Cooking healthily on a student budget doesn't have to be hard work or boring and can be quite satisfying when you know you're not wasting your money. Here are some tips from current students and alumni to get you started.
- Try not to go food shopping when you're hungry or thirsty - you'll be amazed at the things you'll avoid buying.
- Do a weekly shop to avoid ad-hoc trips to your local shop (which can be expensive and full of temptation to buy impulsively).
- If you do need to stock up on fresh produce in between your big shops, the university Fruit and Veg stall is perfect!
- Try making a meal plan for a week, so you know what ingredients you need to buy. Planning ahead like this can really help you save money and reduce the amount of food you waste.
- Even if you don't want to write a whole meal plan, write a shopping list and try to stick to it.
- Try visiting your local butcher - they often have special offers and you might be inspired to try something different.
- If you're in the city centre, shop at the Bullring Markets for fruit, vegetables and meat – super cheap (and if you go close to closing time you can get some fantastic deals!)
- Consider free range and Fairtrade ingredients when possible.
- Master a few recipes and write down your favourites - you don't want to forget the fab chilli you made last term. (This will help you write your meal plan too.)
- Why not double the recipe and freeze meals to eat later in the week or month - this works really well for chilli, bolognese, tomato sauce, soup, or freezing meats in their marinades.
- Have a stock of easy to prepare meals such as pasta, soup, beans and tinned fish, so you are prepared for the times you don't have time to go shopping.
- Eat breakfast - it'll get you going and make you less likely to spend a fortune on (unhealthy) snacks throughout the day.
- The university Fruit and Veg stall is really convenient if you fancy a healthy snack on the go and they have a great variety of choice.
- Buy frozen or tinned fruit and veg - they can be just as good for you and are often much cheaper.
- Try swapping full-fat milk for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
- Try swapping butter for a low fat vegetable spread.
- Be careful not to add too much salt to your food whilst cooking or at the table.
- Keep a weekly record of how much you spend to get a realistic idea of how much money you need to budget for food shopping. Once you've established a budget, stick to it!
- Buy food and cook with a friend or a group to reduce the cost. Or if you fancy it, why not arrange a mini Come Dine with me (hopefully without all the tension!)
- Make your own lunch, snacks and drinks to bring to University - it'll save you loads.
- Buy and freeze your favourite veg when it's in season, so you don't spend a fortune on it when it goes out of season.
- Try the unbranded version of different foods. You'll usually find there's very little difference other than the price.
- If you get a voucher for money off your next shop when you spend a certain amount, make the most of it by combining your shopping with a flat mate or friend.
- Share the cost of home delivery with your flatmates - if your order is large enough it is often free.
- Do you really need that new recipe book? You can find loads of recipes online and the reviews mean you can learn from others' mistakes.
- Register with sites that have money saving ideas e.g. groupon.co.uk and lovemoney.com.
- Do your grocery shop on a price comparison website such as mysupermarket.co.uk – compare the top 5 supermarkets and then choose the cheapest basket.