Food shopping when you’re not used to it can be such a daunting experience. Suddenly you’re the one making decisions about what goes into your basket and you’re the one paying for it at the checkout. Unless you’re in catered accommodation, you become the master of your own health after the ‘food shop’ at the beginning of each term your parents do for you is used up – or gone off – which is a scary prospect.
I know that food shopping in general is very individual, everyone has different likes, dislikes and dietary requirements, but there are some kitchen staples that should make it into your basket at least a few times a term, or sit ready for use in your fridge/freezer/cupboards. Sure having the ability to buy and eat a whole chocolate cake is the sign of true power, but it’s (probably) not going to sustain you for long.
My kitchen staples are probably incredibly obvious, and will probably cause you all to roll your eyes and go ‘awh Fii, I knew that!’, but believe me when I say that the minute you step foot in a supermarket with the mission to buy a weeks worth of food, it will be slightly overwhelming. Especially when you start taking notice of how much food costs.
1: Frozen mixed vegetables (and fruit)
The bad thing about fresh fruit and veg is that it goes off. Frozen food has a much longer shelf life and is a damned sight cheaper in the long run. Plus you don’t have to worry so much about used by dates and whether or not you’re going to be able to use up the produce before it goes mouldy, or about paying premium prices for out of season fruit.
The student staple. Two of my flatmates in first year bought an obscene amount of pasta between them into the flat – and it served them well. It’s a great source of energy, easy to cook, and you can make pasta dishes really interesting with the most random of ingredients.
3: Eggs (or substitutes)
Eggs are wonderful, wonderful things, you can do a ridiculous amount with them for quick fix meals, or more elaborate things for more elaborate recipes. Also cake. If eggs are out of your dietary requirements, then egg substitutes are your friend here, though if you’re in that boat you probably know a lot more about it than myself, so just keep doing you in that respect.
4: Rolled Oats
I wasn’t a porridge eater before uni. Which is just one use for oats, but they’re also great for flapjacks, crumbles, granola, oatcakes, and a whole host of other things. Definitely a good thing to keep in your kitchen. Also a great source of slow-release energy, and can have virtually any flavour added to it.
5: Mixed Herbs/Spices
These little pots are amazing. If you’re not sure you’re going to like the individual flavours of spices you’ve not tried before, then mixed is the way to go without wasting money, in my opinion. You can add them to anything to season, or change up flavours. If I’m cooking homemade chips or wedges, I will always, always reach for the mixed herbs, something I’ve picked up from my dad, but it makes for tasty fried or baked potatoes.
Butter/margarine/jam. Because they’re relatively long life products and should be in your fridge.
Whether it’s a loaf, bagels, rolls or wraps, you should have bread somewhere in your kitchen if your diet permits it.
So, those are my uni kitchen staples. I have some others such as tea, coconut oil, and honey, but they’re more lifestyle choices than ultimate necessities for many people. And this is by no means a list of things you have to buy or must enjoy, just things that I find are always in my kitchen as a little starting point. ^^
What about you, though? Is there anything you’d add to the list, or change? If you’ve been through the whole ‘shopping for food yourself for the first time’ experience, what was it like for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.