By now, I should probably have come up with a plan for the Fresher’s Week and post-Fresher’s Week period. It happens every year, after all, and every year I find myself in the same situation. Settling into a new home – check. Moving mountains of my possessions into tiny wardrobes and cupboards – check. Nothing to eat – check, check and check again.
First year, I survived on tea, toast and jacket potatoes for longer than I’d really like to admit. Second year saw a slight improvement – the introduction of the cooking rota spurred me on slightly – and I was cautiously hoping that it would carry over, that the little enthusiasm I had mustered would somehow have multiplied during summer. That I would arrive in my new house with its bare cupboards and its barren fridge and think ‘right! I know exactly what to buy. I know exactly what to cook. I have a cooking column now.’
Sadly, this didn’t happen. I know, I know. I’m as shocked as you are. Instead, I trekked to Lidl with a housemate and spent a long time deliberating between brands of ham, a longer time battling through the queue and basically an eternity walking home laden with ridiculously heavy Bags for Life. But we got there in the end, and after moaning about how old and adult I felt for about half an hour, I decided to share my 5 essential ‘Fresher’s’ foods with you. The basics. The things that get me through the tricky ‘oh-my-god-I’m-in-a-new-house-and-there’s-no-space-and-the-ceiling-is-falling-down-help’ stage.
- Tea/ Coffee: Anyone that knows me even vaguely will know that I literally cannot function in the mornings until I’ve had a mug of tea. Any other food or drink suggestions would be useless before this, because I’d be too zombie-like and grumpy to buy them, make them or enjoy them in any way. So, number 1 recommendation – some form of caffeine. 100%.
- Milk: To go in the aforementioned tea or coffee. Obviously. It’s also very filling, and means that you can occasionally have cereal for lunch if you feel the need. Also hot chocolate, in case you’re having a bad day.
- Pasta or rice: All the carbs, I know. But there’s no getting around the fact that these are student staples; they’re cheap, they’re easy, and they go with pretty much anything.
- Chicken: This is self-explanatory really. (Apologies if you’re veggie or vegan. Feel free to substitute this with something else, like tofu perhaps.)
- Pesto: Because it brightens up pretty much any meal. Pasta and cheese? Boring. Pasta, pesto and cheese? Pretty good. Chicken? Boring. Pesto chicken? Amazing. The list goes on…
Obviously, my list is far from comprehensive and is also quite tailored to my specific dietary tastes. During Freshers’ week and the ‘moving in’ period, these don’t tend to be that sophisticated – they basically involve carbs, caffeine and copious amounts of comfort food. Because moving can be stressful, and sometimes you just don’t want to cook a complicated meal on a hob that doesn’t really work. My actual, real advice would be this – during Freshers, figure out what you like and don’t like. Have a few essentials that work for you that you can turn to if you’ve missed a seminar and not done some reading and it seems like everything is an effort. Mainly, heed the advice I was given when I started a new job this summer (and which I think I might turn into a life motto, or something) – ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Eat some vegetables. Get some sleep. You’ll have a brilliant time.’