually guarantee you that everyone else will have similar feelings, and someone will have gone through the same.

What were/are your biggest worries about starting university?

Student Summer: Basic Recipes

Bit of a cheat post, but I was recently sent a link to this infographic and thought it fitted really well within my Student Summer series. I will be doing more simple step-by-step recipes as the series goes on, but this is seriously useful.

Student Recipes Infographic

Source: Walton Robinson

Click here to print-out the individual recipe cards

 I’d have found something like this really useful when I started to learn how to cook – a bunch of healthy recipes in one place. Cookery books are all very well and good, but have you ever tried to keep some of the smaller ones open whilst chopping and stirring? It’s not hugely easy!

For more student recipes, I really recommend having a look at the Birmingham Student Foodie, Lottie’s Little Kitchen, Handbags & Cupcakes and A Girl Called Jack (not a student, but fabulous budget recipes). And of course, feel free to go through my older posts too!

What recipes would you like to know how to make?

Student Summer: Introduction

It’s been nearly two years since I started university, and now I feel pretty much ready to be able to offer a whole lot of advice to others just about to start. With that in mind I’ve decided to create a little series over the summer aimed at students; both those starting university this year and returners. I’m aiming for posts to mainly go live over the weekend, with weekday posts being more usual content so keep your eyes peeled!

I’m going to be covering virtually everything; what you’ll need to take, study skills, basic cooking skills, housemate troubles, how to find a rented house in second year – basically helping you to (hopefully!) survive university.

One thing I will say – if there’s anything you really want me to cover, please do let me know either by email or in the comments below. More than anything I want to be able to help you! And if there are any other bloggers who would like to contribute by offering either a guest post, or just a quote then please do get in touch!