When I was at university I saw too many people either surviving on sandwiches or on microwave meals. In other words they either saved a fortune but risked their health, or vice versa. If you’re going to eat delicious, nutritious food on a budget then it’s important to learn a few simple tips.
In this article I’d like to just offer some basic, common-sense advice for the new student on how to eat as well as possible while away from home, no matter what your level of cooking ability. You see, when I left home I had never cooked a thing. Nothing. I hadn’t even warmed up a sausage roll, let alone cooked a full Sunday dinner, but it’s amazing how quickly you can learn these things if only you apply yourself.
Meat tends to be expensive because of the cost and effort that goes into rearing livestock. Whilst meat forms an important part of the diet, try to minimize your use of it to save your budget. Instead look at other protein sources such as nuts, beans and pulses which are generally cheaper. When you do buy meat, try to make sure you buy meat that contains complete cooking instructions if you are new to cooking so you can be sure you have prepared it correctly. Obviously incorrectly cooked meat can lead to real sickness if consumed.
Fruit And Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables have a nasty habit of going off quickly so consider using canned and tinned varieties where possible. Tins of carrots, new potatoes, beans and so on will last for years and so offer good value for money. They are also typically precooked and so just need warming up before eating. Whilst fruit and veg may not be on the menu for many students, they really are a vital part of the diet so try to have several portions each day – even if you do so only for your health.
Generally, different colored fruits and vegetables have different nutrients in them so try to consume as many different colors as possible to reduce the chances of vitamin imbalances.
This group includes pasta, bread and breakfast cereals and typically offer a cheap form of carbohydrates. Many of them can be kept for long periods of time too and when combined with meat and/or vegetables they can produce delicious meals on the cheap.
For example, pasta with a tomato sauce and some bread that has been crisped under the grill and spread with olive oil can produce a tasty Mediterranean-style meal.
As another idea you can make your own pizza base from basic ingredients, cover with chopped tomatoes, cheese and any other ingredients you fancy for a budget pizza that also costs considerably less than the shop bought variety.
Generally anything “prepared” such as microwave meals, prepared lasagnas and so on are generally far more expensive than such a meal would cost you if you prepared it yourself. It is also likely to be less tasty too. So whilst I know the “easy option” is tempting, try to avoid such foods wherever possible. They tend not to be good for the waistline or the wallet.
Ah, the classic student foods of pizza, fries and so on. This is the worst group of foods of all – very expensive and having little nutritional goodness in. I know as well as you do that you will eat take away food from time to time, but try to keep it as a treat rather than a regular element of your diet.