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10 Top Tips

Exam period at university is one of the most stressful times for a student. In my first year of university I failed my first exam and I did not know where I went wrong. However, I am now in my last year of university and have gained the skills and knowledge on how to get through this ‘horrible’ period. I have 10 top tips that may work for you, in order to help you pass your exams with flying colours.

1.  Know your timetable

The first step to passing your exam is to familiarise yourself with your exam time table. Once it is released, look at it and make note of the time and date it will be on, where it is being held and where you will be sitting (seat number). Some students have more than one exam, so make note on how many days or weeks between each of them, as this will tell you what you need to revise first and how long you have between each one.

2. Know your topics you need to revise

Once you know when your exams are, make note of what topics and how many you need to know for your exam. This will not only make things easier when it comes to revision, but it can allow you to work out how long revision will take for each of them.

3. Creating a study plan

Once you know what topics you need to revise for each exam, you can then start a study plan. A detailed study plan is the best route as it will be better for you in the long run and will prevent unnecessary stress. There will be times where you do not stick to the study plan, but I still advise you to make one as it will help you structure your days coming up to the exam. It will also help you realise how much or how little you have to prepare for each exam.

When I failed my first exam at university, I made sure that I would never have to go through that stressful time again. For my study plan I started by looking at the exam timetable I made and then I assigned each lecture and topics to certain days of the week before my exam. For example, I study law and for my exams within law it required me to know at least five topics I learnt over the year. I would write down the five topics I felt strongest in and then I would assign myself at least 3-4 four days on each topic, going through the different cases, relevant law and any other things that were necessary for me to know in each topic. However, I understand that some students may not have the privilege of having 3-4 days on each topic because their timetable may be close together. This shows how important your study plan will be as you can work out how long you have on each topic. Another tip for this section is to note down what is your most productive time of day. All students differ, I prefer day time as that is the time I am least tired, but some students prefer to work in the evening. By knowing this, you can assign the biggest parts of your revision to that time of day, which will make you get the most out of your revision.

4. Choose your study space

The next step for you exam preparation is choosing your study space. All students differ when it comes to the location of revising. Personally, I prefer revising at home as sometimes I find my university library distracting as you may see friends and not get a lot of work done. If you are like me and prefer working at home, then the best tips I can give you is to clear any distracting things such as your mobile phone and make sure you have drinks and snacks around you to help you through your revision.

If you prefer the library, then make sure you go to the library at an early time to guarantee you can find a good study place that will fit all of your equipment such as your laptop, books, notepads and paper. Some universities allow you to book out rooms within the library to allow you to work in a quiet environment. I fully advise this as other people’s conversations can be very distracting when it comes to revision.

5. Turn of your mobile phone or any other smart devices

Your mobile phone will be one of the most distracting things when it comes to revision. I am guilty of going on Instagram or Twitter just to have a peak when I should be revising, so the best advice to give is to turn it off or put it out of arms reach. You can give yourselves breaks to go on your phone, but when its revision time the best thing you can do is switch it off.

6. Summarise each topic in your own words

This step is the most important as it is the actual revision process. Personally I found it useful to get a large A3 piece of paper and summarise each topic on there. I would make note of all the important information I needed to include in my answer for the exam so that I did not have to keep going through all my different books as it was all there in one place.

However, some students may differ, I remember some of my friends in my law class would just have little words on a card and just keep reading through them so it stuck in there head. This process is completely up to you and seeing what is best for you. Whichever way you choose, make sure you include everything you need.

7. Go over everything you know every day

This step may seem pointless because you already know it, but going over it will make sure it will stay in your memory for the exam. Going over what you already know the night before the exam is a risky task as you might find you do not actually know a particular part and will cause a lot of stress and a sleepless night, which is not what you need the night before the exam.

8. Go through past exam papers

Once you have completed your revision for a particular topic, the best thing to do is go through the past exam paper to put your knowledge to the test. This will help a lot as you can familiar yourself on how the exam questions are structured and you can time yourself to prepare yourself in terms of timing. Once you have done this, you can tick off that topic and work your way through the next one.

