The hopeless student's guide to cooking for yourself

January 29, 2016
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One of the most defining student traits is being really, really poor and not having enough money to eat properly. You know the stereotypes: Vegemite toast; crackers and tea; hitting up Mum's house on the weekend for an industrial-scale surplus of leftovers. Unfortunately, these choices get you a promo display in the Museum of Digested Human Folly. Luckily, there are ways that you can simultaneously eat healthy and remove yourself from the exhibition.

Buy a frying pan from an op shop

Cooking at home is easy if you have staple utensils. It’s stupidly easy to find said utensils: simply bypass Myer and go straight to Good Sammy's. You can find mint four-slice toasters for eight bucks. You can also pick up frying pans on the cheap, and once you've got a frying pan, you're basically halfway to being a cook. Provided that you have a stovetop, one pan can make all the difference. Baking trays won't hurt, either - then you can make quality scones and impress everybody.

Virtually all recipes ever are online - free

"But wait," you say, urging me to slow down. "I don't know how to bake scones." Oh, man. That's embarrassing. Fortunately, there are thousands of how-to guides on Google. Probably millions if we count all languages.

 I can't stress this enough: every documented recipe in history is online and completely free. I don't want to sound like a grandfather who just discovered the internet, but that shit is actually amazing. You can also buy big, tome-y recipe books from op shops for like $3 too.

Cook vegetables into deliciousness

Like HECS and the great beyond, eating your greens is an unavoidable part of life. The thing about vegetables is that each one can be cooked in such a way that it’s no longer a vegetable but something better. Roasted capsicum and tomatoes, for instance, are almost as healthy as normal capsicums and tomatoes except they're actually tasty. Carrot, celery, bok choy and zucchini are all things that fare well being stewed or simmered. You can simply put a potato on a warm surface and it will taste better. When it comes to veggies, just try out different ways of blasting them with heat.

Do not fear bargain meat

If you check out supermarkets or your local butchers early in the week, you'll likely find off cuts packaged up for cheap. The off cuts look like perfectly good chunks of meat, except they're priced so low it's vaguely suspicious. Good news, everyone, they're fine. Buy them.

Meat is a pretentious game all about cuts from the finest part of the animal, meaning that shoulder meat and whatever else is less valuable. That meat is still valuable to your body though, and getting iron in your blood cells is all that matters. Apologies to vegans for the alienation.

Oil, onion, garlic and wholemeal bread

If you have these four things in your inventory at all times, you can basically breeze your way all the way through to master chef. The mastery of cuisine rests on two mighty pillars: onion and garlic. If you've ever gone to a restaurant and thought, “Oh man, how do they make it this good?" I promise you that they just put onion and garlic in the frying pan first. Add a drizzle of oil to the mix and you've got a basic seasoning for any ingredient imaginable right there. Add ginger for a true tastebud experience. As for bread: wholemeal. Buy wholemeal. End of discussion.

Jonathon Davidson

Jonathon is studying journalism at Murdoch University in Perth.