10 student cooking hacks & recipes with Co-op #ad

Student carrying Co-op shopping bag by The Brick Castle

Picture: The Brick Castle

The university student diet is legendary…and legendarily bad. Instant noodles, cheap takeaways, ketchup counting as one of the 5 a day. As parents we want to send them off into the amazing university experience with kitchen and shopping skills that will ensure they eat well and remain healthy while staying within a budget. 

A few weeks ago some our BritMums parents marked the landmark departures of their offspring to university with a home-cooked farewell meal as part of our paid project with Co-op, focusing on the role of food bringing families together and appreciating the value of a home-cooked meal. (This post is sponsored by Co-op.)

Once the students have settled into the swing of university life, it was time for their families to pay a visit in their new digs. Here was a chance for our anxious parents to spy on the contents of their children’s kitchen cupboards as well as gauge how well they’ve been eating since leaving home. Families cooked a healthy meal from a selection of student-friendly recipes compiled for the Co-op by the popular MOB kitchen, a site which features recipes and one-minute videos about easy, delicious healthy food on a budget.

Here’s what our BritMums families ate…and what they discovered about university cooking.

A Mexican meal…for mum

Jenny from The Brick Castle headed to Sheffield to visit her daughter Holly who has become so comfortable fending for herself that she turned the tables and whipped up a magnificent Mexican meal of quesadillas for her mum instead. Her cupboards were full of healthy ingredients like couscous and herbs (with the exception of a pot of instant noodles for emergencies), and she’s become pretty savvy at budgeting so she has enough for the occasional treat. Mum relished the opportunity to spend time over a meal with her daughter, she met her flatmates, and even discovered what her daughter needs for Christmas.

Student cooking hack #1: Don’t be afraid to experiment when substituting ingredients. Holly’s grown confident enough to substitute ingredients when she doesn’t have exactly what a recipe calls for — a valuable skill that keeps you from having to run to the shops for one missing ingredient. 

Student cooking hack #2: Buy strategically to stretch recipes and leftovers to add variety and flavour — herbs to add in, potatoes to bulk it out. The roasted vegetables in their dish could be blended into a pasta sauce or served with rice. “We bought a huge block of my daughter’s chosen cheese, so that she can use the ‘leftovers’,” says Brick Castle.

Student recipe favourite: Loaded Veggie Quesadillas – a meal featuring roasted veggies you like, wrapped up in a tortilla

Check out the video on Brick Castle’s post, which includes Holly’s additional tips for saving money on food

Holly cooking a meal

At work in the kitchen. Picture: The Brick Castle


Meat-free meals & more

Meanwhile Emma and 3 and family arrived in Plymouth to pay a visit to hockey-mad daughter Chloe. Chloe prefers home-cooked over microwave meals. She’s made a bolognese but the large batch meant she was having it for days!

Cheesy pancetta potatoes from MOB Kitchen

Cheese pancetta potatoes from MOB Kitchen cost £7.30 to make! Picture: Courtesy of MOB Kitchen

To inject some variety, mum Emma came with some cheesy pancetta potatoes, from a MOB recipe, for the freezer. “Whilst I was cooking [her brother] Dyl kept asking why I was making things for Chloe and that she should be doing it for herself!” Emma reveals. “I have promised to remind him of this when he is a fresher!” Mum brought her some home-cooked meals to keep in the freezer, and they also made a vegan chocolate chilli from a recipe MOB Kitchen while she was there. Chloe will be adding it to her culinary repertoire.

Student cooking hack #3: Everyone’s learned the value of one-pot meals, which are easy and save on effort and expense of washing up. The chili Emma and 3 made is the perfect example.

Student cooking hack #4: Use the freezer. Cooking big batches is efficient and money-saving, and by freezing the extra amounts in one-serving portions, students can quickly reheat meals and still enjoy variety.

Student recipe favourite: Cheesy pancetta potatoes — these use a few basic ingredients and a few herbs to make a delicious all-in-one meal. 

Student recipe favourite: Vegan chocolate chilli — This twist on the meaty version is rich and delicious without the cost of beef or pork. 

See their trip to Chloe’s uni. 


Tasty food for socialising and bonding

Finally, Zenas Suitcase paid a visit to her son who’s in his second year at university. This year he’s living in a shared house rather than halls of residence so mother and son were able to take over the kitchen and indulge in a bit of quality bonding whilst preparing a delicious MOB kitchen meal of Moroccan style chicken and chickpea bake which as you can see from her Instagram post looked really tasty. Much to mum’s surprise, her son even made a start on the washing-up afterwards without being prompted! 

Instagram pic of moroccan tray bake by Zena's Suitcase

Just…yum. Picture: Zena’s Suitcase

Student food hack #5: Living in a shared house or flat can actually mean students eat well, as they can cook their favourites in the communal kitchen.

Student food hack #6: As Zena and her son discovered, meals are a great bonding time — with friends as well as family. By learning to cook simple tasty meals and sharing them friends, university students are creating opportunities to socialise and unwind.

Student recipe favourite: Moroccan-style Chicken and Chickpea Tray Bake — One of the beauties of this dish is that it all happens in a tray in the over but comes out as a full meal on its own. 

Your student can get a discount at Co-op

It’s really great to see our extended BritMums family getting on so well at university and planning and cooking nutritious meals with the help of their TOTUM cards (previously NUS Extra) getting them an extra 10% off at certain Co-Operative stores nationwide. Use the store finder and click on “More about this store” to see if your nearest one accepts the card.

We wish them all the best for the rest of their time at uni and hope all this cooking stands them in good stead for preparing healthy meals for their friends and family in the future! 


See how the families started cooking with their uni-bound student at home!


This post is part of the paid sponsorship campaign with Co-op. Bloggers have been compensated for their time and provided with a Co-op food shop. All opinions are their own. 

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  1. 22 November 2018 / 07:44

    Being able to visit my son as he starts the university year is really important to me. He’s notoriously bad at communicating so it’s a great way to see how he’s getting on. I can offer him very little when it comes to his course but I can help him with the skills he needs to look after himself. The chicken tray bake was a big hit and I think it’s something he’ll be cooking again

  2. 22 November 2018 / 14:50

    It was excellent fun to take part and I am a lifelong supporter of the Co-op. Thank you for having us. I will definitely try and do this with all of our kids because it was an amazing evening and really put my mind at rest about how she is coping – and what she is eating! I was pretty chuffed to discover she already had her own Co-op card and Totum card too! 🙂