Being a student at Oxford is busy occupation. Between the masses of lectures, tutorials and vain attempts to hold down a social life, its no wonder we struggle to find time to cook.
Having to rely on college catering is a risky business. Chaotic schedules of rehearsals, classes, training sessions, and the occasional nap often result in students missing meal times, and having the unenviable task of throwing together something edible at the end of a long day.
Being all too aware of this problem, I asked myself, is there a better way for students to eat?
A possible solution may lie in the purchase of a slow-cooker.
Over the vacation Santa was kind enough to leave me one under my tree which, despite making me feel very old, did make me quite excited at the thought of coming home in the freezing evenings to a steaming pot of delicious casserole or spaghetti bolognaise.
For those of you who don’t know, a slowcooker cooks your meal – slowly – throughout the day, saving you the trouble of preparing a meal when you get home. You simply chop up all your ingredients in the morning, leave it to steam for six-eight hours, then open up the pot to consume a tasty meal.
While this does involve a degree of preparation in the morning, the cooking itself is a one-step, chop-and-chuck process, and the machine is very simple to use.
There’s also a lot of variety with the meals you can make. While my first thoughts were only of hot stews to ward off the cold, popular recipes include curries, soups, lasagne, chicken, and even cakes if you’re feeling adventurous. They’re also great for those seeking healthier alternatives, eliminating the temptation to order food in, or wander down to the nearest chippy in search of sustenance.
Slow-cookers are also compatible with a student budget, with prices ranging between £10-£30 for a small model. While using it does force you to buy your own ingredients, the lengthy steaming process can tenderize less expensive cuts of meat, allowing for money to be saved on ingredients. They also use significantly less electricity than an oven, and leftover portions can be refrigerated, ready to eat at a later date.
Inevitably the biggest downside of slowcookers is the amount of time they take up. Preparing meals does involve that little bit of extra work in the mornings, which limits their usefulness for those inclined to sleep-in as much as they can.
Additionally, the planning of meals alongside the weekly food shop takes up more time than simply attending college meals.
Nevertheless, they do offer a refreshing sense independence for anyone finding themselves rushing around in the evenings, and can be an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to eat well on a budget.