9. Help from lecturers

Relating to the previous step, once you have completed your past exam question, you can ask your tutor to go through it and see if there needs to be any improvements. Do not be scared to ask for help, as at the end of the day, they are there to help you.

10. Do your exam and relax!

My last step is the easiest one. If you stick to your plan and make sure you revise everything that is vital to your exam, then you should feel confident and less stressed for you exam. Sticking to your plan, will reduce any surprises and gaps in your knowledge and you will be able to walk out of the exam pleased and happy with the hard work you put in.

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Choosing the right accommodation for you

Finding the right accommodation is vital to enjoy your life at university and for many of us it will be the first time living away from home. It can be hard adapting to this new life style because of the independence it gives you. So I have come up with six main points in order to help you choose which accommodation will be best for you.

  1. Price
  2. Location
  3. Catered/Non Catered
  4. En Suite vs Shared Bathroom
  5. Number of people per flat
  6. Review from previous students

Price:

The price of accommodation is the first thing a student looks for when looking for their accommodation as this is what will take most of your student loan. University accommodation can be very expensive, especially if you have never paid for living costs before, so you need to decide if you want to pay extra for better living costs or save your money by living in a less quality accommodation.

Location:

Next is location, all universities are different in terms of their location. Some universities have buildings and campus’s scattered across parts of town, whereas some, have just one allocated building for the whole of the university. If you are attending a university where the buildings are scattered across the town, a good tip is to ask the university if they provide free bus fare to and from the building you need to travel too. If they don’t, then I would advise checking the prices of bus fares before choosing that particular accommodation or planning how long it would take to walk there.

Catered/Non-Catered:

There are positives and negatives about catered and non-catered accommodation. Non-catered accommodation is going to be substantially cheaper compared to cater. However, non-catered will mean you have to not only budget for your food shopping, but you will have to cook and come up with meals, which can take up a lot of studying (or in most cases partying) time. Catered accommodation takes away the stress of deciding what to make for dinner with the little ingredients you may have, because let’s face it; food shopping will be on your top list of jobs you hate doing. However, for a lot of students, saving money is one of the main objectives, so preferably non-catered accommodation is the best route.

En Suite vs Shared Bathroom:

Most university accommodation offer en suite rooms, which students tend to go for. The main issues with shared bathrooms involve waiting your turn for the shower, as well as, dealing with untidy flatmates. This option is completely up to your preference and budget. En suite bathrooms tend to be more expensive, so the choice between the two lies down to whether or not you will be able to cope sharing a bathroom with other people.

Number of people per flat:

Depending on the person you are, whether you are a social person, or prefer your personal space, this will help decide how many people you want to live in a flat with. Large flats have their negatives and positives. A positive aspect is you will meet and socialise with a lot more people compared to a small flat. This will help you through your university life as friendship is one of the main aspects to keep you going through the hard times. However, large flats can be very distracting when it comes to doing coursework and revision. They tend to be very noisy and untidy, but if you are a social person then these issues will not bother you.

Small flats are perfect if you like your personal space as it will not be noisy and will stay cleaner for longer. However, smaller flats tend to be more expensive, so if noise is really an issue for you, then be prepared to pay the price for it. It really comes down to your personal preference and who you are as a person, but remember, university is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, so I advise choosing a larger flat.

Reviews from previous students:

Speaking to students who have previously lived in the accommodation you are looking at is vital in helping you make a decision. They can give you an honest opinion on what it was like for them and they can give you advice on the positives and negatives about that particular property.

Some university accommodations have pages on Facebook, so it will be a lot easier for you to find students who have previously lived there. Make sure you speak to more than one student as all students opinions differ and that way you can assure you will find the right advice that targets your needs.

Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed)
  • 250g pack of mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves (chopped)
  • 200g bag of spinach
  • 300g tub light soft cheese
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 6 lasagne sheets

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/ gas mark 6
  2. Heat the olive oil in any frying pan you have
  3. Add all of the garlic to the frying pan and cook for one minute
  4. Add all of the mushrooms and thyme leaves and cook for three minutes until they both soften
  5. Add spinach leaves to the frying pan and continuously stir until the leaves wilt
  6. Stir in the soft cheese and 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese
  7. Add seasoning (salt and pepper)
  8. Get a baking dish and then add a quarter of the frying pan contents to it
  9. Place two lasagne sheets over the top of the mix
  10. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until all of the frying pan mix is used up
  11. Put the parmesan cheese over the top
  12. Bake for 35 minutes until the pasta is tender and golden

Cost of recipe:

(Please note these prices may change)

(Serves 4 portions)

Total:

Asda – £6.91

Tesco – £7.54

Sainsbury’s – £7.45

 

Smartphone apps to help you budget

Budgeting whilst at university can be a hard task to conquer. From rent payments and food shopping to nights out with friends, there are numerous things a university student has to pay for. Here are some useful apps that can be download on your smartphone to make budgeting a little less hard.

One of the best apps to buy to help you with your budgeting is your personal bank app. Whether you are with HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Barclays etc, they all have smartphone apps available for you to download. Not only does this make life easier to keep track on your balance, but it means you will be more wary of what you are spending your money on.

 

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On Trees Personal Finance (available on iOS and Android)

This app is totally free and has been set up by the company MoneySuperMarket.com. The App allows you to view all your bank accounts in one place and make it easier to see your out-goings and in-goings. It also allows you to split your spending into different categories such as food shopping, rent, bills, clothes etc.

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Wally (available on iOS and Android)

This app is totally free and lets you take control of your money. It allows you to balance your income and expenses, understand where your money goes, set and achieve your financial goals and set and stick to budgets.

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You Need a Budget YNAB (available on iOS and Android)

This app is totally free and allows you to quickly enter transactions on the go, as well as checking balances of different categories you have set up, before making a purchase. It also allows you to check your previous transactions for all of your accounts you may have.

Italian butter bean pasta

Ingredients:

  • Whole-wheat pasta (75g dried pasta per person)
  • Tomato sauce
  • 1 can of butter beans in water
  • 1 clove of garlic

 Optional but tasty

  • Mozzarella (torn)
  • Washed baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method:

1. Empty pasta into a sauce pan. Bring to boil. Simmer uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Make sure you stir occasionally and then drain and serve.

2. In a separate large pan, heat some cooking oil and add crushed garlic clove.

3. Drain water away from the butter beans and add the bean to the pan with the crushed garlic clove.

4. Add jar of tomato pasta sauce and stir until heated through

5. Add spinach. Once wilted, add pasta to sauce and stir through.

6. Remove pan from heat (if using mozzarella, tear up small sections and stir through the pasta

7. Serve and enjoy!

 Cost of recipe

(Please note these prices may change)

(Serves 6 portions)

Total:

Asda – £3.26

Tesco – £3.81

Sainsbury’s – £4.25

How to survive: Budgeting

 It can be a scary and worrying experience leaving home and fending for yourself while at university for the first time. One of the biggest challenges students will endure is keeping on top of their finances.

According to a recent study by ING Direct, 87% of teenagers admit they do not know how to manage their money. By not having the sufficient knowledge of financial budgeting can lead to financial difficulties and put student’s mental health at risk.

Karen Gray a careers coordinator at The Chauncy School in Hertfordshire feels that it is vital for university students to gain the knowledge of budgeting and borrowing before they leave secondary school. She said: “I do feel that an expert should be sent into each school, maybe linked to a bank who could help students manage their money and explain the banking system to them.” She also added “I feel that there should be a government initiative that is unbiased that could circulate around schools and teach lessons about this subject.”

New research conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, suggests that students who experience financial difficulties are more at risk of mental health conditions such as depression and alcohol dependency.

Dr Thomas Richardson, a visiting academic at the University of Southampton and Principal Clinical Psychologist at Solent NHS Trust, led the study. He said in the Community Mental Health Journal: “The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake. Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”

Students can lower the risk of stress and anxiety due to financial issues by starting the term with a plan and a realistic budget. Wendy Edmondson, a student support officer who is part of the student funding and financial support team at the University of Hertfordshire stated: “The first step to get in control of your spending is realising the difference between what you need and what you want.” She also added: “By working out your total income and working out your monthly outgoings, you can divide that by the weeks in the year and you will find the total amount of money you have for each week.”

Universities in and around the UK make helping students with financial issues one of their top priorities. Just one example is the University of Hertfordshire, in which it regularly holds budgeting workshops for all students.

