Cooking with Iz

If you know me at all well, then you will know that I’m unapologetic in my love of food. There are a lot of student stereotypes that I do fall into (nap time = all the time, forgets to do laundry until  only option is to wear pyjamas in public, stays up too late, leaves assignments until last moment) but one that I don’t like is the ‘students can’t cook’ stereotype. I love to cook. The way I see it, I have to eat, I have to take time out of my day to eat and if I’m going to spend fairly large chunks of my day preparing and eating food then I want that food to be delicious. It’s also amazing the effect that decent food can have on your mood. This Tuesday, for example, I had to go back to the lab for a couple of hours in the afternoon because my practical ran longer than I thought it would, which would normally make me feel kind of depressed (no one really wants to spend 4.5 hours dissecting impossibly tiny flowers under a microscope) BUT on this occasion I had chilli crab noodles from the Farmers’ Market for lunch that were so out of this world delicious, nothing could get me down afterwards. I thoroughly reject the notion that student food consists of pot noodles, beans on toast and tomato pasta and I thought it would be cool to show you what I cooked this weekend.

I started the weekend by going grocery shopping, as I was planning to do a couple of bulk meals over the weekend to eat during the week. I already had a few portions of curry in the freezer but the thought of only eating rice all week

My grocery haul - this will last me about a fortnight and cost £16.18
My grocery haul – this will last me about a fortnight. The Sainsburys component cost £16.18

was a bit sad so I planned to make a casserole and a pasta bake in addition. I’m lucky enough to live on a busy, vibrant shopping street with a thriving fruit market 6 days a week and a big Sainsburys. I buy most of my groceries in Sainsburys and then get fruit and veg on the market. I cannot tell you how much of a lifesaver it is to have the market right outside my front door! This week I bought 4 mangos, 4 avocados, a cucumber, a giant bag of cherry tomatoes, some kale (impulse buy – I’ve never cooked it before but it looked so fresh and green and lovely that I had to buy it) and a pomegranate for £5.50. I looked all this up on the Sainsburys website and this week I’ve saved just over £4 by buying from the market instead of the shops. Top tip: if you have a market near you, make good use of it!

The kale - someone told me that cooking in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then frying off in butter is good for kale. Gonna try this soon!
The kale – someone told me that cooking in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then frying off in butter is good for kale. Gonna try this soon!

So the total cost of groceries for the next 1.5-2 weeks is £21.68, which is not a lot and does include meat! I know the weekly cost of living is a worry to a lot of students coming to university for the first time but as long as you shop carefully, you don’t have to spend a bomb on food every week!

The first meal I made this weekend was sausage casserole and mash. Casserole or stew is a great freezer meal because you just have to put everything in a pot and leave it and it’s easy to do a big load in one go. I made mine with sausages, lardons and butterbeans but you can use chicken or just use veg, like butternut squash, carrots or sweet potatoes. A rough estimate of the price per portion of the casserole that I made is about £1.45 per serving which I think is not too bad for a meaty dish. Cutting the meat and just using veggies would obviously make that cheaper. So that was delicious and the remaining three portions will be going in to the freezer to eat over the next fortnight!

The sausage casserole in all it's glory (ok it looks kind of bad in this lighting but I promise it tasted great)
The sausage casserole in all it’s glory (ok it looks kind of bad in this lighting but I promise it tasted great)

The second bulk meal is tomato pasta bake. Pasta bake is also very versatile – I put mushrooms and green pepper in mine but you could add chicken, bacon, mince or different kinds of veg to switch things up. The key to keeping it moist in the oven is plenty of cheeze on top! I had mozarella on mine and it was delicious!

Tomato and mozarella pasta bake!
Tomato and mozarella pasta bake!

It’s also a good way to use up veg to make a cheap meal that you can eat a couple of times throughout the week. An estimate of the price per portion of this recipe is about £1.20. Delicious, filled with vegetables and cheeeap.

So that’s dinners sorted for at least the next fortnight. I am not really a bread person so I tend to take couscous or salad for lunch. I would really reccommend investing in a lunchbox and making lunch at home rather than buying it at uni. Depending on what you get at uni, you’re spending maybe £2-3 a day whereas you can cut that considerably by making lunch at home.

I hope you have enjoyed this cooking adventure with me! My friends mock me for always posting pictures of food on Instagram, so I enjoyed having a legitimate reason for taking so many photos over the weekend. Shop savvy my friends, and prove the student cooking naysayers wrong!

5 comments for “Cooking with Iz

  1. Hello!
    I have got an offer from Imperial and Durham and I am deciding between the two. What made you come here? Was it as good as you thought? Better/worse ways?

    How hard is the course? Is the jump from a level to uni big? How much work do you do on average each day/week?

    Love your blog btw!

    1. Hi there! I guess I wanted to come to Imperial because there is pretty much no better university in the UK to study science at. You are worked hard here but you also get so many great opportunities and it’s an amazing university so I’d say it’s worth it! The gap between A Level and university is big but that factors in a lot of things… you’re not just starting a new tier of education, you’re also dealing with moving away from home, learning to look after yourself, making new friends, trying to establish yourself in a new city and that will be hard regardless of which university you go to! I am probably not the best person to ask about how much work I do in a week as I am not massively disciplined about working sometimes (which I don’t advocate!!) and it’s not always possible for me to do a set amount of work each night for example due to health probs. It really varies depending on your subject and how much coursework you have. It will take me 1.5-2 hours to review one lecture and maybe 6-10 hours to do a lab report or essay depending on how big it is. Hope that’s helpful in some way!

  2. I am going to study biology so same as you 🙂 so you have free time to go out and do things?
    I am scared I’ll have to work too hard, worried the university life will feel cold or isolated. Have you ever felt that? Do you get much time to socialise?
    Thank you, it is definitely helpful.

    1. I definitely have time to socialise! The work is hard, there’s no point pretending it isn’t, but it’s all about finding a good work-study balance. If you make an effort to join societies and go out with friends then there’s no reason why you can’t have a full social life in addition to getting decent results 🙂 If you are one of those who likes to spend 24 hours a day in the library then probably expect to not go out that much 😉 It is what you make of it, you just have to find the discipline to keep things balanced. Hope that helps!

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