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Catered or Self-Catered?

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
I'm starting uni in September, but I really don't know which option to go for! I wouldnt like having to eat at a certain times and not having as much choice, but living in catered halls would be a great way of meeting people. What are the pros and cons of each? Does anyone have advice to help me choose!


  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Depends on your priorities. I loved being in catered halls in first year because I was a lazy pig and liked eating cheese pasties, jacket potatoes and chips twice a day. I don't know about other Unis but at mine your dinner and tea tickets were worth 5 "points" each and that either got you a three course meal (makes it sound a lot posher and infinitely more edible than it usually was, ha) or you could go into the packed lunch bit and get sandwiches, pies, fruit, crisps, milk, juice etc to take away instead. They even used to let us get our flatmates' so one person used to go and load up when we couldn't be arsed eating up there or, indeed, leaving the flat. I cringe at the laziness now!

    People say that you put on a lot of weight in catered accommodation, and I suppose a lot of people do. Our campus was at the top of a huge hill and I was off and about enough that it wasn't a problem I encountered. Anyway, of course, being in catered accommodation doesn't mean you need to eat shite all the time -- they did always tend to have a healthy option. If you don't go catered then it depends on how nifty you are at cooking for yourself, whether you'll go food shopping regularly and buy decent stuff. Living in non-catered accommodation could be as bad for the figure as catered can be, and it could definitely be harsher on your wallet. If you go catered in the first year then keep in mind - you'll have at least another two years during which you can subsist on pot noodles and packets of ketchup nicked from local cafes :razz:

    When we did go to our meals on campus I had a really good laugh, for what it's worth. It was really good craic sitting with everyone and seeing people who you usually wouldn't see very regularly because they weren't on your course/in your halls etc. Plus, the closest bar was 2 seconds away :thumb:
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    First thing to bear in mind - catered halls are not available at every university, so check in advance. Otherwise, you may not have the option at all.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm self-catered. It can be annoying when you are super hungry and have to cook something but I think it teaches us a bit more independence. I cook meals with my friends too so that is always fun and hmm interesting!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    The way it worked at my uni was if you were catered then you were in a building of about 90 students with a common room so you got to meet loads of people and we used to all go on nights out together. Going for dinner was a social thing as well, even though we all used to moan about the food! But if you are self catered then I think you live in a flat shared with a few other people..I don't think it has the same community feel.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm currently in first year, self-catered in manchester. I went self catering because of the central location of the halls to the city centre. The good thing about catering for yourself is being able to eat when you want, learning how to cook and be able to sleep in without missing breakfast.

    On the other hand you have to take time to go shopping for food, get use to how much you need and how much things are. I also share a kitchen with 13 other people, and i think that is too many.

    My gf is at catered halls in liverpool, and i've eaten there as well. The food is very nice and the social aspect is far better than self catering. However, similarly with some friends in catered halls, they never seem to have anything for lunch.

    A good idea would be to find out what the catered halls are like at the unis you are applying to because the quality of the food can vary greatly - even between halls of the same uni.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    We didn't have catered halls... But self-catering probably saves you cash... That and you don't have to risk missing meals if say... You have a late lecture and you're out.

    Kitchens are great places to socialise... They make it more likely to people, you can also bond by cooking together...

    And less temptations to eat crap.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Oh I dunno, it can get pretty tempting to eat junk when you buy your own, whereas our catering provides fairly healthy meals.

    Things to ask about catered accomodation include
    How many meals do you get (not everywhere does 21 meals a week)

    What the cooking facilities are (for times they don't feed you or you miss meals)

    What's the arrangement for lunch.

    From when I was looking round with my brother last year more and more catered halls offer things like credit on a lunch card which you can then use at any canteen on campus.

    Things to ask about self catered

    Where are the shops, what is the shop, what does it sell, how big is it and where's the nearest 'normal' full sized supermarket. Often the shops on campus have a very limited range.

    What are the kitchens like, and how many people share them.

    Is the accomadation laid out like self contained flats, or traditional halls style.

    All this varies a lot between uni's and halls, and the answers would affect my choice far more than the catered /self catered. Jammily I've got the best of both worlds, a gorgeous well equipped kitchen shared between 8 friends and access to a damn good canteen 5 mins walk away when I want that.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    in my opinion id definately go self-catered

    i lived with a girl who was catered in my first year. she basically got given a certain amount in food vouchers per month for her to use in the uni canteen/shop.
    to me it seemed pretty pointless tho, seeing as she also had access to the communal kitchen in our halls and had her own food cupboard on top of having those vouchers.. she she ended up spending more money than the rest of us (cuz she effectively was paying to have both.. if that makes sense)

    plus in my case, the uni canteen was pretty shit. the food they served was pretty limited and not too healthy. i know i certainly wouldnt have wanted to eat there every day!!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    self-catered. definitely.

    surely its like a hotel otherwise. you've got to learn to fend for yourself at some point.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru

    You can always do that the following year when you move out of halls.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I was catered for my first year, NEVER AGAIN! They did do salads but unless you were queuing up 30 minutes before they even opened for lunch/dinner then you never had a chance of getting one. I'm veggie and everything was either deep fried or covered with cheese. For most people there were two choices of meal options at dinner, but again unless you were in the first bit of the queue all the popular (good) food had run out by the time you got there and you were left with the crappy dish.

    Also you just don't feel like being up and ready for breakfast at 8.30 every morning, especially if you've been out the night before!

    Systems and food quality do vary from hall to hall so it is worth looking into. Certainly the provisions at mine did not justify the extra £1300 they charged for being catered.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Find out if you can what the catered food is like, standards vary greatly across halls. Perosnally i'd still do the whole catered thing again as food wasn't bad at my uni, and also as someone said it's part fo the whole social thing.

    Halls i was in it was your traditional one with tons of people in one building and therefore easier to meet and get to know people, whilst the self-catering accomodation was split into flats.
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