Above: a delicious looking microwaved meal. Credit: @amaling04.
Try not to collapse in a heap of uncontrollable emotion, but the excitement of Freshers’ Week has now come to a concussive halt. For thousands of first year university students across Britain, the real work starts now: the five to six hours of learning a week, the waking up at noon, the knowing that first year doesn’t really matter anyway….The horror!
Even if you’re not exactly about to embark on three terms of back-breaking labour, the time has come for you to add some flippin’ structure and freakin’ discipline to your otherwise calm undergrad existence. One of your biggest concerns is going to be money, or more specifically, how much of it to budget toward fun and how much toward boring stuff, like not dying of scurvy.
Because we love giving back to the youngers, we’re using this blog to help you with the latter, because you deserve to eat OK-ish even if you are on a student shoestring. If you’ve just started uni and no longer want to exist on a diet of stolen bread and Pro Plus, then read on. If you’re not at uni and have no idea why you clicked this link, then carry on anyway. What else is there to do?
A Note on Herbs
A zesty pot of dying coriander: Via.
We’ve been doing minutes of research for this article, and we’ve found that several publications suggest growing your own herbs. This is a horrendous idea. They will all die. They won’t yield a bounty of coriander for the next eight months, saving you a huge amount of cash on coriander, they will all die. You won’t have a verdant garden perched on your windowsill, much to the envy of your fellow students, you’ll have a sad mulch of dead leaves, because they all died.
Forget it, pal – you’re not Alan Titchmarsh. This isn’t the Blue Peter garden. You can barely drink enough water yourself let alone remember to pour some on a plant. Just buy the little pots of dried herbs and forget it.
Some potential new friends. Credit: Alan Turkus via Flickr.
Hot sauce is inexpensive and can really transform an inedible pile of microwaved chow mein into something moderately palatable. So bring the heat, baby, because hot sauce is now your most essential food group.
Smart Price, Basics, Everyday Value, Own Brands
Screengrab of a guy reviewing Sainsbury’s Basics cornflakes, which is a thing that exists. Watch it here, if you must.
Surely you’ve clocked this already? Always buy the supermarket own-brands. They’re cheaper and taste the same. If you really think you deserve Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut over ‘honey covered corn shapes’ or whatever from Aldi then go find the nearest mirror and take a long, hard look at yourself m8. What makes you so superior?
Speaking of which, Aldi and Lidl are your new go-to supermarkets. They’re cheap, the food is good, and you can probably pick up an inflatable hot tub for a tenner at the till.
Halal butchers: not in every university town. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
It may be hard to hear, but one easy way to save money during uni is to cut down on meat, or to even go full veggie. You’ll not only spend less, but you’ll avoid those dreaded ‘I don’t know if this is halal so I’ll just say bismillah and eat it’ moments.
But if that thought alone makes you want to open an abattoir, then what should one do? As you’ll know, most mainstream supermarkets in the UK sell halal meat, as do a lot of restaurants. However, if you’re at uni in a place with a relatively small Muslim population, then it could be harder to come by. So ask around. Check in with other Muslim students; better yet, explore your new home to see if its shops are offering more choice than you first thought.
Although you’ll be spending more time shopping, you may end up spending less on meat you actually want.
Feel Your Pulse(s)
Chickpeas, like most pulses, are cheap and very good for you. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
You know what are cheap, versatile and full of nutrients? Because the universe is a cruel place, it’s not hot wings and chips. Boo. It’s beans! Yay! Pulses like chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, you get the point beans, will fill you up, save you cash, and go some way to ensuring you don’t develop rickets.
The pre-cooked beans that come in cans make a great curry, chili, stew, hummus, burrito, samosa, anything. Hell, you could even cover them in hot sauce (remember?) and eat them straight from the can if you’re in a really dark place. Feeling extra thrifty? Buy the dry beans that you have to soak overnight then boil for three hours – you’ll have enough beans for an army! Actually, scratch that. You’re a student at uni, not a cook at a juvenile detention centre.
Reduced to Clear
Get to know this. Credit: BBC.
Not only is the reduced to clear section a great way to save pennies, it will encourage you to be more experimental in the kitchen. There’ll be no other time in your life where you get the chance to make a meal using only cut-price mince, segments of apple and a stepped-on box of chocolate eclairs, so you might as well embrace the challenge.
One more thing: every minimarket has a witching hour when the lunch meal deals are reduced to rock bottom prices. Pinpoint this time and you’ll be able to cop sandwiches for <£1 errday. Careful though, as those badboys can have more salt in them than the Dead Sea.
Other Stuff You can do (but it Doesn’t Matter if You Don’t)
Yes, it is sensible to cook your meals in bulk. Making a vatful of curry, portioning it evenly into tupperware (the classy kind, with the airtight clips) and freezing it for future meals is a smart, cost effective method of eating on a budget. Having said that, it’s also loooooong. While you’ll have a lot of free time at uni, you won’t want to spend a huge chunk of it behind the stove. So please don’t beat yourself up if you cave to a takeaway pizza every now and again.
Secondly, your local Tesco Express will be more pricey than a big supermarket, and even pricier still than shopping around for the best deal, so try to avoid. But please, don’t think you’re required to do a big weekly shop or become a coupon clipping super-saver who haggles with the local greengrocer like a 1960s cockney. If you can’t be bothered to drag yourself to the aircraft hangar sized Asda, or hunt around for the best deals on seasonal veg, it’s NBD.
Thirdly, we guarantee someone in your halls (possibly you) will be the proud owner of a quirky student cookbook. You might as well donate it to Oxfam now, because you’ll never use it.