It’s important to eat well when you’re away from home, but it’s a new challenge to be limited by funds rather than having the luxury of fully stocked cupboards thanks to your parents. When it comes to buying food and still eating well, there are a few things that could make your life easier.
Here are our top nine tips for eating well on a budget.
1. Pay in cash
It’s important to work out a budget to make sure that your student loan lasts you all term. Allocate a certain amount of money for your food each week, with significantly more at the beginning of term so that you can stock up on the essentials like condiments, washing powder and other store cupboard essentials.
Instead of taking your card shopping and overspending, take out your limit for that shop and stick to it. This way you won’t be tempted to buy any extras, and you’ll be aware of the money that you’re spending.
2. Beware of special offers
Special offers can look really tempting, but the reality is that often they don’t actually save you that much money. Supermarkets now have the price of good displayed per 100grams which allows you to do a quick comparison.
Psychologists have spent a lot of time helping supermarkets sell their most profitable goods, so most of these will be displayed at eye level. Look on the lower shelves for good value products.
3. Buy second-hand cook books
It’s a lot cheaper to eat well if you cook yourself rather than buy ready meals and it’s also a lot healthier. If you haven’t had much practice at cooking meals then pick up some recipe books at a local charity shop. Spending a couple of pounds now could save you a lot of money later, and it can help you plan your shops as well as develop a repertoire of tasty meals.
4. Buy fruit and vegetables at the market
Don’t just shop at supermarkets, but find out where your local market is as well. Fruit and vegetables are often cheaper here. The best time to go is late afternoon just before they close up for a few days, because they tend to reduce their prices.
5. Stock up on spices
Cooking cheap meals shouldn’t just be about sticking to the budget, it should also be about making something healthy and tasty. Vegetables are cheaper than meat, but don’t have the same depth of flavour, so buy plenty of spices to make dinners more interesting.
Vegetable curries, mushroom stews and spicy lentil soup are all easy and tasty dishes to make, and they’ll help you get your five a day as well as filling you up.
We’re not just talking baked beans, although the low sugar variety can make a great meal. Kidney beans, tomatoes and chickpeas make a great base for a lot of dishes and provide plenty of protein and vitamins. If you’re looking for a great value dessert, then tinned fruit, provided that it’s been stored in natural juices rather than sugar syrup is tasty and full of vitamins.
7. Get a window box
If you’ve got a little space, there are quite a few things you can grow. Start with rosemary, basil, mint and chives, they are all excellent additions and quite easy to keep alive if you have a sunny windowsill. If you’re feeling more adventurous then you could attempt growing potatoes. All you need is some straw, soil, a sturdy box and a few potatoes to multiply.
8. Go to supermarkets late
If you do go to the supermarket, then head there in the evening at around 8pm. This is when supermarkets start to do their discounts. This is especially good for meat, which if you freeze straight away can last up to a year.
9. Cook in bulk
You should never cook for one. The most enjoyable way to cook large portions is to get together with some of your housemates and take it in turns to cook. Or if this is too complicated, cook your meals and split them into portions which you can freeze for a later date.
Making sure that you eat well and stay healthy is really important at university, and with a little bit of planning you can eat tasty things too. Good meals can help you focus and perform better.
Learning to cook is a skill that lasts, even after you’ve graduated, and is really important when you start work. If you are already thinking about graduate careers, then check out the management trainee and other opportunities at Enterprise.