Student life has plenty of benefits, but one of the downsides is having to live on a budget – which is why people are quick to assume that student food lacks nutrients and comes out of a packet. But it is possible to live on a budget and still enjoy home-cooked meals. With some savvy shopping and planning, you can avoid the stereotypical student diet, without breaking the bank.
Buy Frozen Veg
Fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive, so consider frozen alternatives your new best friend. Cheap, long-lasting, and easy to store, they not only save you money but also a lot of time because they usually come peeled and portioned. Much of the produce that you would normally buy fresh will taste just as good, just be sure that you thaw it out properly.
Learn the Value of a Whole Chicken
Convenience is a running theme when it comes to cooking on a budget – the more preparation you are willing to do, the less money you’ll spend on buying certain ingredients, like chicken. By learning how to properly carve a whole chicken and use it in various meals, your food budget will stretch a lot further, because it’s more cost-effective than buying individual packs of chicken breasts or thighs. As a bonus, you’ll have some bones left over, which will make a great stock base.
The same idea also applies to pre-roasted chicken. You can usually pick them up at your local supermarket, and they offer a more convenient option because they’re already cooked. You can carve it up for different meals throughout the week like tacos, stir-fries, and chicken sandwiches.
Most of us end up spending a lot of money on food because we panic-buy or just want something we can heat up when we get home. By planning your meals in advance, you can cost up your food shop for the week and make sure that you only buy the ingredients that you will need. You’ll also have the comfort of knowing that you have a delicious meal planned daily, which will make you less tempted to eat out.
Aside from being a good way to implement meal planning, batch-cooking will also help you save money. You can bulk-buy all of the necessary ingredients – usually for a lower cost – and once you’ve portioned everything out, store your meals in the freezer, ready to heat and eat.
The downside of batch-cooking is that you will have a large batch of the same meal. To add some variety into your cooking, stick to cooking staples such as rice and vegetables – you can then finish these with different toppings when plating up.
Cook with Friends
The advantage of living in student accommodation is that you’ll be sharing a flat with other people, so why not cook together? Everyone can pitch in with different ingredients and can cook a meal for the flat, which will work out cheaper per person than if you were all to just cook for yourself. Everyone will get a home-cooked meal for a lower cost, and will get the chance to spend some time bonding as a group.
Cook Less Meat
Dishes like fish and chips, and chicken burgers are student favourites, but there’s a reason why they’re both eating into your food budget: meat. If you’re a savvy student, you can find ways of cooking meat more economically, like cutting down on how much of it you eat. Try using beans or soya mince to supplement meat in your dishes, or choose a couple of days a week where you cook vegetarian dishes.
Keep an Organised Kitchen
Making sure that your kitchen is well-organised will help you save money by ensuring that you make the most of the ingredients you have.
If you’ve been living in your flat for a few months already, chances are that your freezer and cupboard are full of things that you’ve long forgotten about. By having a clear-out, you can take stock of all the items that you have, and then you can use them up rather than buying more.
When it comes to staying organised in the kitchen, don’t forget about leftovers. Choose a day, every week or so, where you’ll aim to use up all of your leftover food items. Gather up any opened jars of sauces and any vegetables that look like they’ll be going out of date soon – basically anything that could go to waste but shouldn’t. Then you can use these ingredients to make a tasty pizza or stir-fry (depending on what it is).