October is the time of year when thousands of fledgling students fly the nest for colleges and universities around the country. They have passed the required exams to go on to the next stage their academic studies, but how well prepared are they for the rest of their university or college existence, especially in the kitchen?
Learning the basics
Student cooking is no longer all about baked beans and Pot Noodles. It is a good idea to teach your departing offspring a few basic meals to help him or her get by in the first few weeks, and even to impress future housemates or love interests. Simple meals, such as spaghetti bolognaise, hot pots, pizza and roast chicken are easy to teach and can be written down in a notebook as a reminder when they are in their new kitchen wondering what to cook.
Other seemingly basic cookery tasks, such as boiling an egg, peeling and preparing vegetables and making gravy are also key things to learn. There are hundreds of basic recipe books out there, as well as websites giving a range of healthy, yet easy-to-cook meal ideas via recipes, blogs and tutorial videos.
Taking the basics
Student kitchens are not always known for their plethora of pots and pans, so it is wise to send your student loved one off with a few basic kitchen items. These might include a couple of saucepans and casserole dishes, storage jars, wooden spoons and spatulas, a can and bottle opener, plates, mugs and bowls, cutlery, kettle, tea towels, egg whisk, chopping board and vegetable knife.
Don't forget the cleaning stuff - cloths, spray cleaners, dusters, bin bags and sponges - and pray they actually decide to use them, rather than keep them neatly in their packets until the end of term. Finally, pack them a starter larder with various canned foods and other store cupboard staples, such as rice, pasta, couscous, stir-in sauces, stock cubes, chopped tomatoes, oats, cereal and flour.
Budgeting and planning
Budgeting is a very important skill to learn, and this can make the difference between an economically solvent term and a miserably skint one. It's great to go out to eat, but cooking at home for the majority of meals will save a fortune in the longer term. Teach your offspring to look out for supermarket bulk-buy deals and base their meals around their bargain finds. Show them how to use the internet to compare prices for everyday food and drink items.
Agreeing to plan meals and share cooking duties in a shared house will help keep costs down and encourage the group to bond over the dinner table. Costs can be cut even further by going vegetarian for a few weeks; you may even prefer it and discover lots of new, delicious tastes. Bulk cookingmeals to divide into portions and freeze is another great way to plan ahead and make life easier when studying gets more intense around exam time.
A few treats
Leaving for college or university is exciting, but can also be daunting, so a few home comforts would go down very well. Nice foodstuffs, such as chocolate, alcohol, coffee and fancy crisps would be very gratefully received, along with a home-made cake or some biscuits to help them break the ice with new neighbours or alleviate any homesickness pangs. If your student loves cooking already, a few herbs and spices, baking ingredients and cake or muffin tins would also make a nice addition.