If you've moved out for college, you're going to have to learn to cook. If you haven't, I'd say you still need to learn to cook, but I know a lot of you won't cause you've still got your mammy and daddy to take care of you.
For those of you who are forced to get cooking or die trying (literally starve to death or accidentally set yourself on fire), herbs and spices will be your greatest friend when it comes to making sure your food doesn't taste like cardboard.
If you're going to rise above the basics in the kitchen, there are seven cheap herbs and spices you should try to start off with...
1) Salt & Pepper
You'd think every kitchen would come equipped with these two basics, but amazingly no. Anyone worth their salt in the kitchen (waheyyyyy!) will make sure they have these two handy. It'll take you two meals tops to realise that salt wasn't discovered for chips and pepper can go on more than just beans on toast.
Don't be afraid to experiment, but make sure you add little by little; if you add too much you'll ruin a meal almost instantly. Salt's also fantastic to add to the water when you're boiling foods, like pasta, rice or potatoes, as it'll help richen and really sharpen the foods flavour.
The classic herb that everyone knows, Basil's popularity stems (he, he, he) from the fact that it's extremely adaptable and useable in almost all types of cuisine. Some professionals will turn around and spit in my face for writing that, but in reality it is.
Adding a little bit of basil to most meals can enrich the flavour and it's something I like to sprinkle into my sandwiches or soup as well – and if you want to really go all out, you can pick up a fresh plant in Lidl to keep in your kitchen.
If you have to invest in one spice above all others, it's got to be cajun. It's one of the most adaptable spices available on the market, transitioning well between several different types of world cuisines.
It's also not as intense as chilli powder, which means you won't accidentally leave yourself in tears or burn your mouth off if you add too much. Just add a sprinkle to the chicken breast you were going to grill, and boom – it's like you're in Nando's.
A slightly sweeter spice compared to cajun, paprika works well particularly with Indian, North African and Cajun dishes. It's still a useful and adaptable spice, and you'll be amazed at how many dishes you can add this to when you experiment a bit.
Try some chicken, potato chunks and peas pan-fried in a little oil seasoned with paprika and cajun. You can thank me later.
5) Chinese Five Spice
The great thing about Chinese Five Spice is its unique flavour. An obviously spicy substance, it also provides a rich but not overpowering sweetness that bodes well when seasoning almost any type of meat and also works well for soups and stir-fry.
6) Garlic Granules
If you don't like garlic goodness in your food, then you're definitely a vampire. Garlic is amazingly tasty and has so many surprising benefits (except for helping you get the shift, you'll need to brush your teeth first sorry.) The great thing about garlic powder in particular is that it's quicker then preparing cloves and you get a more even spread of flavour when you mix it into your meal.
I recommend you grill or barbecue some rashers with garlic powder and pepper and slap it into a sambo. It'll go down a hoot, trust me; when I made it the last day a vegetarian even tried it.
7) Italian Seasoning
The ultimate "I have no idea how to season my food" scapegoat.
So why bother learning to when you can just add this concoction and hope that one of the herbs bodes well?
Luckily for you, this little flavour bomb works 83.451% of the time in any dish ever made (don't quote me on that). It's a great herb to learn to cook with because, while it won't teach you much about how to mix herbs and spices, it will help you understand about the concentration and quantity you should be adding. It also means you can delay trying to figure out whether sage or oregano will work best with dill.