The students are in town, clogging up the supermarkets in confused packs. First years who didn't get into a hostel due to lack of foresight, money or a general cock up at the Uni end of things, or second years flatting for the first time since vowing never to stay in halls again because the food was so bad (you left My Food Bag at home with your blankie).
So here it is (having nutured 2 kids through tertiary education and flats):
The Student's Shopping Guide
Before you go to the supermarket, sit down with your other 5 flatmates and decide what you are going to buy. This is essential to the sanity of everyone else at New World who can't get past all 6 of you having a group think in the cereal aisle. Be especially wary of middle aged women trying to get past you; they have a tendency to let the trolley run over the back of your jandals, and pause whilst leaning heavily on the handle, inspecting the coffee specials. Or pretending to.
Whilst you are about it, catch a bus to Pak n Save in the burbs. You can't afford New World Metro right now; not until you are a law grad interning at Bell Gully. You will also change your career option 15 times over before you finish uni. So just get on that bus now and learn to love the stick man.
Back to the cereal aisle. Froot Loops are not cereal, neither are Coco Pops. They are fabulous for eight year olds birthday treats, and the munchies, but as you are 18 and don't know where to get weed in your new uni city, you will have to find something else. That gluten free cereal at $8 a box your family indulged you with is not a goer, so ditch the faddiness and buy porridge oats. Cheap as. Fills you up. Be Scottish. Macbeth wasn't gluten intolerant. He was never angry and bloated. Well, maybe, just a bit.
In your first flat, you will have a shelf each in both the fridge and the pantry. Your flatties will steal your favorite foods and leave you with yellowing broccoli and an empty marmite jar. If there is one thing you should buy over and above your budget, it's laxatives and Fix and Fogg chocolate peanut butter. Mix the two and leave on your shelf. This will out the thieves. Also buy extra toilet paper, but not the 3 ply awesome, silken- to- the- touch stuff at home. Get the budget stuff. They need to suffer.
You will probably buy huge packs of noodles, cheese and corn chips. This is standard fare for students. You will put on the Fresher Five kgs within days of flatting and it-will-never-go-away. Ever. Work out if you like the look and shop accordingly; you might well look better with it. In which case, Trident and Dorito and Rolling Meadow are your friends. Embrace them, and get bigger pants. Your mother WILL mention it when you go home for midterm break but it will be cloaked in solicitous terms of 'Are you eating properly?' whilst making you a salad.
Alcohol: forget craft beers, even if you are mature enough to grow a lumberjack beard. Ranfurly is within your budget. Student years are no time for snobbery, unless you ditch your arts degree and go brewing instead. Excellent choice by the way.
Vegetables. Yes, those things you avoided for years and your mother spent countless wasted hours making smiley faces with, in the fruitless hope that you wouldn't get scurvy. You will think that potatoes are vegetable. They are. They are also best served deep fried with grated cheese (refer fresher five). Try some green things. Bottles of Mountain Dew don't count.
And whilst we are at it, fruit. Any is good. If you have a predilection for blueberries, you can have 2. That will deal to the entire grocery budget for the week.
Let's get personal now. Shampoo, conditioner and soap; use them. It will improve your chances of coupling at a dimly lit party. If you throw in a plastic bottle of Boysencider, you are quids in, with anyone. Unless they have their period, in which case give them tampons. They are so expensive; she will love you forever. Better than flowers or Michael Hill zircons. Anything is better than Michael Hill jewellery, to be fair. And before any guys here say 'But I need money for condoms!' let's get real here. They will go crusty in your warehouse stationery computer work station well before honours year, when if you very lucky, someone might give you the opportunity you've been waiting for. It probably won't involve prophylactics, but if you've kept your Python in check, you might just turn your deep dream into reality. In the meantime, hand over your share of the 'intimates' grocery budget to your female flatmates. It's a bitch running out.
Cleaning materials. I'm not going to spend any time here; you will not clean the toilet ever, the shower will grow species of mould you never knew existed, not even in Micro 101, and your sheets will crust over. You will hope pointlessly, that having a roster for chores means that your flatmates will stick to it. Especially if you used Comic Sans. That you used Comic Sans, in a flat full of design students, is the biggest reason your roster will be laughed at. You may as well pack up and find a bedsit now. Same goes for Lucida Handwriting.
I think that about covers it. You will at some point run out of food. Here are a couple of recipes my fellow students ate to get by, back in the day when faced with the same.
Cabbage Sammies: a large raw cabbage leaf between two slices of budget white bread. Or vice versa if the bread is in short supply because your flatmate made toast with remainder whilst stealing your Fix and Fogg chocolate spread.
Swotting Stew: hot water with a pinch of mixed dried herbs, salt and pepper.
And bam, the fresher five melts away, just-like-that!
Enjoy your first year of fending for yourselves. Next year, you'll have it sussed. Or sautéed.
Love, your Mum x