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What should you include on a student food shopping list in the UK? There are so many foods to consider so it can be difficult to decide which ones to choose.

Here at Newcastle University, we want students to have the best cooking experiences. From milk to vegetarian options, pasta to cheddar cheese, below you’ll find the ultimate food shopping list for students.

The ultimate food shopping list for students: an example

There are so many student recipes you can cook that are affordable, easy, tasty and healthy. But what should you buy? Here’s an example of what you might want to buy for a week of cooking at university:



  • butter
  • soya milk
  • cheddar cheese



  • beef mince
  • salmon
  • chickpeas
  • eggs



  • pasta
  • baked beans
  • rice
  • wholegrain bread



  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • onions



  • bananas
  • apples



  • coffee
  • olive oil


This could be what you might need to be in any one week. We’ve covered more information on food shopping list ideas below.

The long-lasting student food essentials you should have in your kitchen

These are the foods that every student should have. They’re important additions to any kitchen and will help you cook meals at university. Here are our top picks:

  • cooking oil. You’ll need cooking oil for frying, baking and roasting. It is useful in any type of cooking. Look for either olive, sunflower or vegetable oil
  • butter. Butter is a must-have for any sandwich. It can be used with any other types of bread and can also be used to fry meat and vegetables 
  • salt and pepper. Any chef needs salt and pepper in their kitchen. Using these seasonings can really improve the taste of your meal - just don’t use too much
  • sugar. Sugar can be added to anything - it’s useful in sauces, essential in baking and also goes well with a hot cup of tea or coffee
  • soy sauce. Soy sauce provides that salty bit of flavour for any dish, but works the best in Asian cuisine
  • spices. Different spices enhance the flavours of any meal. They can completely change the taste of a dish. You can use them while cooking or in a marinade for meat or tofu. We recommend purchasing mixed herbs, paprika, cumin and coriander to start with
  • tea and coffee. Essential for any student. A cup of tea or coffee in the morning can prepare you for the day ahead. They’re also great for when you have friends visiting
  • tomato puree/chopped tomatoes. Tins of chopped tomatoes and a tube of tomato puree is the basis of a lot of meals from a variety of cultures
  • garlic and onions. These form the basis of any main meal and provide a real depth to your flavours 
  • stock cubes. For any soup, stew, chilli, curry or pasta dish, a stock cube is important. Just dissolve the cube in boiling water and then add to whatever meal requires it in the recipe

Most of these items will last for a long time, so you might only have to buy them once every few months. 

Meat and vegetarian alternatives

Meat, fish and vegetarian alternatives make up the main part of most meals. Here are our top picks for any student:

  • beef or soya mince. Mince is an incredibly versatile meat type. It is mostly used in Asian food, Mexican recipes and traditional British cuisine. Vegetarian versions can also be found at most big supermarkets
  • chicken. Chicken can be used in any recipe, from soups to stews to more complex dishes. It goes very well when used in Italian cuisine. Just make sure you cook it properly
  • fish. We have a great range of fish available in the UK. Cod, salmon, trout - the list is endless. Fish and chips is a national dish in this country and enjoyed by many - why not try and make it yourself?
  • vegetarian alternatives. If you don’t eat meat or fish, or just want to try something new, supermarkets in the UK usually have an entire section dedicated to vegetarian alternatives to meat. You’re able to buy ham, bacon, even chicken nuggets - and it’s all vegetarian. Just check the package for the ‘vegetarian’ label
  • tofu. Another vegetarian alternative that deserves its own place in this list. Tofu is an incredibly adaptable alternative to meat. While it can be tricky to cook, it goes perfectly in Asian recipes and makes a great alternative to scrambled eggs

Milk, eggs and cheese…

No kitchen is complete without some milk for your tea or coffee. When you’re in the dairy aisle of a supermarket, look out for these recommendations:

  • milk. In the UK we have many different types on offer. You can buy cow’s milk or goat’s milk very easily 
  • plant-based milks. Alternatively, if you don’t want milk from a cow or goat, most UK supermarkets also stock soy milk, almond milk, oat milk and a bunch of others
  • eggs. The key ingredient in any omelette. Eggs are a great source of protein and can be made lots of different ways. Try making them fried, scrambled, boiled or even in a quiche
  • cheese. Everyone loves cheese. There are hundreds of different types and so many ways to use it when cooking. Cheese can be used to make grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese sauces for pasta and goes great as a pizza topping 
  • yoghurt. This delicious food comes in all different flavours, from plain to chocolate and everything in between

Breads, pastas, wholegrains and beans...