In one particular workshop, Rianna Harrison-Barker, a project officer within the student funding and financial support area stated: “These workshops are put in place in the hope that making students aware of funding options, financial support available, and by training them in budgeting, offering debt counselling and financial drop-in sessions; we, as a team, can make our students financially savvy, more adept at coping with financial difficulties and essentially making them ready to face the big world following university.”

The most important advice Rianna Harrison-Barker gave in the workshop was too “cut out unnecessary spending”. For example, if a student purchases a regular coffee priced from £2.00 – £3.00 everyday compared to making their own within their halls or housing, they could save a total of an estimate £75 a month.

The budgeting workshop particularly focused on food shopping and ways for students to lower the costs of it. Both Wendy Edmondson and Rianna Harrison-Barker emphasised on not buying premium branded food. By buying supermarkets own brands it is possible for students to cut the price of their food shopping bill, by nearly half. Wendy Edmondson said: “Most of the time, the supermarkets own brands are made in the same factory as the premium brands. By making these small changes with your food shopping, it can allow you to have extra money for things that you want to spend your money on.”

 

Sophie’s Story: ‘My addiction to spending’

 University of Bournemouth student Sophie Riddle, age 21, has suffered with an addiction of over spending throughout her life at university. Within the first two months of her first year at university she was in her overdraft by £2000. This led her to nearly failing her first year of study.

 At 18 years old, Sophie made the biggest decision of her life, to move away to university in Bournemouth to study Sociology. She said: “I always knew I wanted to move away from home when applying for university, I’ve never been the stay at home kind of girl.” Sophie in fact moved away from her hometown in Ware with a friend, who was attending the same university as her. However, two months into her first year of study, things quickly spiralled out of control in regards to her mental health and her financial issues.

“I didn’t think anything was wrong at first. I thought everyone was doing the same thing as me. I spent way over six hundred pounds within fresher’s week which I thought was normal. I bought loads of new clothes in the first week as I didn’t live far from the shopping centre. I also spent a lot of money on food.”

 Sophie was privileged enough to have help with her financial fees from her parents. They would often transfer her money if she was struggling to live on her normal income. She stated: “I think that’s how my addiction started. I had no worry at that time about over spending because I knew my mum or dad would transfer me the money if I needed it.”

Sophie admitted to lying to her parents on what she was spending her money on. She said “I told my mum and dad that most of my money went on essentials such as: university books, food, bills etc.” She also added: “At the time I didn’t care that I was lying to my parents, all I knew is that I couldn’t miss a night out with my new friends!”

However, after all the over spending and the lies, by December Sophie had reached into her overdraft by £2000. She had reached rock bottom, being late for lectures – or even worse, missing them. She said: “At one point, I was going out every night, even if I had a 9am lecture the next morning. I would always be late.”

Sophie’s mental health deteriorated due to stress and anxiety about her over spending. She said “I remember when the date to pay my bills was arriving, I was so stressed and I couldn’t even afford to do my weekly food shopping. I felt scared, anxious and I felt like I had no one to go to.” Sophie picked up the courage to tell her parents what had happened and how she couldn’t stop spending. She went to see a doctor who advised her to go to counselling sessions.

“At first I was so embarrassed, I mean I was a university student going to counselling for spending too much money, isn’t that what students are supposed to do? After a few sessions, I realised I had nothing to be embarrassed about, I had a problem, which I wanted to fix. My parents thankfully recovered me out of my overdraft on the terms that they manage my money and I use my new knowledge from my counselling sessions to try not to over spend.”

 When Sophie went back to university, her friends helped her follow a strict budget, prioritising the most important payments such as bills and rent. She said “Writing down everything I needed to pay each month made me realise how much id over spent before. It instantly made me feel less worried, because I knew that this budget still allowed me to go out, but not to the extent that I was before.”

Sophie is now in her third year at university and graduating with a predicted grade of an Upper Second-Class Honours degree. She said “I cannot believe it, I never thought that this would ever happen. I cannot thank my friends, parents and most of all the University for helping me with my problems.” She also added “I will always be a shopaholic, but I now have the skills and knowledge to allow for that. My biggest advice to students starting university would be to stick to a budget. It might not sound fun, but it has helped me throughout my life at university, I just wish I knew all this before starting my first year.”

