Back on a Budget: The lost art of eating as a student

I’ve become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

I always remember the first time I was student. An older relative gave me a dog-eared ‘Student Cookbook’. It was basic to say the least. One of the recipes was ‘beans on toast’. 

Luckily, as a young person, you’re meant to rebel against 'those adults’. So, I left said book at home (along with my adolescence) and went forth on a quest into adult life - and exploring cooking my own way. 

A Student Cookbook of yesteryear, not the book I received as a younger student.

A Student Cookbook of yesteryear, not the book I received as a younger student.

A few years later, I can now whip up a whole range of exciting things in the kitchen: chillies, curries, roasts, caramelised onion and blue cheese tarts - the list goes on. 

But, now I’m a student once more (studying Journalism, no less!) and back on a budget, I want to carry on developing my culinary skills, but without breaking the bank. I thought I’d write about what I find: what works, what doesn’t; where to find recipes - and what to avoid.

As I’m studying next to the BBC in Salford, I thought I’d start on the BBC Food Site (that way, if I don’t like it, I can always go and have a word them about it - or throw the food over their building*). 

The Budget Recipe and Ideas Collections seemed like the best place to start. Featuring recipes from Gino D’Campo and Greg Wallace (no buttery biscuit bases sadly). The Sausage and Bean Casserole caught my eye - and after a trip to Morrisons, I was in the kitchen and ready to cook! 

Where better to start than the Beeb?

Where better to start than the Beeb?

The Casserole is a basic and hearty meal. Tinned tomatoes, chicken stock and parsley make a simple, but tasty combination (I prefer fresh to dried herbs - but if you want to tighten the budget, go ahead and get dried). 

I used Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages, as they were to hand in the freezer, but I’m sure meat varieties would work just as well: a good old Lincolnshire, or, if you’re feeling frisky, a spicy infusion would enhance the taste buds. 

To ensure the onions were extra tender and sausages infused with all the flavours, I used my slow cooker (£9 from Asda - bargain!) and let it cook for several hours. This also left me free to learn the shorthand alphabet.

Taking it real slow: cooking with a slow cooker.

Taking it real slow: cooking with a slow cooker.

The recipe itself was good. I found the 500ml of stock left the recipe a little watery (even after hours in the slow cooker). I remedied this with a good helping of tomato puree. A glug of leftover red wine could also add a further rustic flavour to it.

Whilst not a ‘pulling out all the stops’ dish you’d use to impress the other half, or friends, I would definitely make this casserole again. Now that the nights are drawing in, the portions I put in the freezer will help see me through winter and beyond.

A winter warmer perfect for cold night in.

A winter warmer perfect for cold night in.

What next? 

I’m eyeing up the Mushroom Stroganoff from the same BBC collection. Stay tuned for more!  

…and if you have any recommendations, let me know! I’m always up for trying new recipes. Comment below! 

*NB, I will be doing neither of these.