We can’t forget these great foods. They’re the best for filling out meals and adding energy into your diet.

  • bread. Every student needs bread - for toast, sandwiches or dipping in soup 
  • pasta. The basis of most Italian meals and really filling. Use for bolognese, carbonara, and macaroni and cheese
  • rice. Rice is a great staple and is also very filling and very cheap. Remember to try it as your boiling to check when it’s done (unless you have a rice cooker)
  • pulses, beans and grains. Items such as lentils, chickpeas, green beans, haricot beans, black beans and quinoa are easy to find, tasty and extremely cheap
  • potatoes. A popular traditional choice in British cuisine, potatoes are a staple you can use in anything. You can make them into any of these; chips, baked potatoes, potato dauphinoise, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, Hasselback potatoes, potato salad, potato gratin, potato wedges… 
  • cereal or porridge. Looking for a quick breakfast that’s tasty and nutritious? Explore the cereal aisle in your local supermarket and pick what interests you the most

Fruits and vegetables

A healthy and balanced diet should include a good amount of fruit and vegetables. Here are some essentials you should have in your shopping list, and they’re so good they don’t need an explanation:

  • apples 
  • bananas
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • mixed salad
  • mango
  • beansprouts 
  • carrots
  • onions

Why is it good to cook in student accommodation?

Of course, it’s much easier to go out to eat. There are so many incredible restaurants in Newcastle, all with different and exciting menus. So, what’s so good about cooking for yourself? 

  • cooking for yourself at university develops a valuable life skill that you can use at any time. When you find a rewarding job after university, you’ll need to be able to cook so that you can keep yourself healthy, energetic and happy 
  • cooking brings people together. What’s the best way to make friends with people? Cook for them, or even cook together. Sharing a meal is a great way to bond socially
  • cooking at university helps you become healthier. If you’re buying different kinds of grains, fruits and vegetables, you’ll be healthy. And a healthy student studies better
  • cooking at university is cheaper than eating out all the time. By planning your meals and allocating a budget for food, you can keep costs down. This gives you more money to spend on other things like cultural activities, books or even save in your bank for the future

Food preparation tips

It's easy to find cooking and food shopping a little confusing. There are so many different things to cook or buy. Here are some top tips to make sure you’re not spending too much money

  • If you buy fresh vegetables like kale or spinach that you won’t use before they go off, you can freeze them. This means you won’t waste anything and won’t have to buy more. Just make sure you blanch the veg before freezing it.
  • Shop for reduced items. A lot of supermarkets will reduce items that aren’t selling or are close to their sell-by date. These items will still be OK to eat and will be a lot cheaper than their new versions
  • Plan your meals. Planning your meals means you know what ingredients to buy. Without a plan, you may end up buying a random collection of whatever interests you which could cost a lot and might not last for a whole week
  • Cook in bulk. This means cooking a large amount of food and dividing it into portions over the week 
  • Most supermarkets will have their own version of a well-known branded product, such as beans or olive oil. Supermarket versions will always be cheaper but are usually still good quality 
  • At Newcastle University, you can make use of ResLife, a university-run program that offers life skills workshops where you can take part in cooking classes and other learning opportunities

Cooking food doesn’t have to be a difficult task. But when you’re living at university, cooking is not the only option available to you. For example, the city of Newcastle has a wonderfully large range of restaurants, cafes and food vendors you can visit if you’re feeling hungry. So, if you’re looking for a meal in the city, you’ll need a guide...

Explore the food experiences of Newcastle with our city guide

Studying at Newcastle University means you’ll live in a city with many diverse cultures and food opportunities. There are Chinese restaurants, Indian curry houses and traditional British gastro-pubs - plus so many other places to eat. There are also vegetarian restaurants and restaurants with Halal options.

Whether you’re eating in our eating out, make sure you’re prepared for living in Newcastle by downloading our city guide.

It includes information on the best restaurants, helpful tips on navigating the city and fun ideas for activities you can experience.

Click below to download.


Newcastle University's City Guide Download