The Tab’s guide to making cheap, easy and delicious student meals

PSA freshers and second years who were in Pollock: there’s more to student cooking than Pot Noodles and beans on toast

For most of us going to uni is the first time we have to cook for ourselves. It might seem daunting – after all, you’ve just moved to a new city and are getting settled into uni life. So eating well is probably the last thing on your mind.

But it’s easier than you think to make quick, cheap, and healthy food that will be way more delicious than any ready meal.

I’m a student who creates and shares recipes on my Instagram page @sophies_slice, where I share some of of my tips to make student cooking a breeze.

These are my top five tips to cook quick, cheap, and tasty dinners as a student.

All recipes can be found here.

Flavour Bomb Ingredients

These flavour packed ingredients are great for upgrading a boring dinner and adding instant flavour to save you time.

One or two of these might require a trip to Waitrose in Morningside or M&S on Princes Street but you use them in such small quantities that they pack a real punch for just a few extra pennies per portion.

Here are some of my favourites – and how to use them:

  1. Sun-dried Tomatoes- simply fry garlic and dried basil. Then toss with sun-dried tomatoes, cooked pasta and a little pasta water for a delicious 10 minute dinner.
  2. Miso Paste – might seem a bit extra and fancy, but trust me. Add a little to pasta sauces, soups or stews for that perfect salty, savoury touch.
  3. Harissa Paste – packed with spice, herbs and so much flavour. Here all the work has been done for you. Simply stir through rice with some frozen veg and tinned chickpeas for a healthy, quick vegan meal.
Selection of dishes using flavour bomb ingredients

Miso Aubergine, Sun-dried Tomato and Burrata Risotto, Sun-dried Tomato Baked Eggs, Harissa Fried Egg – boujee but won’t break the budget

Seek Out Edinburgh’s Food Shops

Edinburgh is packed with independent food shops, and whilst some are overpriced and fancy, many are much cheaper than the average chain supermarkets. Especially when buying international food items.

These are a few of my favourites:

  1. Starlight Chinese Supermarket on Clerk Street: stock up on soy sauce, rice, noodles, frozen dumplings and much more. Most items are in huge packs so I recommend buying with flat mates and splitting the cost.
  2. Maqbool’s Supermarket opposite Appleton Tower: a Middle Eastern supermarket that’s super cheap. This place stocks a huge variety of items. My favourites are the dried fruits and nuts and the amazing flatbreads.
  3. New Leaf Coop in Marchmont: I was put off this place by the front half which is full of overpriced organic items. But go through to the back half for a great refillery. Bring you own Tupperware and stock up on dried goods like pasta, flour, sugar and rice for next to nothing. It also has a huge spice selection that cost a fraction of the supermarkets. They also do student discount.
Dishes made with locally bought ingredients

Coffee Cake, Harissa Tomato Soup, Butternut Squash Curry, Cinnamon Rolls

Double Up on Rice

Fried rice is the ultimate comfort food but it needs day old rice to make it. So every time I cook rice to go with a curry or chilli I always cook a double portion. Store the excess in the fridge and the next day you can make fried rice for dinner in less than 10 minutes.

Just throw in any protein/ veg you have in the fridge to make a delicious meal. It also helps keep away the temptation to order a Chinese and is an easy way to use up leftovers.

Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice Topped with a Fried Egg

Love Your Freezer

Freezer space in student flats and halls is often short but I like to save a bit of space for frozen veggies. These are quick cooking so can be thrown into meals at the last minute to add some much needed nutrients to the student diet. I also love frozen berries because they don’t go off and are so much cheaper than fresh fruits.

Fresh fruit and veg is very difficult to portion when you’re just cooking for yourself so frozen is a great way to save money and reduce waste. The frozen bags of chilli, garlic, ginger, and onions are great because they’re so much easier to store and portion for one person than buying fresh.

Dishes made with frozen veg and fruit

Creamy Veg Orzo, Soufflé Pancakes with Berry Compote, Sweetcorn Fritters, Chicken and Veg Satay Curry

Embrace the Tins

There’s more to tinned food than baked beans and tuna. Tinned foods are great for students because they are often precooked so super easy for new cooks, last forever and are easy on the budget.

Mix some tinned tomatoes with fried garlic/ onions, mixed herbs and a pinch of sugar for a cheap, delicious and healthy pasta sauce. Add lentils to bulk out a bolognese or chickpeas to bulk out a curry. Make a delicious chilli with black beans and kidney beans for a cheap flat dinner to impress.

Selection of dishes cooking with tinned ingredients

Vegan Mixed Bean Chilli Soup, Chicken and Chickpea Korma, Creamy Tomato Pasta, Mexican Black Bean Soup

Happy cooking!

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