Cheap as chips

University Business explores the important issue of cooking on a budget for students and university caterers alike

Money saving with Sodexo

Sodexo managing director for commercial education, Paul Anstey, looks into how caterers can provide healthy yet inexpensive options

Every two years we conduct our University Lifestyle Survey and, since the first survey in 2004, we have seen a trend whereby students spend less on socialising and are eating less healthily as a result of increased financial pressures.

Our message to students is that healthy options need not be more expensive and we are working to ensure that in our restaurants we offer healthy, nutritious food which is good value for money.

A key change over recent years is how we communicate with students: social media now allows us to engage with our customers much more and in a more relaxed and informal manner. Over the last couple of years, we have developed a strategy to do just that and we believe we are leading the way in optimising social media channels at university campuses across the UK through channels such as Twitter and Facebook but also through the Student Survival Guide App, which is available now to download for iPhones and androids.

The app, endorsed by former England rugby world cup winner and Sodexo’s health and wellbeing ambassador Matt Dawson, is designed to help students prepare for university life away from home and is easily accessible. There are four main options covering healthy eating, recipes, top tips and useful information.

Preparing your own food from scratch is often more cost-effective than buying ready meals.

The recipes included on the app have been created by celebrity chef Paul Rankin who has been working with Sodexo for almost 10 years. He has created a range of easy-to-cook tasty recipes such as sticky ginger chicken, Spanish omelette, shepherd’s pie, Wild West pie and pitta pockets as well as some sweet recipes such as banana cake and pancakes.

Crucial for today’s student are money saving tips which offer guidance on how to shop for food wisely and how to keep the costs down, just simple tips like making a shopping list of what you really need and sticking to it, not shopping when hungry and cooking larger meals to share with other students or to freeze for another day.

Important and useful information such as contact details for student unions, travel information, basic first aid,and healthy lifestyle tips like drinking alcohol in moderation, a weight conversion table for ounces, grams and pounds are also included on the app. with Campuslife

Managing director Simon Horniblow explains the latest food innovations on screen

UEA is the latest university to run, the digital initiative that gets students cooking in the kitchen and learning about the latest trends and issues on food.

Comprising a website ( with videos filmed on partner university campuses, the project at UEA has already had keen student chefs show off their own recipes on camera, lead a shopping guide to the local area and has taken two international students on a surprise trip all across the Norfolk coast, visiting artisan cheese producers and getting knee deep in mud to pick samphire.

With a key focus on improving student experience in halls of residence, UEA joined the project this year with a clear goal, to improve their students’ knowledge of cooking and food.

International students often play a big part in the videos as many are keen to show off their home cuisine to the rest of the world and it’s proven to be a great way for both international and national students to mix. The project also regularly runs ‘international cook-offs,’ where teams of international and national students cook meals representing their home country in a bid to gain university judges’ votes and be crowned winner.

‘They’re always extremely popular,’ said Oliver Harrison, creative director at Campuslife, the company behind ‘The buzz you get when you walk into the kitchen and see all of these international students so excited to be filmed cooking their dishes. You come away from those filming days having eaten some amazing authentic international food.’

Another key focus for the project is money – how can we get students eating well without breaking the bank?
Well, it’s quite simply really: is full of video guides on how to make budgets go further and make meals much tastier, from simple advice, such as ‘never go shopping when you’re hungry’, through to encouraging students to leave the supermarkets and use local markets where ingredients can be a lot cheaper. also features lots of information on how students can use their own university’s facilities such as shops and on campus markets to save money in their weekly shop. With research conducted by last year revealing that supermarket shopping topped UK students’ monthly expenditure, it’s easy to understand why cooking on a budget is becoming a pressing issue.

Unlike other recipe websites, all of’s recipes are designed with the knowledge of what a student kitchen is like. We know that most students won’t have a lot of money to spend on ingredients or utensils, so all of our recipes are created by students who regularly cook these meals in their kitchens. You’ll often find colanders doubling up as steamers or microwaves being used to cook fish or vegetables.

The site has become a widely used database for student meals, picking up recipes from all over the globe, all submitted and presented by students at universities across the UK.


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