Spoiler alert: baked beans aren’t on the list either.
As students living on a budget, it becomes all too easy to fall into the routine of eating the same things every week. Pasta one day, then rice, then pasta, then rice… Whilst these staples can make cheap, easy, and relatively healthy dinner options, they quickly become boring – especially if you’re eating them every day! This is why we’ve put together a list of ‘store cupboard’ essentials, which go a bit beyond the ‘student cook’ stereotype. Having said this, all of the ingredients below are really easy to use, and can be added to a massive variety of meals for added flavour or texture. Also, as money is often tight for students, most of these items can be bought cheaply. For those that can’t (like, 1. Olive Oil), they usually last for months!
1. Olive oil
Olive oil is an absolute essential to have in your cupboard. For starters, you only ever use a tiny amount, so it lasts absolutely ages. You can use it for frying, on pasta, or drizzle it over vegetables for some extra flavour. Another bonus of olive oil is that it’s filled with healthy fats (for the health conscious amongst you).
2. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is great for adding a pungent, salty flavour to your food. It’s the perfect addition to chicken, fish, and stir fries, and has only 8 calories per tablespoon! It also goes well with flavours such as garlic and ginger, and is a cheap way to liven up a meal.
3. Chopped tomatoes/tomato puree
Possibly the best ingredient on this list: the list of ways to use chopped tomatoes/puree is ENDLESS! Chilli, curries, sauces, bolognese – chopped tomatoes are the basis of all of these dishes. They are also super cheap (the average price is about 50p a tin), and can sit in your cupboard for years before they need to be used. Tomato puree is just as versatile. Try spreading it on a tortilla to make a homemade pizza.
Another ingredient with a long shelf life, paprika is fantastic for spicing up plain meals. Add it to chicken, fish, paellas and pasta dishes to give them a warm (but not too spicy!) kick.
Healthy, filling, and ridiculously cheap – what’s not to love? The most obvious way to use oats is in porridge, which is one of the best breakfasts for this time of year. Another oat based recipe, currently taking Instagram by storm, is ‘Overnight Oats’. This consists of leaving oats to soak in yogurt or milk overnight, leaving you with a creamy, naughty-tasting (but actually good for you) breakfast. Add some dark chocolate chips, raspberries, and anything else you fancy, and you literally have a dessert for breakfast.
Pesto, again, is a non-expensive ingredient which is great for adding flavour to dishes. Teamed with pasta, it’s a classic, but try stuffing a chicken breast with pesto and feta cheese, and your mind will be blown.
They might be mainstream, but eggs are too good not to feature in this article. They are a godsend for students living on a budget. You can buy 6 (free range!) for £1.50, and the opportunities are endless. Omelettes, frittatas, egg fried rice, scrambled eggs, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Eggs can do it all!