Admit it: students tend to subsist on kebab meat and snakebite most of the time.
Unfortunately, as delicious as these two dietary staples undoubtedly are, they are neither nutritious nor cheap. And with money tighter than ever before for the Great British Student, it might not be such a bad idea for the old overdraft if you started diversifying your desgustational repertoire - by which I mean 'eat something else'.
Studentbeans.com, the specialist student discount and money-saving site, has a bright idea for a solution: cook. No, seriously. Cooking is actually the solution to all your ills - it's cheaper than the burger van, it's healthier than the burger van, and you get to eat something other than burgers once in a while!
Here are 10 great ideas to get you started. They're all ridiculously easy to make, none of them require special equipment or training, and they may just save you - and your digestion - a pretty penny.
10. Beans on toast
Obviously studentbeans.com is big on beans. In fact, they consider themselves to be chief bean advocates, which is one of the reasons why ‘beans on toast’ had to make it onto our list. It’s cheap (if you don’t go for Heinz) and ridiculously easy. We advise adding cherry tomatoes, Lea & Perrins, grated cheddar cheese and lots of pepper for a more gourmet variation on the student classic.
Now, it says on some tins to not let the beans boil because it impairs the flavour. However, we happen to know that some people purposefully go for a bit of a boil because it thickens the sauce up and slightly caramelises the beans. Try both and see which you prefer.
An omelette is quick and easy and can be tailored specifically to your tastes. Just follow these basic instructions and you’re away:
- Mix two eggs with two tablespoons of milk and some salt and pepper.
- Heat some butter in a frying pan and add the egg mixture.
- After one minute, stir and reduce heat.
- Sprinkle your chosen ingredients (ham, mushrooms etc) onto the surface and wait for the omelette to set underneath.
- Sprinkle with cheese - if you want cheese, that is - and cook for two to three minutes (less time for a wetter omelette).
- Fold in half and serve.
Yes yes yes, you can buy cans or cartons of soup (watch out for high salt content). But everything tastes better when you’ve cooked it. This is a scientific fact. It also costs a hell of a lot less, which can also be proved through science (well, counting). Here’s an easy recipe for a lovely, warming French onion soup. Use a kilo of onions (which, depending on the size should be about five). If you’re cooking for one, freeze the rest for lunches and dinners in the future.
- Add chopped onions to a pan of butter and cook on a low heat until soft.
- Increase the heat and cook until the onion becomes sticky and caramelised.
- Add 1.2 litres of beef stock, season and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Toast some bread (preferably baguette) and drizzle with some olive oil. Sprinkle with grated cheese and place under grill until golden.
- Serve with toast on top.
7. Jacket potato
We know the microwave is right there, but seriously, potatoes are rubbish when you cook them in that fast-food machine. Prepare to wait for the perfect jacket potato...
- Wash the potato and prick with a fork.
- Rub salt evenly on the potato.
- Place in a pre-heated oven at 220C and cook for about an hour, until the skin is crisp.
- Cut open and accompany with your filling of choice. Cheese, beans, coleslaw, sour cream, cottage cheese, the list is endless...
6. Mushroom risotto
Risotto is surprisingly easy to make. Here’s a recipe for a tasty mushroom risotto to serve four people. You can always vary the ingredients, experimenting with the likes of chicken, prawns or other veg:
- Chop an onion and mushrooms and crush one clove of garlic.
- Melt some butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the onion, cooking until soft.
- Add the mushrooms and garlic and turn up the heat a bit, cooking for another two minutes.
- Tip in 150g of risotto rice. Stir and cook for two to three minutes.
- Pour in 600 ml of vegetable stock and stir until the liquid has evaporated.
- Remove from heat, add salt and pepper and sprinkle some parmesan on top.
5. Toad in the hole
Toad in the hole has to be one of our favourite winter recipes. The following recipe is for four people but you can vary the quantity of ingredients and even make it for one. We call that Solo toad in the hole-o.
- Tip 115g plain flour into a mixing bowl. Add some salt and pepper.
- Bit by bit slowly add three eggs and 285ml milk, whisking as you go to create a smooth batter.
- Put some oil into a baking tin and place in the oven at its highest temperature.
- Add eight sausages and cook until lightly golden.
- Pour the batter over the sausages and put back in the oven.
- Remove from the oven when the batter has risen and is golden and crisp.
- Serve with veg and onion gravy.
4. Boiled egg
According to a 2011 Sainsbury's Finance survey, 14 per cent of new students haven't ever boiled an egg. Because we’re kind, we’re going to show you how:
- Start with your egg at room temperature (an egg straight from the fridge is at risk of cracking).
- Prick the shell.
- Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Put your egg on a spoon and gently lower it into the water.
- Boil for 3 ½ minutes for a runny yolk.
Et voila! Serve with bread and butter cut into soldiers - perfect for dunking. Alternatively you can cook a hardboiled egg and mash it up with mayonnaise for some lovely sarnies or chop up and put in a healthy salad. Simply boil you egg for 10 minutes and place in cold water for another 10. Then you can peel.
Home-made burgers are the best. It’s just a fact. And it’s SO ridiculously easy that it makes you wonder why you ever bought them in the first place. This recipe will serve four hungry burger fans:
- Dice a small onion and tip into a bowl with 500g of minced beef and one egg.
- Roll the mixture into four balls and flatten to make burger-shaped patties.
- Put on a plate and cover. Leave in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour.
- Heat the barbecue (or grill) and place the burgers on (or in), cooking for about 15 minutes, until cooked through. Turn once.
- Serve with a sesame seed bun, salad and any toppings that you desire!
Forget Old El Paso and his tired band of donkeys - it’s easy enough to create your own fajitas. What’s more you get to control the level of spice that goes in. Here’s a recipe for two:
- Chop an onion, red pepper and two chicken breasts (in thin strips).
- Put together in a bowl with one teaspoon of paprika (and the same amount of cumin, if you have it) and some salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.
- Now to make your salsa: Chop some tomatoes, chilli and coriander, adding salt and pepper and lime or lemon juice with some oil and stir.
- After leaving to marinade for a few minutes, cook in a pre-heated pan for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Warm some flour tortillas in the microwave.
- Serve with your home-made salsa, grated cheddar, sour cream and guacamole.
1. Spaghetti Bolognese
And finally we come to the king of all cheap'n'easy dishes. By the way, if you're interested in benefiting from further ease and cheapness then come and join the 627,477 (and counting) students who are already members of our money-saving club. Because there's so many of you we can get you mega group discounts and offers on loads of things from cinema to travel, plus we have masses of money saving tips and tricks. Sign up here.
Anyway back to this final dish - what's so good about it is that it's even tastier the next day or frozen and eaten at a later date - all the flavours become deeper and mingle more effectively. Be sure to make a big batch when you cook this Italian favourite:
- Brown 500g of minced beef.
- Add chopped mushrooms and cook for three minutes.
- Stir in one or two crushed garlic cloves and a 400g can of chopped tomatoes along with ¼ pint of beef stock and mixed herbs (optional).
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes,
- Meanwhile, cook the Spaghetti (or other pasta of choice), drain and serve with your bolognese sauce on top.
Oh, and of course add cheese for extra YUM.