Eating well at university, without eating your wallet…
…by Kathryn / from Northern Ireland / studies Nursing / 3rd Year (UG)
If I asked what student life centres around I’m sure I would get a range of ideas. Maybe studying or socialising, living independently or trying new things. But I’m suggesting that it is something else – food. The pre-exam carb-loading, the seventy cups of coffee per essay, the essential post-club chippy, never mind the brunch, lunch, coffee and dinner catch-ups that some manage to fit into one day! However, when I am only armed with my new kitchen essentials, and a cookbook or two, how can I ever manage to eat on my budget, never mind eat healthily – these were the despairing thoughts of first year me. So here are my top tips to keep your stomach, bank account and mum happy by eating well for less at uni.
- Buy in bulk
“I’ll never need to buy a 32 pack of toilet rolls”, “Will I ever be able to fit that much rice in my cupboard?” and “Who knew you could buy 3KG of fusilli twists” are all thoughts that you must get out of your head whilst grocery shopping! They may only be saving you a few pennies or pounds each time, but that adds up in the long term. If you’re one of the lucky ones with access to a wholesale store, that’s even better – make the most of it. A great tip is to refill mason jars of produce (such as pasta, rice and snacks) to keep in your kitchen, and store bulk buys in a high cupboard or under your bed.
- Make more than you need
Not only will this save time by preparing multiple meals, cooking in bulk can be a great money saver. Having a packed lunch stops the necessity to grab a sandwich from a shop, and reheating left-overs is a no-fuss alternative to ordering a takeaway after a long day at the library. It also has the added bonus of being able to use up whatever food is in your cupboards – anything that is about to go off can go in! Meals such as soup, casseroles, curries and chilli are brilliant examples of food that you can make in mass, and simple recipes can be found with a quick google.
- Be aware, but also wary, of deals
Some of the best deals I have ever found have been in the reduced section in my local supermarket. It is important not to go crazy and buy everything, but check out what is on offer. The following questions are great to ask when considering buying deals; is this product something I will use? Will I use it before it is out of date? Can I freeze it to use in the future?
- Share food
I have been very fortunate to live with others that share the same love of sharing food as I do. As previously mentioned, that bag of satsumas is cheaper than buying them individually, but food-sharing has more benefits that that. Alongside the bonus of knowing that the things we buy will not go off (no more disappointment over mouldy bread!), it also means that you can buy fresh food and try food that you wouldn’t usually buy yourself.
- Invite friends over for dinner instead of eating out
You may be hesitant, but let me convince you that it can be more fun. Alongside the obvious perks for guests such as free food and being able to have seconds, inviting others round for dinner is brilliant for the hosts too. I’ve found that you can cook a nice dinner for four or five for as much as you would pay for your own meal out, with the added advantage of having your friends invite you back to theirs for free dinner too!
- You can still eat out, but do it well
Having discussed the brilliance of home-cooked dinner-dates, it’s important to remember that you can still eat out and not break your budget. All thanks to the beauty of student deals that are so easily found. Keep an eye out for food establishments with flyers around campus, discounts for certain places from being a member of a society, and most importantly – half price Teviot nachos from 3-7, Monday to Thursday!