Lifestyle, Uni life

Eat Well without Breaking the Bank

For many people, moving away for uni is the first taste at adult life and includes one of the most exciting possibilities: being able to decide what to eat every day. But no matter how appealing this seems, the novelty does wears off once you discover the true cost of food shopping to your heart’s – and stomach’s – content. I’m here hoping to impart some tips and advice for keeping your food shops simple, easy and within that student loan budget!

Before I begin, it’s important to note here that I do not have any food allergies or dietary requirements and so whilst some of the ingredients mentioned below would need to be altered to fit into different lifestyles, the core advice remains the same.

Stocking up

Keeping a number of basic foods and seasonings in your cupboard makes cooking and planning meals (see below) much easier. By knowing you’ve always got some ingredients to rely on, there’s no need to panic or worry about going hungry if you need to go a day or two without shopping for fresh ingredients. The following is a list of foods I always keep my cupboard stocked up with, which could be made into various meals without the addition of fresh ingredients, if necessary:

 

Carbspasta, rice, noodles, lentils, cous cous (individual packets), porridge

Tins chopped tomatoes, tuna, sweetcorn, chickpeas, kidney beans, soup

Jars pasta sauce, curry sauce, pesto

Seasonings – salt, pepper, chilli powder, paprika, chilli flakes, oregano, mixed herbs, stock cubes

Miscellaneous – olive oil, onions, gravy granules, soy sauce, peanut butter, long life orange juice

 

Try to create meal plans and write a list

This is probably something you’ve heard a fair few times, but it really is worth getting into the habit of putting that five minutes thought into what you’re going to eat throughout the week. This doesn’t mean that you need to be super strict with your food and stick to the plan at all costs, but writing down some ideas and various dishes which could be made using the same ingredients can be really useful. Bearing in mind the food you already have in your cupboard and freezer, planning/brain-storming around 4 meals per week allows for a couple of days of leftovers, as well as an impromptu takeaway or meal out, without resulting in large quantities of wasted food – or money!

Extra tip: I aim to plan all my meals in the week around a smaller selection of vegetables and meat. By pre-working out what will go with what, you can save yourself money by reducing the amount of food waste you produce, as well as the stress of trying to make meals out of random ingredients!

 

Don’t forget to eat your veggies

I’m sure this is something that a lot of parents worry about when packing their kids off to university – that they won’t get all the goodness they need. But it is actually easier than you think. There are a few vegetables that I buy every week which are versatile enough to be worked into most meals – this makes it much easier for me to make sure I am eating well. Also, whilst I do a lot of walking to and from uni, I don’t really do any proper exercise (which is actually something I want to work on) so I try to make up for this by eating more fruits and vegetables. I guess in a way I feel like this cancels the lack of exercise out – it obviously doesn’t, but any incentive to eat more vegetables is a good thing, right?!

 

Manage your freezer space

One of the downsides to communal living whilst at university is the limited amount of fridge and freezer space that you have. Making use of this space can be tricky (if it’s particularly limited) but incredibly useful. Keeping a few meals which just need to be defrosted and heated up can be really handy if you’ve got a particularly busy timetable, or during exam and deadline seasons when you don’t always have the time or energy to cook every night. Batch-cooking and then freezing individual meal portions is great for this, and also means that you can make sure your quick meals are actually healthy! As well as this, freezer space is ideal for when you spot a decent reduction in the supermarket and want to make the most of the deal.

Currently in my freezer: 3 x portions homemade Bolognese, 1 x portion homemade veggie stew, 4 x raw sausages, 2 x raw chicken breasts, half a pepper, few slices of bread.

 

Snacks, snacks and more snacks

Something I’m sure we’re all guilty of is snacking between meals – I find that when I’m tackling a particularly intense piece of reading or time-consuming essay, having a packet of something open beside me can really help with motivation. But the packet always seems to disappear much quicker than I’m expecting and to be honest, it isn’t something I want to get into the habit of. Trying to swap out your favourite snacks for something healthier is not an attractive thought, I know, but you don’t have to get rid of them completely – just try alternating them with something a bit healthier. Some of my favourite snacks are blueberries and oranges (peel a couple in one go to save multiple efforts), or for something more filling I really like Walker’s Sunbites, and I think you can never go too far wrong with a piece of toast and cup of tea.

 

Example meal plan and shopping list

The following is an example meal plan and shopping list which I’ve put together to demonstrate my typical weekly shop (budget: £30; usual spend: £20):

 

Meal Plan

Monday – Stir fry

Tuesday – Leftover stir fry

Wednesday – Spaghetti Bolognese (homemade, from freezer)

Thursday – Cous cous-stuffed peppers with sausages (cook a few extra sausages for lunch the next day and freeze rest of pack)

Friday – Chickpea and vegetable curry (homemade with jar of sauce)

Saturday – Leftover curry (and freeze any remaining portions)

Sunday – Fishcakes (from freezer) and vegetables

 

Shopping list (corresponding to above meal plan)

Fruit – Bananas, oranges, blueberries

Veg – Broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, pack of stir fry veg and sauce, pack of peppers, iceberg lettuce

Meat – Pack of sausages, (you could buy chicken for stir fry but I try to buy only one pack of meat a week and freeze half for the next week/future – this helps me save a fair amount of money too)

Fridge/freezer – cheese, eggs (these are constants which mostly don’t need to be bought every week), milk, pack of fishcakes (these are my weakness)

Miscellaneous – small loaf sliced bread

 

So, there we have it! Just a few simple and easy tips for trying to keep your weekly food habits within budget whilst not having to skimp out on the good bits. If you have any tricks of your own, feel free to leave a comment – any advice is always welcome!

 

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4 thoughts on “Eat Well without Breaking the Bank”

  1. Glad to hear that you’re still trying to eat healthily whilst you are away – and encouraging others to do the same. Mummy’s example of not allowing food go to waste and always finding a use for ingredients, seems to have rubbed off on you well!

    Liked by 1 person

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