We’ve finally left January behind, perhaps still feeling a little blue because those New Years’ resolutions (eat better, exercise more) fell flat in the first few days of the month. But don’t despair! Resolutions can still be resolved, even if it means not having last night’s takeaway for breakfast (again). Oh yeah, our pockets are empty, but that shouldn’t stop you from cooking up some pretty decent grub.
So, here are some tips and tricks for eating well on a student budget:
Tins for life
Let me tell you, there is nothing better than being able to open your cupboard and find a tin of baked beans lurking in the back for those beans on toast you’ve been dreaming about all day. And tins last forever! You can get anything in them these days from sweetcorn to a whole chicken.
My favourite tins (because I truly am the coolest person) are tinned tomatoes (fantastic with everything), tinned baby potatoes (mashed potato for one?), and of course, baked beans. They can go on anything: toast, jacket potatoes, you name it.
Stock up on staples
Quick and easy things like pasta you can get for 30p at Lidl or Aldi (own brand). Next time you’re in grab a couple more than you would, so if you ever feel like you don’t have anything else to eat when dining in, ask yourself what you can pair with your pasta.
Keep it simple with three-ingredient meals
- Spaghetti, sausages, tinned tomatoes
- Jacket potato, tuna, cheese (or literally any topping)
- Tin of mushy peas, a tin of baked beans, tin of chopped tomatoes, add a little spice and you’ve got yourself a cheap and easy curry or chilli! You could even pair it with rice or naan.
- Homemade soup – tinned tomatoes, red pepper, vegetable stock and just blend. Soup is a saviour as long as you invest in some microwavable Tupperware. It saves time, and the bonus is washing up is easy.
Most people already know that batch cooking is a great way to save money. There are so many meals you make, like soup, curry, chilli, pasta dishes and rice, just to name a few. A good trick is to batch cook toppings. Something simple like chicken and tomatoes (plus a little bit of spice) which you can pair with pasta one night, rice another. You can also try using bread to make budget-friendly bruschetta.
When making a weekly food plan (which I highly recommend) include multiple meals with the same ingredients, such as Spaghetti Bolognese/ Italian meatballs/ chilli, which all have mince as the main ingredient.
Buy cheap, buy varied
When in the shop, look at the top and bottom shelves. Most of the time the cheapest items are there because they are out of your immediate line of sight, and you’re more likely to purchase the more expensive items in the middle, especially if you’re in a rush.
Supermarket own-brand products are usually the same as any other brand. In fact, most products (for example, meat sausages and steaks) are taken and packaged for different companies, according to Multivac’s Technical Director Keith Singleton: “The same product comes into the factory, but they’ll all be packaged differently, some to Aldi and those places, others to Marks and Spencer’s.”
Don’t be afraid to shop around – when we feel lazy, we spend more money on convenience rather than cost-effectiveness when this extra money can be used on more food!
Shop with friends
There’s a saying that goes, ‘Housemates that shop together, save together’. Online shopping takes the pressure off doing a ‘big’ shop, and with everybody (either housemates, friends or both) chipping in for that pesky delivery charge, it’ll feel like nothing at all. It really helps if you don’t have an easy way to get to a big shop where the prices are usually lower and there’s more to choose from!
Meal planning companies like HelloFresh, when bought between multiple people, can always turn out a little cheaper.
- Pros: fresh ingredients that are delivered to your door, cute recipe cards that you can keep and reuse again, as well as a handy little letter of discounts are included within.
- Cons: more expensive than the average weekly shop with their ‘Family Box’ (four meals a week for four people) coming in at £54.99.
However, this split between four housemates, along with the bonus of free delivery, could be something to look into for those wanting the more ‘bougie’ student lifestyle.
So, whatever your diet, there are always ways to eat better for less! But that doesn’t mean we don’t all deserve a little treat now and again…