Students on a budget – food saving tips
By David Nelkin,
The scenario is all too common – as a university student on a budget, you’d rather spend any money you might have on a night out and a pack of super noodles, rather than a good, tasty, healthy meal. And who can blame you. The time you do have in your student accommodation you’ll need to spend sleeping and studying. And doing things students do. That’s certainly what I did.
However, I can now look at things in retrospect, and give you some tips which will mean you can eat more healthily and have some great food – which will actually go a long way to making you feel better and give you more energy to both study and enjoy your nights out. And it will cost you significantly less than a greasy doner kebab and a hangover.
- Myth: take-aways are cheaper – Of course have one now and again. Who can’t go without a kebab or KFC after a night out, or when you’ve no time to cook approaching a deadline?
However, they’re not necessarily cheaper – not for what you’ll get and not if you follow the tips below. Eating them regularly will drain you too; longer to recover from a night out and harder to get to those 9 o’clock lectures.
Try and limit them to once a week; twice at the most. That doesn’t include your mandatory weekly curry either. But cooking something up yourself four or five times a week will leave you feeling a lot better, with a bigger wallet, and certain to have your doorbell ringing incessantly!
- Plan ahead and eat with your flatmates
I’m not saying work out what you’ll eat three weeks on Wednesday, but thinking what you might cook up in the next week or two, and eating with your flatmates will save you a lot! Cooking up a big stew or pasta dish with a salad, for four of you, will save you a lot more than each cooking your own plate of food. And think about leftovers and how you can use that half a pepper and onion left in the fridge (omelette, tuna salad, the list goes on).
- Time your supermarket visits – most supermarkets substantially discount meat and fish after two days shelf life if it hasn’t been sold – we’re talking up to 70%. So aim to head there for about 5-6pm, or better still, ask at the meat and fish counters when is best to come for discounts. Every supermarket will be different.
And if you’re not in the mood for meat or fish? Freeze it. Frozen meat and fish can last a good month or two in the freezer. Freeze it as soon as possible after buying it in an airtight container or freezer bag, and ensure you defrost thoroughly before using. Cook on the same day.
- Buy cheaper cuts - cheaper doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or quality. In fact, if you know what to do with it, it can often mean the opposite. I’m a foodie, and the cheapest cuts are amongst my favourites.
Firstly meat: a neck of lamb, a shin of beef, or pig’s cheeks. They’ll cost you little – around £2.50 for pig’s cheeks for two or three good meals (how much did that kebab cost you?). Oxtail is even cheaper. For all these cuts you just need to cook them slowly into a lovely stew, which actually involves surprisingly little effort.
And there are plenty of options at the fish counter too – which are extremely tasty and usually more sustainable. You often pay more for the ‘nicer’ fish as they’re becoming endangered, thus harder to source. Buy dab, Pollack, whiting, coley, sea bream or sardines.
They taste good and are usually cheaper – if your supermarket doesn’t have them, then ask. If they see the demand, they’ll source them.
- A little goes a long way – pasta dishes, bean stews and soup. Cook these with your flat mate’s, make in bulk and freeze, and they will last a couple of days in the fridge which you can then heat up. These kind of dishes also usually taste better re-heated.
- This may sound obvious, but don’t throw things out. Check your fridge every day to catch those things you can salvage before the mould takes hold, and check before your trip to the supermarket so you don’t double up.