Thursday, 1 November 2012

Beyond baked beans: student cooking

This week students at an Oxford college have hit back at a proposed levy on their canteen, claiming the proposed changes could cause financial hardships, particularly for less well-off students.

The students currently pay £4 a meal, but under the new charges they’d have to pay a fee of £150 a year to cover kitchen costs, and another fee of up to £150 to spend on food in the canteen.

The proposed increase has led to a number of students from Magdalen’s Junior Common Room committee boycotting the canteen. Lots of delicious. love is going out to two students in particular. Tilda Ferree and Kate Eccles are sharing the love and easing the financial burden on fellow students by serving soup from a ground floor window, with a suggested donation of £1 to go to the Food Justice charity. It’s thought that this is costing the college up to £5,000 a week.

It’s not that long since I was a student, and these guys put me to shame. Cooking from scratch when you’re living off a pittance can seem like a massive expense, and on more than one occasion I hit the Super Noodles in an effort to save a bit of money.

But it is possible to save money and eat well, as I learned earlier this year when I spoke to two young foodies who offered their advice on students cooking. Ben Ebbrell is one of the founders of Sorted, an online cookery hub, and Sam Stern is the 22-year-old author of six cookbooks.

“If you find your shopping bills are too large, go vegetarian for half the week and have meat-based dishes when you can afford it, or buy meat with your mates to share the cost.”

“Think about where to save – and where to spend more. Supermarket own-labels are great for cutting costs: tinned tomatoes, basic grains and pasta. As for meat, though, it’s worth spending a bit more.”

“Buying a whole chicken and jointing it into portions is a lot more cost-effective than buying chicken pieces, such as thighs and especially boneless breasts. Don’t be put off if you’ve never cooked a whole bird before – you’ll be surprised how much meat you get off the carcass.”

“Make sure you’ve always got the right dried and canned foods in your cupboard. Cheap staples such as pasta, rice and couscous keep for ages and will bulk up the main carb element of most meals.”

For more great tips, check out the full feature here.