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Student food and fending for myself

In my first year – like most students here at Durham – I was in catered accommodation. St. Mary’s is a fully catered college with its own kitchen and large dining hall, and it was there that I got most of my meals last year. This year is slightly different though, I have chosen to live out of college in a privately rented house. As I write this I’m sitting in my bedroom up in Neville’s Cross, just outside Durham City.

Living out of college

Living in Neville’s Cross gives me easy walking access to 4 corner shops each only a 15-minute walk away, which is where I do most of my main weekly shopping. Conveniently, the Arnison Centre, a large out of towm shopping area is just a short drive or bus ride up the road as well. My normal weekly food budget is £30 and thus far I’ve been able to stick to it through a variety of methods, largely buying bulk and spreading the cost of shared items like milk, eggs and pasta with my housemates.

A good week will involve hummus

What I eat however very much depends on what sort of week I’m having (a good one or a bad one, emotionally and mentally speaking). A good week will involve making a vast bowl of Hummus at the start of the week and having that with a variety of different add-ons for breakfast and/or lunch until it runs out. Hummus is unbelievably easy to make if you have a food blender or smoothy maker, and it is not simply the carrot dip we in the UK think it to be. It can be a full meal in its own right with incredible ease. Add a fried egg or pan-cooked flatbread or olive oil and paprika for all sorts of outcomes. And all you need is a can of chickpeas, some tahini and garlic (plus whatever else if you want to flavour it).

Continuing with the good week theme I’ll often cook a large pasta bake or a ton of mince or chili or curry that I can eat and then freeze the leftovers for the next few nights. So that I don’t get bored eating the same evening meal four nights in a row, I’ll make two meals like this at the beginning of a week, freeze them both and then I can interchange between them as I go through the week. This has proved to be a very cheap and easy way to make good quality food that I can rely on day after day.

Hummus can be a whole meal in itself.

What would you like to eat today?

However, being the emotional eater that I am, a bad week’s diet is very different. I have been known to eat ice cream or just animal biscuits (the best snack in the world) for breakfast while skipping lunch entirely and rounding off the day with a dinner of potato waffles, chicken nuggets or maybe a fish finger sandwich! Not a fruit or vegetable in sight. This is all minimum effort food. The food you can just stick on a baking tray, whack it into the oven and 15 minutes later you have dinner.

These two opposite food worlds are both easy to access and have their pros and cons, one being healthy but requiring a bit more time and effort and the other taking no time and no effort but being not very good for you. In recent weeks, largely thanks to general stress I’ve had more bad weeks than good weeks, but I take each week, each day at a time and remind myself however insane it might still feel, I am an adult which means I have a bank account and money. So each day I ask myself the simple question “What would you like to eat today?” and I go from there.

For some more simple cooking ideas read Sunita’s blog – A Week of (student-friendly) Winter Warmers

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Peter Firbank

Hi my name's Peter and I am a second year historian at St. Mary’s college. What you read here, like most things in life, is very much a work in progress!
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