Cooking does not have to be a chore - When you’re not used to cooking, you’re tired from lectures, and your fridge is lacking in anything remotely appealing, cooking can seem like a massive drag on your mood. Takeaways and ready meals will be the ultimate temptation, but you must remember they cost money, they’re unhealthy, and they make the kitchen smell.
• A common misconception is that to be self-catered you have to know lots of recipes. WRONG. Learn to make spaghetti bolognaise, chilli con carne and a basic stir fry. You can find my favourite chilli con carne here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3228/chilli-con-carne. You can have one ready meal/takeaway a week. You can make large quantities and freeze them for another day. Meat such as chicken, fish, lamb and pork can be put in the oven and simply be taken out again when it’s ready – it doesn’t require you to stand watching over it, it is easy!
• Buy the essentials: bread, butter, cheese, pasta, rice, frozen vegetables, fish/chicken/pizza, cans of beans, tuna, and pasta sauces.
• Ask your housemates – I cannot emphasise how much you can learn from those you live with, they can introduce you to different meals and vice versa.
• In my first year our flat ended up with at least 10 cookery books lying around the kitchen, I am telling you now, not one of those books were ever used. The ingredient lists were either too long, or the ingredients were too expensive or the recipe steps were too complex. Do not bother.
• Cooking as a group is by far the cheapest method of feeding yourself and a lot of fun! It also alleviates the amount of space required on fridge shelves/cupboards. But beware; it also demands similar tastes and an agreed group budget.
Cleaning needs to be controlled – Nobody likes cleaning, especially students, and unfortunately it is something which has the tendency to pile up, especially when we’re talking about dirty dishes, pots and pans.
• It’s important to lay down the laws early on, make sure that everyone knows what standard is to be kept and then to stick to these rules. Washing up should be done straight away, or even whilst you’re waiting for food to come out of the oven.
• For all communal cleaning jobs you should devise a rota and take it in turns to take out the bins, clean the toilet or mop the floor. Though it can seem like a lot of work, if everyone comes to some sort of agreement it shouldn’t be time consuming or too much effort.
• My advice is to clean together with your housemates, put some music on and have a laugh – it’s more fun that way and gets done in half the time. Every single time we had a flat cleaning session, we were always surprised at how quick it took, how little effort it was and how much our moods improved after. My top five songs to listen to whilst cleaning are ‘Paper Planes’ by MIA, ‘So What’ by Pink, ‘Sexy and I Know It’ by LMFAO, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey and ‘Run the World (Girls)’ by Beyonce.
Security is important – So your parents drop you off in an unfamiliar city with a flat full of strangers and suitcases full of your most treasured belongings. Scary, right? Unfortunately 1/3 of students at university do become victims of crime, mainly theft and burglary, and 1 in 5 of these student robberies occur within the first six weeks of the academic year. With the majority of the student population consuming ridiculous amounts of alcohol in the first term, it is not surprising that freshers experience unwanted intrusions into their flats/rooms late at night. Do not worry, there are a few things you can do to ensure safety:
• First, buy a DoorJammer. For those of you who have not yet come across this ingenious contraption, a DoorJammer is a portable door security gadget, no bigger than a smart phone. DoorJammer simply slots under any inward-opening door, jamming it shut and secure. 3 out of 5 burglaries occur when someone is at home/in residence, so it is important you prepare for this. DoorJammer’s clever engineering means that the more the intruder attempts to force entry by pushing on the door, the more the DoorJammer stays in place. There is no need to worry about the event of an emergency as the DoorJammer can be quickly released from your side of the door. It is also a great device for shared bathrooms with weak locks, or for if you want that extra privacy around exam time. You can buy one of these at http://www.door-jammer.co.uk
• Secondly, make sure that all valuables are well hidden when you leave your room. Some classic examples include hiding them in your underwear draw or perhaps under your mattress.
Flatmates – Don’t expect to immediately make lifelong friends, unfortunately, it is rarely like that. You will meet so many people in your first year; people you live with, others on your course and more through societies that you join. Some you will get on with and some you won’t, but that is what life is all about.
• If you find yourself living with someone who’s making things tricky, talk it out with them. Communication is the easiest and most effective way of solving problems. Leaving things will never result in ‘sorting themselves out,’ meanwhile the problem could turn worse.
• It can be harder to deal with problematic housemates if they’re your friends. You don’t want to nag them or lose their friendship, but not addressing the issue could also lead to this.