Student Grub Guide

Feature by Ruth Marsh | 12 Oct 2009
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Let’s assume that you haven’t broken with tradition and have blown that alarming lump sum of a Student Loan that appeared in your bank account on a heady two weeks of premium Czech lager, Thai banquets and Kettle Chip mountains. But that doesn’t mean the next nine months have to be Special Brew, Super Noodles and Space Raiders – let The Skinny make sure that your only encounter with a decent feed isn’t watching the Come Dine With Me omnibus in your pants.

Getting together a kitty with those lovely new flatmates of yours is the easiest way to save – even that one who's locked in his room playing World Of Warcraft 22 hours a day needs to eat. Head to specialist ethnic shops like Edinburgh's Pat's Chung Ying (which gives you 10% off if you shop on Tues, Thurs or Sun) or Glasgow's frankly awesome 600,000 foot square SeeWoo which, in addition to giving you all the frozen duck tongues, live eels and tofu mock squid you could wish for, has sacks of carby essentials like rice and noodles, plus spices, oils and sauces for pennies that'll perk up your staples and keep boredom at bay. Try leaving the main drag of the High Street behind and make time to shop around, as the best buys are normally hiding – Finnieston in Glasgow, an area populated with PC World, Staples and a drive-thru McDonald's, is also home to MacCallum's, one of the best fishmongers in Scotland, with lovely, cheery staff  selling fresh and cheap local mackerel, clams et al.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are both home to comprehensive Farmers' Markets, where the meat is high-end organic (though they often do discounts if you bulk buy freezeable sausages, ribs etc) but veg and bread is budget-friendly, particularly if you go right at the end – no one wants to lug their few remaining perishables back to Perthshire, so you'll get a good deal and maybe even a few freebie loaves.

Don't completely avoid the big boys, mind – do make sure you employ the aforementioned 'Farmers Market Move'and hover without shame by the fruit and veg five mins before Sunday closing. A few years ago Sainsbury's on Sauchiehall Street was the home of Tam, who used to go particularly crazy with his sticker gun at random times of the day, with completely arbitary goods and nonsensical reductions; I still fondly remember that Tarte Tatin that fed 6 and cost 8p. For fairly obvious reasons, Tam no longer seems to work at this branch but I like to imagine he's still out there somewhere, destroying Waitrose from the inside.

Remember that eating out doesn't always have to be off the menu, too. Hopefully during your student days you'll find someone that you want to take out to somewhere a bit more impressive than 'One Pound Jaegerbombs Night' at the Union (yes, I'm aware this makes me sound like your mother). Places that may initially look too ‘fine dining’ and out of your league will often, if you study that menu closely, offer an affordable and memorable night out for the same price as a frozen-then-microwaved generic plateful from countless identikit pubs. The Dogs on Edinburgh’s Hanover Street has a charmingly quirky, mismatched vibe and serves high-end but honest restaurant food like grilled trout and nut salad or roast tomato and herb barley risotto for under £5 at lunchtime; Glasgow West End perennial Stravaigin may sell £22 steaks, but order Spice Route curries, homemade haggis or a fish supper from their 'Staples' menu and you’ll get change from a tenner.

First date-territory aside, don’t forget that eating out also means nae crusty plates living under your bed til graduation. Try communal eating at the Edinburgh Mosque Kitchen, whose authentic, canteen-style bowlfuls of curry and rice are delicious, seriously cheap and rightly the stuff of student legend. Volunteer-run intiatives like the veggie & vegan-friendly Forest Cafe also offer cut-price but wholesome grub like burritos and cheese on toast, together with a BYOB licence and free gigs and exhibitions. Over in Glasgow, the ever-inventive Flying Duck – everyone's favourite attitude-free, tenement-themed late night hangout – has opened its own daytime version of a Student Union. Just show your student ID between noon and 7pm, Monday – Friday and you can get cheap coffee, milkshakes and beer, free wi-fi, board games and even use of a microwave to heat up your own grub. Oh, and don’t forget if you head along at night, they’ll give you hot toast to chomp on during the long walk home.

If you're seriously down to your last penny then practising Freeganism and rooting around in M&S wheelie bins for gratis cauliflower cheese is a plausible way to go. Please do just bear in mind that when our intrepid Skinny writers experimented with this last year, one man had to survive an entire night on nothing more than hairspray while his female counterpart managed to flirt her way to an entire fruit basket on the premise of an entirely bogus rabbit.