My name is Charlie and I work in a kitchen, for one reason, because I love cooking. I always liked cooking from a young age, mainly baking, but at a certain point you work out that eating cake and brownies is not a sustainable way to live. I am going to attempt to pass onto you what I have picked up over the years so that hopefully you can eat well while you’re away from home.
As a student, funds are going to be short and the last thing which that you’d want to see is your bank balance going into the negatives within your first term. This is a list of items that are either in my cupboards or I will pick up in the shop knowing that I can cook a meal out of them.
Pasta (£1 – 1kg)
In terms of what variety to buy, pasta is pretty self-explanatory. Pasta sheets for lasagne. Shapes, spaghetti or tagliatelle of your choice for pasta and sauce-based dishes.
Rice (45p – 1kg)
The rice I usually go for basmati which is a little more expensive, it’s a variety of long grain rice cultivated for its distinct flavour, although plain long grain rice can be found for as little as 45p a kilo. Short rice is starchier and stickier and is usually reserved for dishes like sushi whereas long grain is perfect for a curry.
Potatoes (£1.25 – 2.5kg)
The potatoes of choice are usually Marris Pipers, they’re a good all-rounder, so can be used for mashing, roasting or making into chips.
Crumpets (25p – 6)
Really nice to have around for a snack without spending a fortune and a lot of effort to make, let them do the hard work for you.
English muffins (60p – 4)
Great for breakfast topped with sausage eggs or bacon, or all three. Make your own McMuffin.
Bread (£1 a loaf)
Wholemeal bread is the healthiest option, this been said there’s a lot to be said for white bread.
Flour (60p – 1.5kg)
For baking, thickening sauces, pastries and pie’s, necessary for any kitchen.
These will make up the carbohydrate portion of the majority of the meals that you will cook. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy; without them, the body will use fats and proteins to fuel itself.
Sausages (From £1.20 – 12)
You can buy sausages from as little as £1.20 for 12 which are of reasonable quality. Sausages will be made up from mainly pork shoulder (Collar), breadcrumbs (Or rusk) and seasonings. The cheaper ones will have a different ratio of meat to bread in them to equate for the price difference so some people might choose a more expensive sausage.
Mince beef (£1.49 – 500g)
Again, you’re really paying for quality when it comes buying meat products, this is 20% fat minced beef, you can get as little as 5% but it comes at a price.
Chicken breast – (As little as £3.50 per kilo frozen)
Chicken breast can be acquired for as little as £3.50 a kilo from Tesco’s, some bigger frozen food shops like Iceland do sell them for £2.50 a bag but is not accessible for most and sometimes you will have to buy 4 kilos at a time, which is a lot of chicken.
Chicken thighs – (Around £3.00 a kilo)
I will buy bone in chicken thighs and take the bone out myself, it’s a bit more effort but I find the dark meat (leg and thigh, as opposed to the light meat, the breast) to be more flavourful and have a denser texture. Most will use chicken breasts out of ease of use.
Bacon (£1.39 – 300g)
Bacon is a must for a fried breakfast and is used to accompany many dishes such as chicken and bacon pies although (if you can get your hands on it) cooking bacon is a better use of resources for use in dishes.
Cooking bacon (75p – 500g)
Does what it says on the tin, messy ends of bacon not suitable to be packaged for normal use, around a quarter of the price of normal bacon.
People have become accustomed to eating abnormal portions of meat in their meals, which should not be the case, always keep an eye on how much you’re using when cooking, this will help keep your calorie count down.
Cheese (From £4 a kilo)
Cheese, everybody’s favourite addition to the kitchen, used in a variety of different recipes. A must have for any roux sauce or chicken alfredo, with so many different varieties is hard to know what to go for… A strong cheddar would probably be better for a lasagne whereas a hard Italian cheese for the alfredo or to accompany almost any Italian dish. I would say any cheese can be used in most dished as they’re pretty versatile but like with most ingredients there’s always a perfect one for the job.
Eggs (From as little as £1.18 for 15)
With eggs, you are paying for the chicken’s welfare, in the terms of free range or caged chickens. The cheapest caged chicken eggs are 70p for 6 or £1.18 for 15 whereas free range chicken eggs are 89p for 6 or £2 for 15 which is not much of a price increase, just something to be mindful of.
Greek yoghurt – (45p for 500g)
Greek yoghurt, great for cooking, in porridge or to accompany a dessert. This has recently dropped massively in price due to the Aldi price match at Tesco, a great ingredient to have in the fridge.
Butter (Around £1 for 500g)
Used in cooking, some recipes will call for actual butter such as baking recipes and some will call for margarine such as clover.
Baking butter (Stork) (Around £1 for 500g)
These are a specially made blend of different fats which give cakes a better rise and lighter texture than butter, different types are used in cakes (tub) to sweet pastries (Block). Again, you do not have to buy stork, you can get just as good of a cake with Tesco’s baking butter.
With dairy, in general, it’s better to go with the flow and not go for the low-fat options or lighter options as they lack the necessary fats to maintain the structure of the product, for example, a lower fat baking butter will leave your cakes flat and denser.
Tinned tomatoes (28p a can)
Tinned tomatoes will make up the base sauce for many main meals like bolognese, chilli and casserole to name a few.
Tomato purée (27p a tube)
This I usually added alongside tinned tomatoes for added flavour and richness.
Tinned beans (30p – 80p a can)
Not baked beans, although they can be a nice quick meal. I’m talking more like kidney, butter or pinto beans, a great source of protein and a nice addition to the right dish.
Frozen vegetables – (£1 or less a bag)
You can get a variety of different vegetables, string beans, peas, sweetcorn, carrots, broccoli ready to cook from frozen. The best thing is they do not go off so, especially if you live on your own, this may be the better option than fresh vegetables.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
It is important to get your 5 a day obviously! My best advice is to just get what you like or go for what’s on offer because this keeps the spending down and gives great variety to make sure you never get bored of eating the same thing every day.
Herbs and spices – (70p a jar)
Herbs and spices are a must for any kitchen and a great investment. These are what will completely transform any dish and a jar will last forever.
Stock cubes (£1 a box)
Great addition of flavour and moisture to a meal.
Food really isn’t that expensive, it’s when you start buying pre-made items that it will start to cost you a lot of money and the worst part about it is people don’t realise that they are spending so much money as they become used to it, the same can be said if someone is eating bad food or a poor diet. If you were to go out for food or get a take away you could expect to pay upwards of £20-£30 for four people whereas if you were to cook your own you can expect to pay just a £2-£4 to feed all four.