Supplementation/Diet to Build in College

Hey all,
As the title says, a newbie question from an avid reader of the T NATION articles from the UK. I’ve been lurking on these pages for three months, which is as long as I’ve been lifting also and I’ve found myself troubled by something I’ve read on the articles in this site and on some of the posts in the forum.

I’m currently a student in freshers week, just begun university and am in catered accomodation which means I get meals in the morning and in the evening from my hall of residence. I am trying to get bigger and have read here that I need to eat a lot to create a caloric surplus, meaning frequent meals containing protein with either carbs or healthy fats.

I have been contemplating how to do this in my current situation, because there is only one basic kitchen in my hall of residence and it is often quite busy, and I am a shit cook. My hall costs more than others because the meals are provided, and I can’t really afford to buy things for myself to cook, nor is it convenient for me, because my days are usually quite busy.

I have been eating tins of tuna and nuts during the day but cannot really afford to eat, for example, chicken breast or fish with salad in a restaurant in addition to the other costs of being a student. The only thing I can really afford is fast food crap.

It got me wondering about the common things I see on these forums and the site, generally saying such things as ‘Diet should come before supplements’ or ‘Supplements are 5-10% of your gains, if that’. I don’t understand why? I mean, even if I were to have, say a mass-builder with protein, carbs, and a shitload of calories for 3 or 4 of 6 meals in a day, aren’t I still getting the basic essentials I need to grow?

I figured if I bought one of these mass-builders, it might provide an easy way to get regular meals (could carry a premixed one in a flask), and probably be more cost-effective for my student life, as one of those tubs could probably last me a while? I understand that certain nutrients and amino acids are also required, but I have noticed supplements can be bought for these as well and wouldn’t mind buying tubs of them if necessary as presumably they’d last me a while.

I would much appreciate any insight on this, or suggestions from anyone who has also tried to bulk and get bigger during college/uni time as to how I can modify my diet in this situation? I apologise if this question is regarded as stupid or obvious, couldn’t find anything similar on the beginners board.

Thanks in advance and sorry for the long read.