Friday, 17 December 2010

Eating on a tight university budget

Lots of my friends end up spending more money than they want to on food, and many end up spending way too much on unhealthy food and are hungry most of the time. I like to spend as little as I can on food, which leaves more money for the important studenty things like alcohol. Most people live to a budget of around £15-£25 a week, while I've lived off of £3 a week, and even now while going to the gym and eating as much as humanly possible, I'm spending less than £10 a week.

First off, don't eat out. No fast food, no restaurants. You aren't just paying for the food, you're paying a lot of money for the convenience and the service, for example, french fries are marked up about 1200% at fast food places.

Secondly, if you want fruit or vegetables, buy from a farmers' market. They are almost always much cheaper and the food is fresher. Here they sell big mixing bowls full of one vegetable for £1, so go with some friends, get one mixing bowl each of the vegetables you want, and then share them out so you have an assortment. That way you get a week of vegetables for £1.

What to buy:
I always get the supermarket's own value brand which most of the time is not much lower in quality, but usually much cheaper. How different can a tin of tomatoes be?

The very cheapest staple I have found is porridge. It is high in protein and fiber as well as carbohydrate, and really really cheap. I get bags of tesco value oats for 75p for a kilogram. That's 10p for a big bowl. If you have 4 big bowls a day and a multivitamin (10p) that's 50p a day, or £3.50 a week, and you will feel really full. It's also dead easy to make in a microwave, it takes just 3 minutes, perfect for a lazy student. The trouble is eating just porridge quite quickly gets boring so it's important to mix it up with some other things.

Pasta is the next cheapest meal to make I have found. Sainsburys Basics or Tesco Value bags of 500g go for 30p, a value or basics can of peeled tomatoes goes for 30p, and the pasta is wholemeal so it is much healthier than white pasta as it contains much more protein and other nutritious things. For a really big plate of pasta use 250g of pasta, and for the sauce, quarter of a can of tomatoes and a fair amount of olive oil (a cheap and healthy source of fats - Yes! The right fats are healthy and important for your body to function), maybe some basil, oregano, salt, and pepper too. This meal comes in at about 25p, and it is truly huge.

Noodles are about as cheap as pasta, and you can make a meal with just some noodles and a stock cube, or a cheap pack of instant noodles, although not quite as big as the plate of pasta described above, it's nice to change things up. It also does not have have as much protein as they are not wholemeal.

My most expensive but still cheap meal is lentil soup. It is very rich in protein, and has next to no fat or carbs. I get a 500g bag for 88p at Tescos. Half a bag in a pan with some water, a bit of basil and oregano, salt and pepper is a good meal and gives a whopping 60g of protein. You can also add half a jar of Sainsburys Basics 9p curry sauce. It then comes in at about 50p per meal.

I've been living of these meals for months, and I always have enough food. It's a wise idea to have a multivitamin daily, it usually works out at about 10p a day which is nothing when it ensures you stay healthy. If you are from the UK, MySupermarket is a great website to check the prices of things at different supermarkets.

Let me know what you guys do to get past on a tight budget in the comments!

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