Sociology student Amy offers her tips for eating healthily on a budget at university.
As I’ve been on this journey as a student, I’ve realised that skipping breakfast and then having a two-hour lecture on crime at 9am probably isn’t the best idea… but you probably knew that anyway.
However, I have come across a few tips and tricks to be able to eat healthily on a budget and trust me, it really helps you in your studies too.
Where you shop
Firstly, where you shop is a big factor in how much money you spend and what you get for your money. Here’s a list of some good UK supermarkets you should consider visiting on a budget.
Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest grocery stores and great to get fresh fruit and veg that is in season. However, if you like particular brands or delivery services, then these two stores can’t help you too much.
It’s also worth bearing in mind some of their dishes can be a bit bland – especially things like pasta or curry sauces. But adding your own herbs and spices can be a quick fix. In Cambridge, we’re about to be surrounded by a brand new Aldi and Lidl, which is very exciting.
Asda is my personal favourite shop. It’s not too far away from me (only a ten-minute walk) and although they offer cheap home delivery, I like to pick my own items and make sure I’m planning carefully around their expiry dates.
Another good thing about Asda is that they often do a price ‘rollback’ on different items throughout the year.
Local food shops, but only after 8pm – you probably know that doing a food shop in a local convenience store such as Co-op or Tesco Express can be very expensive. However, in the evenings they start reducing food that is going out of date.
Here you can buy something like a whole loaf of bread for 20p. It can make a nice evening snack to share with your flatmates, or you could slice it and pop it in the freezer. Defrosting a few slices at a time means it’s great for toast or sandwiches and can last ages.
What you eat
Now I’m by no means saying you have to eat healthily 24/7, but having a healthy diet can help you with your studies in the long run, as well as save you money from buying meal deals every day.
Pre-making your breakfast and lunch can really help you think carefully about what you eat and what nutrients you’re getting. Batch cooking your favourite dishes, freezing them and taking one out the night before is a really easy way to plan and eat right.
In the Students' Union spaces at ARU there are communal areas that have a microwave and a kettle, so my favourite thing to do on my long study days is to take some tomato pasta from my freezer and re-heat it.
Having a healthy dinner with lots of veggies is also important. I recommend a stir fry, as they’re super easy, and you can fry any vegetables you want very affordably. I like mushrooms, onions, peppers, sweetcorn, peas and broccoli (anything you need to use up!). You can also mix a vegetable stock cube with oil in the pan to add extra flavour.
Soup is another great option. It’s filling, and easy to buy or make. Cans of soup are very cheap, or you can cook a bunch of vegetables in stock mixed with hot water and blend.
Avoiding the hot drink habit
For an affordable hot drink option, I also recommend using your reusable ARU mug (or buy one, I got mine from Asda for £1!), and making a hot drink to take with you.
If you want something fancy like a gingerbread latte or a mint chocolate mocha, I recommend buying the Nescafé drink sachets. You can buy a pack for around £2, and they’re sometimes on offer for £1.50. You get eight sachets so it’s way cheaper than buying a Costa for £3.50 every day.
There are so many ways to keep healthy and avoid the unnecessary fats, sugars and costs of fast foods and takeaway as a student. Making these decisions now can help prepare you for a happy and healthy student experience.
Amy studies Sociology at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.