Affordable and Realistic Cupboard Staples for a Shared Uni Kitchen


We have all heard the commentary that students cook the same pesto pasta and frozen pizza every night, and as fun as it is to mock, it isn’t too far from the truth.

With the cost of living only increasing, it’s becoming harder to find a variety of decent, cheap meals to cook. Thankfully, Lancaster doesn’t lack when it comes to supermarkets (just don’t save your weekly shopping trip for the weekend, it’s carnage!). Though the Wednesday morning Sainsbury’s bus is convenient, I would only recommend buying the unbranded range of ambient, such as rice, juice, and jars, purely based on the cost alone. But I can guarantee by Christmas, you will have fallen in love with Aldi or Lidl.

Tinned Foods: Anything that comes in a can will be your best friend, especially in first year when fridge and freezer space is limited. You’ll be lucky with one shelf or draw in each, so try to make the best of the more roomy cupboard space. Chopped tomatoes can be the cheapest pasta sauce and minestrone soup in a flask makes a mid-winter lecture more bearable. Chickpeas replace chicken in almost every one-pot meal and baked beans work in a chilli or on toast. Tins may be a pain to carry back to campus, and up three flights of stairs, but if you’re an online delivery kind of person: most supermarkets have a budget or saver line, where you can get the same item for 25p instead of the branded £1.30 option. It all tastes the same when your eyes are closed.

Pasta: It’s an obvious one I know, as is rice, but I can’t stress enough how changing the pasta changes the meal. I can no longer buy fusilli because I am sick to death of it, but the small novelty of choosing a more exciting shape, like conchiglie or farfalle, when the boring bag of penne runs out adds a pinch of excitement. If you get lucky, you can nab some of Aldi’s dinosaur tricolour pasta, or Lidl’s seasonal shapes. And just you wait until the seasonal novelty pastas hit the shelves! (the footballs for the Euros and the bunnies at easter sit amongst my personal favourites)

Sauce and Spices: A jar of mixed herb seasoning and a bottle of barbecue sauce sits at less than £1 and is so versatile I think it’s undervalued. A lot of the time you can throw some random spices and your favourite sauce into diced chicken for your fajitas and you’ve got your own marinade that feels more like a meal from home, and costs less than the Old El Paso kits. My personal recommendations, that I use almost daily, are smoked paprika, honey barbecue sauce, garlic paste, Italian herbs and dark soy sauce.

Frozen Vegetables: A freezer, rather than a store-cupboard staple, but if you’re using your little drawer for anything, let it be a kilo of frozen mixed veg. Throw it in anything, pot or pan, and it only takes five minutes to defrost and cook, while you wait for your flat roast dinner to finish in the oven. For a pound or less, it practically doesn’t expire, and adds a bit more sustenance to your cooking, keeping you fuller for longer.

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