How to survive: Exams

Exam period at university is one of the most stressful times for a student. In my first year of university I failed my first exam and I did not know where I went wrong. However, I am now in my last year of university and have gained the skills and knowledge on how to get through this ‘horrible’ period. I have 10 top tips that may work for you, in order to help you pass your exams with flying colours.

1.  Know your timetable

The first step to passing your exam is to familiarise yourself with your exam time table. Once it is released, look at it and make note of the time and date it will be on, where it is being held and where you will be sitting (seat number). Some students have more than one exam, so make note on how many days or weeks between each of them, as this will tell you what you need to revise first and how long you have between each one.

2. Know your topics you need to revise

Once you know when your exams are, make note of what topics and how many you need to know for your exam. This will not only make things easier when it comes to revision, but it can allow you to work out how long revision will take for each of them.

3. Creating a study plan

Once you know what topics you need to revise for each exam, you can then start a study plan. A detailed study plan is the best route as it will be better for you in the long run and will prevent unnecessary stress. There will be times where you do not stick to the study plan, but I still advise you to make one as it will help you structure your days coming up to the exam. It will also help you realise how much or how little you have to prepare for each exam.

When I failed my first exam at university, I made sure that I would never have to go through that stressful time again. For my study plan I started by looking at the exam timetable I made and then I assigned each lecture and topics to certain days of the week before my exam. For example, I study law and for my exams within law it required me to know at least five topics I learnt over the year. I would write down the five topics I felt strongest in and then I would assign myself at least 3-4 four days on each topic, going through the different cases, relevant law and any other things that were necessary for me to know in each topic. However, I understand that some students may not have the privilege of having 3-4 days on each topic because their timetable may be close together. This shows how important your study plan will be as you can work out how long you have on each topic. Another tip for this section is to note down what is your most productive time of day. All students differ, I prefer day time as that is the time I am least tired, but some students prefer to work in the evening. By knowing this, you can assign the biggest parts of your revision to that time of day, which will make you get the most out of your revision.

4. Choose your study space

The next step for you exam preparation is choosing your study space. All students differ when it comes to the location of revising. Personally, I prefer revising at home as sometimes I find my university library distracting as you may see friends and not get a lot of work done. If you are like me and prefer working at home, then the best tips I can give you is to clear any distracting things such as your mobile phone and make sure you have drinks and snacks around you to help you through your revision.

If you prefer the library, then make sure you go to the library at an early time to guarantee you can find a good study place that will fit all of your equipment such as your laptop, books, notepads and paper. Some universities allow you to book out rooms within the library to allow you to work in a quiet environment. I fully advise this as other people’s conversations can be very distracting when it comes to revision.

5. Turn of your mobile phone or any other smart devices

Your mobile phone will be one of the most distracting things when it comes to revision. I am guilty of going on Instagram or Twitter just to have a peak when I should be revising, so the best advice to give is to turn it off or put it out of arms reach. You can give yourselves breaks to go on your phone, but when its revision time the best thing you can do is switch it off.

6. Summarise each topic in your own words

This step is the most important as it is the actual revision process. Personally I found it useful to get a large A3 piece of paper and summarise each topic on there. I would make note of all the important information I needed to include in my answer for the exam so that I did not have to keep going through all my different books as it was all there in one place.

However, some students may differ, I remember some of my friends in my law class would just have little words on a card and just keep reading through them so it stuck in there head. This process is completely up to you and seeing what is best for you. Whichever way you choose, make sure you include everything you need.

7. Go over everything you know every day

This step may seem pointless because you already know it, but going over it will make sure it will stay in your memory for the exam. Going over what you already know the night before the exam is a risky task as you might find you do not actually know a particular part and will cause a lot of stress and a sleepless night, which is not what you need the night before the exam.

8. Go through past exam papers

Once you have completed your revision for a particular topic, the best thing to do is go through the past exam paper to put your knowledge to the test. This will help a lot as you can familiar yourself on how the exam questions are structured and you can time yourself to prepare yourself in terms of timing. Once you have done this, you can tick off that topic and work your way through the next one.

