In contrast with the weird stereotypical view adults and TV shows alike seem to have of students surviving on nothing but noodles, vodka and takeaways, it seems that we genuinely want to take care of ourselves, dedicating ourselves to sports societies, the gym and eating well. Yet with all the uni work, societies, socialising, jobs and scary-adult-responsibilities that come with being a student living away from home, it’s probably fair to say that not many of us have the time or money to be spending hours in the kitchen, so here’s twenty kitchen hacks to make life that little bit easier when it comes to food.
1. Invest in spices and herbs.
When you first move in, invest in flavours. Go to supermarket, look in the continental or world section where spices are usually cheaper and often a lot nicer and spend a bit on things like garlic powder, mixed herbs, Cajun, paprika, curry power, etcetera. That way even if you’re living off of packet noodles because your loan hasn’t come through or you’re trying to power through an essay, 49p pasta tastes just that little bit nicer.
2. Everything makes stock.
You can make stock out of pretty much any meat you’ve cooked, just run off the excess juice and put it in a saucepan with the bones, heat it until the water simmers, skim off what rises to the top then add vegetables and herbs. Strain it, boil it, then use it on the spot or freeze it for later on. Oh, and marmite makes a great meaty substitute for stock.
3. Everything makes soup.
Similarly, if you have leftovers in the fridge – especially vegetables – cook them in stock, throw in any extras and then leave it chunky or blitz it. Throw in a potato for a thicker, more filling soup.
4. Vegetable tarts are so simple.
If you’re not a fan of soup, then vegetable tarts do the trick. Put filo pastry in an oven dish, ideally only a couple of inches deep, then whisk an egg, chop up any leftovers, mix with the egg and herbs and then put it all on top of the filo. Cover with a bit of cheese then put it in the oven for 15 minutes or so at 180°.
5. Save any excess oil.
Run off any excess oil from cooking to use in place of butter or oil when frying next time around for additional flavour in a meal.
6. Keep it organised!
Investing in Tupperware and storage jars is an absolute life saver. Using cereal containers for dried foods not only prevents food from going stale but it keeps cupboards organised and if they’re see-through it makes it a lot easier to see what you’re running low on.
7. Buy your own window herbs.
They look cute, they smell good, they keep the kitchen fresh and they’re right on hand for garnishing food.
8. Egg muffins for breakfasts on the go.
Similar to the vegetable tarts, these muffins make amazing breakfast foods, snacks or even work really well with a salad for a larger meal. Just chop up whatever you fancy, mix it in with whisked eggs and pour into a well-greased muffin tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180°F and you’ve got an easy, nutritious breakfast to go.
9. Buy a 15-minute meal recipe book.
Pretty self-explanatory but amazingly useful when you come in after a 9-5 at uni.
10. Pancakes with two.
Not just a typo on pancakes for 2, you can literally make pancakes with two ingredients. They’re gluten free, low calorie and super easy to make; all you need is two eggs and a banana and maybe a pinch of vanilla flavouring or cinnamon if you fancy. Blitz it with a handheld blender or processor then fry as you would a normal pancake. Serve with whatever you like and voila, another healthy breakfast!
11. The avocado hack!
Putting an avocado in a brown paper bag for 24 hours will produce a ripe avocado no matter how rock-hard it was to begin with. Easiest of all kitchen hacks.
12. Apples and potatoes.
No I haven’t just absolutely butchered cockney slang, if you pop an apple in with a bunch of potatoes it’ll stop them sprouting! It’s so simple, but one of the best kitchen hacks for preserving food. But only until the apple starts to look a bit dodgy…
13. More potatoes!
If you’re as lazy as I am and the thought of spending ten+ minutes wrestling a potato with a peeler, this hack is for you. Simply score around the middle of the potato, pop it in boiling water for 10 or so minutes and then remove it; the two sides should literally peel off with your fingers.
14. More peeling…
Kitchen hacks are made for people who hate peeling. For fruits like ginger and kiwi, a teaspoon is far better for peeling. Simply chop the slightest bit off the top and then dig in gently with the spoon, pushing down. You’ll save far more of the good stuff this way.
15. What if I told you…
…you could peel an entire garlic bulb in ten seconds? Smash the bulb, place it in a bowl, put another smaller or equally sized bowl on top of it to create a vacuum of sorts and then shake it seriously hard. Take the bowl off and be amazed.
Okay but seriously this is useful, right?
16. Keep pots and pans from boiling over.
If you’re boiling something starchy like pasta, rice or potato, putting a wooden spoon over the pan will prevent it from ever boiling over! One of the most simple, yet effective kitchen hacks!
17. Chill out…fast.
Not exactly a cooking hack but still a hack nonetheless; soak kitchen towels, wrap them around bottles and place in the freezer to make cooling items down super-fast. I’m not saying this one is about wine and beer but…
18. Think about supermarket loyalty cards.
Signing up might be a bit of a hassle but shopping around will save you a surprising amount of money; the offers and discounts you’re sent begin to pay off pretty quickly.
19. Student dining.
It’s probably fair to say that the best deals you’ll ever get will be while you’re a student. There are so many student websites out there for discounts on restaurants, cafes, bars and shops it’d be a shame to miss out, so do yourself a favour and get online!
20. And most importantly…
Invest in a slow cooker! I cannot begin to tell you just how useful they are! Throw something in, literally anything, at the start of the day and you’ll be coming home to a piping hot ready-made meal without having to spend anything or having to lift a finger. It’s just like being at home again.