How to stop your student from starving!
So, last year I watched as the door closed on me and my eldest walked away into her future. I was petrified for her. I had spent the past 18 years keeping her fed, watered and alive and she was going to spend the next three doing the exact opposite. I should know, thirty years previously I’d done the same.
I shouldn’t have worried, after a successful first year and what seems like an endless summer break I am looking forward to her return to Uni.
She survived, so how did that happen? Well I don’t have a magic bullet but I can pass on what worked in this house, and it might work in yours too. No student needs to live on a diet of pot noodles, cheesy pasta or bowls of cereal, unless they want to of course.
- Budget. Them and you. I got a “care package” organised for the older one to take. When I went shopping and essentials were buy one get one free, one was for us and one went in the box. Washing liquid, loo rolls, hand wash and shower gel. You know the sorts of things. Stick in a few treats – chocolate digestives and flying saucers here!
- If you get your food delivered, take your student shopping. They will not have a clue! Look at the costs of things. If they only eat Heinz ketchup(!), then they have to economise elsewhere. Get them used to comparing prices and quantities.
- Shop savvy. Supermarkets often reduce their near sell buy produce towards the end of the day. Pop in and check. Buy and freeze meat and fish for another day. If they have never been into Lidl or Aldi then introduce them to the concept!
- Encourage market shopping and buying local seasonal produce. Cheaper and ethical.
- Show them how to make basic recipes. Ones your family eat often. A ragu can be used for spaghetti, pasta bake, lasagne, shepherds pie, jazzed up to make chilli, popped in a baked potato. A basic white sauce is useful.
- Portion control. Explain how much uncooked pasta or rice makes up a portion.
- Introduce them to frozen veg. A few bags in the freezer will increase their vitamin intake to more than just the salad from a kebab. A handful or two in some stock makes a quick soup. If nothing else it will be usefulwhen someone falls on the way back from a night out and needs to ice the injury!
- Show them how to bulk out a dish, with beans, with pulses and with grains. A pack of soup mix can make a soup, give texture to a casserole and at a pinch be sed to blind bake pastry.
- Get every loyalty card going. Nectar points, clubcard points and a MyWaitrose card will all give the odd benefit or voucher. Useful and free.
- Buy them a bag for life.
- In my day it was a Toastie machine. This time around, the George Forman grill has been a revelation, and a slow cooker is also going into the student kitchen.
- Be prepared to talk phone calls, emails and texts asking how to cook a family favourite. I explained Pommes Daupinoise via text last year.
- Suggest that they share the purchase of bulk items as a flat/house/group of friends. Set the rules up front, ie have a kitty or make sure everyone is prepared to pay their share by a certain day.
- Some supermarkets (Sainsburys and Asda) have student/parent cards. The student has one half and the parent has the other. The parent can top up the card and the student can spend it. We aimed to just have perhaps ten pounds on the card. Useful for emergencies, and running out of vodka doesn’t count!
- Be prepared to shop everytime you visit. Ditto take out to lunch or dinner.
They will survive. They may not eat exactly what you’d like them to, but after a week of pasta, passata and grated cheese they might just get online and read your blog to find out how to make one pot roast chicken dinners!