As you'll likely known if you're even a semi-regular reader of my blog, I'm right about to go into my second semester of my first year of university. I can by no means say that I'm yet an expert of the topic of uni life, but I feel that I'm comfortably in a place that I can at least give out advice on how to get through semester one with as much ease as possible. One thing I think I've become pretty well-versed on is how to live on more than just the typical student diet.
It's a common stereotype, and one that is almost universally held; you sign up to go to Uni, you sign yourself up to a 3-4 year diet of instant ramen noodles. However, this doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Don't get me wrong - it's always good to have a stock of instant noodles in the cupboard or on the shelf. They're an easy, filling and quite tasty meal that isn't really all that bad for you, given that they're a convenience food. That said, you don't have to make them your sole source of caloric intake. If you know how to shop smart, you can eat reasonably well at a cost not significantly greater than that of a noodle-only lifestyle.
For me, the key to saving money on groceries is knowing where to shop. I know there can be stigma around more budget-friendly supermarket chains like Aldi and Lidl. It's important to remember, however, that cheaper doesn't always equal poorer quality. There are some areas where you can absolutely scrimp on price without scrimping on quality. Dried foods (think rice, pasta and lentils) and canned goods (beans, peas and tinned fruits) have long shelf lives and the cheaper versions are usually not all that different from their more expensive counterparts. The same is true of frozen foods - things like pizzas, ready meals and meats from the freezer aisles can easily be switched out with little to no difference in quality. In fact, the only place I'd say it's really worth spending the extra couple of quid is in fresher areas like meat and produce.
Learning to cook will also be massively beneficial to you before you jet off to Uni. I lost track of the number of friends at whom I was appalled for their cooking skills - or, more appropriately, lack thereof - right before or upon arriving at uni. I'm by no means saying that you need to be Gordon Ramsay or Heston Blumethal at Fresher's age, but learning to make a few simple dishes will be of massive benefit to you. Stir fries and pasta bakes are filling, nutritious and easy to make. You can also find a plethora of easy-to-make and reasonably affordable recipes on websites such as this one, and in books such as The Student Cookbook (one I personally have and use frequently) and NOSH for Students, which has a second volume and a vegetarian version. There is also, thus far, one recipe for Chinese Style Chicken here on my blog and I plan for there to be more in the near future. Learning kitchen skills may be a pain but it's cheaper and better for you than living off convenience foods and takeaways - trust me, you won't regret it!
It's also mentioning the odd bevvie - after all, students wouldn't be students if we didn't enjoy a drink now and then. My best tip here is to keep your eye out for offers; if you're not to opt for the supermarket-own brand (admittedly, these can be hit-or-miss) it's worth making note on who has the best deals and discounts on drink. This includes pubs and bars; often times the ones nearest to the uni and uni digs will have student deals. And, of course, there's always the Union!