9. Help from lecturers

Relating to the previous step, once you have completed your past exam question, you can ask your tutor to go through it and see if there needs to be any improvements. Do not be scared to ask for help, as at the end of the day, they are there to help you.

10. Do your exam and relax!

My last step is the easiest one. If you stick to your plan and make sure you revise everything that is vital to your exam, then you should feel confident and less stressed for you exam. Sticking to your plan, will reduce any surprises and gaps in your knowledge and you will be able to walk out of the exam pleased and happy with the hard work you put in.

How to survive: Cooking

Saying good-bye to mum’s dinners and saying hello to a student cooking life can be a difficult challenge if you have never had cooking experience – or never needed too. Are you struggling to come up with meals that are quick, easy and cheap? Well look no further as this blog post will give you some tips, ideas and advice to take this unnecessary stress off your shoulders.

Keep it simple

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Let’s face it, you will not be cooking five star gourmet meals, or using fancy appliances like they do in restaurants. All you will need is basic equipment such as: one or two pots and pans and a few utensils. When interviewing a variety of students a particular issue they encountered was buying more cooking equipment than needed. Sophie Riddle, who studies sociology at the University of Bournemouth, said: “When I started university I wasted so much money buying lots of cooking equipment that I never used, in fact I ended up selling most of it on eBay.”

Keeping it simple will not only help your bank balance, but it will allow more storage (of the little you have anyway) for more important things – your food.

Say ‘no’ to cook books

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Cook books are a waste of money – especially when you need to fork out lots of your student loan on university books! Take full advantage of your free wifi by using useful cooking websites such as jamieoliver.com, BBC Good Food and AllRecipes.com. These websites are perfect for students because the recipes are easy to follow and it also shows you where to buy the cheapest ingredients from (please note that the websites that are mentioned have not paid me to mention them). 

Become BFFL with your freezer

Although buying fresh food seems like the healthier option, it will result in taking numerous trips to your local supermarket and even throwing out of date food away. Bethan Gray, studying mathematics teaching at the University of Brighton stated “In my first year, I wasted so much food because I didn’t freeze it; I could have saved so much more money and time if I put most of it in the freezer.” She also added “Now what I do is at the beginning of the week I make a huge meal which I then freeze. I was fed up coming home from a long day of lectures and having to cook a whole meal from scratch. Now I simply get it out of the freezer and defrost it in the microwave and enjoy!”

Staying Healthy on a budget

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While it may seem easier and tempting to reach out for pot noodles and microwave meals, as a student you can still have a nutritious diet without breaking the bank.  In fact, in the long run students who plan their meals for each week rather than buying as they go along end up saving more money. Buying food that’s versatile and can go a long way is crucial to save money and stop you being bored of the same old meals day in, day out.

Cristi May, a student studying psychology at the Royal Holloway said “I have always tried to have a healthy diet, and choosing to go to university I thought would jeopardise that.  However, although you can take a trip to Asda and buy a packet of doughnuts for two pounds, you can swap that by buying things such as peppers and mushrooms!” She also added “Mushrooms are my go to food for cooking as I can incorporate it into literally anything”.

The key point to eating healthy on a budget is swapping the unnecessary crisps and chocolate (which may be hard) for things such as fruit and vegetables.  By doing this can extremely enhance your university experience by giving you more energy, reduce stress levels and even help you overcome the fresher’s flu (which we have all suffered at least once at our time at university).

Lovely left overs

Think before you throw! Being crafty with your food is the clever way to save money. With a little prep your leftovers can create delicious meals.

If you enjoy a roast on Sunday, the remains of the joint can make a great curry or a delicious risotto later in the week and there may even be enough for a sandwich or two. Sunday roast is the perfect time to do it, when you might have a bit more time to plan your weekly meals.

Last but not least… Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Just remember, no professional chef got to where they were without making mistakes along the way. Making meals that end up being a complete disaster isn’t the end of the world. Experimenting with food will ensure your diet will never seem like a chore.  It is also the perfect opportunity to bond with your fellow housemates. Cooking meals together not only creates friendships, but it can allow you to get recipes and ideas to use for yourself.