Freshers Food Done Right
The beginning of university is always a daunting task for any budding young (or not so young) fresher, even more so this year than ever before. But there are some classic examples of fresher ignorance that come into play during the first weeks that could have possibly been avoided. Annoying your neighbours, drinking that entire bottle of Jager, ruining your sleep schedule, or having THE WORST diet anyone in England has ever had. I was once like you, dear fresher. A slave to my own laziness, but then I was freed by my own need to consume better, more satisfying food! My fresher food of choice was pot noodles on toast… a travesty by any regard. And although you will produce some hangover curing mega meals there are a few tips I’d like to pass down onto you that’ll speed up your progression to becoming a real human that can cook… and… err… clean dishes and stuff.
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- Show Me The Moneeeeeeey!
I was a lazy fresher. I went to the closest shop I could find when buying my foods and I rarely expanded my range outside of fish, chicken, and a potato-based addon. Sainsburys was my go -o shop (if you live at Sir Peter Hilton then you know what I mean) and each week it cost me roughly £25 – £45 on food. Now in third year, I haven’t gotten any less lazy, but my incredibly cheap and rusty car does allow me the luxury of travelling a little bit further for my food, to Aldi in particular. There I can get a two-week shop for roughly the same price. That means over the past two years I have lost at least £2400 to laziness and lack of exploration with my food options (and that is a very low estimate, I likely have lost much more than this). I could have bought a holiday in Spain or satisfied my drinking habits for a couple of weeks with that sort of money. You should really consider whether walking an extra 15 – 20 minutes each week is worth £2400.
- Herbs and Spices
What do you think KFC’s delicious combination of herbs and spices are? Salt. Whatever you’re cooking everything can be improved with salt – and probably pepper. Granted, don’t dollop it on like it’s going out of fashion, but just gracefully adding a sprinkle can give an extra zing to any meal. I only recently got my first spice, chilli flakes, I was scared that I couldn’t handle the extra task of sprinkling an extra ingredient in but when I did, I realised how much better all my food tasted. There is such a wide range of choices you can go for, personally I love chilli or garlic, but you can mix and match to suit you. Sage, oregano, rosemary, even mint if you are feeling particularly wild. Good choices also include chicken seasoning; rub your skinless chicken with it and pop it in the oven and you’ve found very quickly that you’ve made your dull piece of meat into a pleasure of the senses. Paprika, garlic powder, maybe even a touch of cinnamon. Granted, a lot of these ingredients are mainly used when you are creating a non-stick pan-based dish like noodles – a classic. However, rice, spaghetti or fusilli are also very good choices, and you can get proper big bags of fusilli at Tesco’s for dirt cheap. There’s no reason why you can’t add these features to your oven cooked chips or microwavable meal.
- Tip for the Lazy
Two big options you will have is the oven or the hob. The oven is a relatively painless way of cooking semi-decent food if you are tired or too lazy to stand in the kitchen literally waiting for things to cook, but the difference is both the satisfaction of the food and the good it can do to your body. For the basics, cooking either breaded fish, chicken, a meat pie or something a bit fancier such as scampi or squid can be a great and efficient way of cooking when you are run down from all the grinding academic work. My go-to was breaded chicken with two waffles and a mixed bag of microwavable vegetables. I chose waffles because I liked how I could plan that there were twelve in a pack so I had enough for six meals, with that I could have two breaded chickens, two breaded fish, and some left over to have with sausages, eggs, and beans and when you have such little freezer space in those student halls you’ll appreciate not having to go out every few days to buy supplies. Of course, that wasn’t exactly super healthy, nor was it very creative, but in first year I didn’t care much about food, and if you feel similar then you might want to start with this simple sequence. Admittedly, this probably doesn’t work great if you are vegetarian or vegan but it could be mimicked using relevant substitutes in the supermarkets’ ‘Free-From’ aisles.
- Clean/Fruit It Up
I accept that the last thing you want to do when eating a meal is start some grueling dish washing but as you sit there watching episode 129 of Friends “The One with Ross’s Teeth” those stains on those dishes are slowly becoming thicker and stickier. Straight after a meal is the best time to clean the surface, clear away your dishes and make sure that your already uneasy relationship with your new student friends isn’t further intensified by dirty dishes piling up on the counter top. Another little tip would be to experiment particularly with fruit. It was surprising to me that gammon and pineapple work exceptionally well together – also try curry with bananas, or melon with chicken. Fruit is a great way of livening up a dish whilst also boosting your immune system. Although some fruits go off very quickly, it is a good idea to have a constant supply of healthy snacks and additions to strengthen your body and give you a boost when you need it the most.
Be like Gordon Ramsay with your meals, granted, you are nothing like Gordan Ramsay but you can pretend, like you’re five years old. Experiment! Sure, sometimes you’ll ruin what could have been quite a decent dish, but that risk comes at the chance of making something truly mouth-wateringly good. At this point in your life you need to take risks and find out your real niches. Find your signature dish, try out recipes online; change, twist, twirl, and spin your foods into whatever shapes you want because at what other stage in your life will you have the opportunity to do all these things?
Written by Deputy Head of The Phantom Paper: Tom Berrington