Don’t Like the University Mensa? Here Are Some Good Alternatives

This article was written by Jessica, a student reader of ours who is currently studying in Germany.

Living abroad as a student during your exchange year or while acquiring your MA will not only change your routine but also your bowel movements. Long hours at the university in combo with a small part-time job here and there feel like a marathon leaving no room for a proper meal except for snack breaks and tons of coffee.

Localized at the premises or close by , the university Mensa is time wise most definitely the ideal alternative being cheap and all yet if we consider eating the same pork & potato mixture over and over and over we got ourselves a serious problem.

During my time in Germany, living on a modest scholarship and some pocket money I’d earn working weekends in the neighborhood bar I was struggling to find a way to feed myself all the essential nutrients for survival found in cheap fresh ingredients at the corner-store mixed in a tasty complex meal that would take 15 min to prepare since that’s the time I could afford spending.

Most of the times, this was impossible so I would end up eating junk-food on the way to the university and back or after my shifts at the bar.  Since sport was a luxury, even walking was pretty tight, in the first few months of irregular meals a lot of public transport and very low fiber and protein consumption I got sick to my stomach and even had to use laxatives few times.

Realizing that there was no point on continuing this kind of lifestyle, I’d made it my mission to change my whole routine, optimizing the sleeping hours as in reducing them, making the morning run a ritual and not leaving the apartment before I had my plate of cereals, a glass of fresh orange juice and a smile for a goodday.
Once settled with breakfast, I was on a pursuit of all the affordable alternatives for eating a decent lunch. I came up with loads of ideal choices for someone in my position leading a lifestyle of a kind.

Cooking for moi

First option was cooking inside yet the problem was that I could never get right the amount of ingredients so either I’d cook for the whole neighborhood and since I was alone most of it would end up in the garbage, a pity indeed, or if ever the amount was right I’d hate the fact to be dining alone and not being able to share.
Therefore, I chose to invite my friends who were living on their own as well, every other day splitting the check equally and the meal as well. In a couple of months we got hooked on these warm and homelike gatherings which felt like family. Yet, because of our completely different schedules we were lucky if we managed to do this once a week.

Happy hour meals

Another flattering option was dining at local cafes offering a variety of rich dishes, mostly vegetarian during brunch time. There were a dozen of those on my way to the university and If I was to walk instead of using the Bahn I’d be trying different places apropos different tastes each day, increasing the options to cherry-pick according to my taste and financial state.

FAIR and square

Whenever there was a food fair, and Germany is famous for its frequent food fairs, I would gladly enjoy a bit of everything that was on the table. For as long as the fair went on, I would make room for it in my schedule, and every day I would sit down at the park with a petite picnic bag holding wurst, cheese and pretzel and enjoy myself alongside a cold German beer.


The last and the least preferred option were frozen meals at the supermarket. Yes this will be ready not in 15 but in 5 minutes, be it pizza, nuggets, french-fries and a gazillion different mutated foodstuffs that are nothing but a great looking bloat of additives, however for people like me who tend to enjoy their every bite fresh, this makes for a rather poor solution.

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