Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you have to eat like a pauper. Jessica Moore helps you make a little go a long way

Going to university or college presents a plethora of firsts. It's probably your first time living away from home; your first experience of higher education; and the first time you've had to take care of yourself. Eating sensibly is crucial. And, contrary to popular freshers' belief, it's easy. Get into healthy habits now and you'll be set for life. Whether you're already well versed in the art of egg boiling or you a complete culinary novice, the halls of residence kitchen is yours to discover! Relish the challenge. If you are self catering, nobody's going to cook your dinner for you (no matter how much you beg), but help is at hand.

Going to university or college presents a plethora of firsts. It's probably your first time living away from home; your first experience of higher education; and the first time you've had to take care of yourself. Eating sensibly is crucial. And, contrary to popular freshers' belief, it's easy. Get into healthy habits now and you'll be set for life. Whether you're already well versed in the art of egg boiling or you a complete culinary novice, the halls of residence kitchen is yours to discover! Relish the challenge. If you are self catering, nobody's going to cook your dinner for you (no matter how much you beg), but help is at hand.

Top tips for shopping and economising:

Your supermarket is your friend, stocking cheap treats galore. But check out markets and local shops too - you might bag even bigger bargains. Here's how to make the most of your pennies, and keep hunger locked up:

* Get to know your fridge: monitor what gets gobbled and what lurks around until it's mouldy. Never buy the latter again.

* Buy loose fruit and veg (ie. not pre-packed, over-priced cartons).

* Invest in those plastic boxes with matching lids. Then cook your favourite dishes in bulk and save half for a rainy (or lazy!) day.

* Don't shop when you're hungry - you'll end up with a trolley full of chocolate bars and ready meals.

* Find local markets. You can save masses - especially on fruit and veg.

* If you get on well and have similar eating habits, shop with your flatmates. You'll save money, learn to budget and bond over the hob.

* Shop just before the supermarket closes, when many items are reduced.

* Stock your freezer: frozen broccoli, peas and beans are every bit as nutritious as fresh. Frozen meat and fish is cheaper and still tasty.

Top tips for health and hygiene:

It's not just what you cook, it's how you cook it. Poor standards of hygiene can make you very ill indeed.

* Keep raw meat wrapped on the lowest fridge shelf - blood-drips in the butter impress nobody. And make sure you chuck anything past its "best before".

* One of the most common causes of food poisoning is re-heated food. Remember: only reheat cooked food once and get it properly hot before you scoff. If you've got second-time leftovers, bin them.

* Worthy of extra comment is rice, which breeds bacteria faster than you can say e-coli. Never re-heat rice (no matter whose mother says it's OK!).

* Don't wipe your hands on the dishcloth; don't use the brillo to mop the floor; don't unblock the kitchen sink with the toilet brush.

* Tea-towels are the armpit of most student homes. They are rarely washed and often used to dry floors, windowsills and flatmates, as well as crockery - transferring mud and sweat (in other words bacteria) to your kitchenware.

* Follow cooking guidelines. If the packet says it takes an hour to cook, it takes an hour to cook. Semi-raw food is very bad news.

* Students cannot live by Pot Noodle alone! Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and make sure your diet includes proteins, calcium, fibre, vitamins and minerals and, last but not least, carbohydrates.

Top tips for popularity:

Maybe you don't mind teetering piles of mouldy plates. Your flatmates will. It's important not to upset (and/or poison) your fellow kitchen-users. Here's the key to domestic bliss:

* Simple trick: wash up.

* Respect property. Never eat another student's cheese and expect to get away with it.

* Be generous. Don't just wipe your corner of the table, mop around your chair and wash the one fork, knife and spoon you've used. If a job's worth doing...

* If you share basic items (bread, oil, etc.), get everyone to chalk up what they spend. Then settle up once a month. It'll probably work out about even. And it's a subtle way to eke out penny-pinchers and milk-thieves!

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