Whether you've reached, passed or are undergoing the life of a student, there's no denying that it can be one of the toughest and most stressful time of your life. Tertiary students in particular, who typically age from 17 to 20 years old, have it the worst.
Worrying about your studies is one thing, but having to go through puberty and heartbreak, all while being on a limited budget is something so incomprehensible. Due to these struggles, students often do not have the time to meal prep or make the effort to research on healthy food items they can opt for instead of instant, frozen food items like pizza or Chinese takeout.
It is so important to note that while you save time and money consuming easy and convenient food, the effects of these food items on your pocket and health are just not worth it. For instance, eating food like fried chicken from KFC may seem like a great idea to re-energise yourself after a long day at school/work, but did you know most fast food items make you feel more lethargic than motivated and active?
Nowadays, social media plays a huge role in making healthy food seem expensive and part of a luxury lifestyle – but it is not. So now, we'll show you a list of 10 tips which teach you how to eat healthy on a budget whilst saving time.
Photo by: Vincent Rivaud from Pexels
Sometimes you may feel lazy to cook so you may opt to eat out or get pizza delivered to your dorm room. However, this is a sure fire way that will finish your savings. Always opt for home-cooked meals.
Yes, cooking can be a chore but it doesn’t always have to be big complicated recipes with 10 ingredients per dish. You can always opt to incorporate simple, wholesome ingredients and prep quick easy meals for the following day or two.
You can try toast with a spread or cornflakes for breakfast if you want a quick meal that will not waste your time. If you are making a curry or a stew, pack the remainder in a container and store it in the fridge till dinner and, lunch the next day.
However, cooking during exam time can be impractical; in that case treating yourself to frozen pizza or instant noodles is ok. But try to refrain from these foods as much as possible for your own health sake.
Plan your grocery shopping days according to the amount of food you will need for the week (or two weeks). Planning ahead is always a good way to ensure you do not splurge on unncessary items.
Try to manage your time and by making sure that you stick to the same day every week when you go grocerry shopping. Do not procrastinate! Organize the groceries neatly once you are home, so that you can easily find the ingredients while cooking – no more frantically looking all over for the salt!
Look out for wholesale vegetable and fruit shops; you can buy fresh veggies for very cheap at wet markets compared to supermarkets. Opt for your local butcher for meats instead of pre-packaged meats available at the supermarket, as it is a cheaper option and fresher than frozen meat.
What's more, supermarkets tend to reduce the prices of selected food items close to the evening time – especially bread and salads – so do keep an eye out for that!
Bonus tip: Want to keep bread fresh for longer? Store it in the fridge! You can keep it past the expiry date, no fungus, and no waste!
You can get chicken fillet or some salmon, season it with salt and pepper or with any other seasoning of your choice, add some vegetables and pop it in the oven! You can get some other work done while it cooks and have a delicious, healthy meal by the end of it.
Make it a point to eat all 3 meals for the day. You can carry snacks with you if you have no time to sit and have an actual meal because at least that's better than nothing. You can pack some grapes in a Ziplock bag or take an apple along with you. Fruits are a great way to stay energised if you can't have a proper meal.
Bonus tip: dried fruits are a great on the go snack, as well as energy bars!
While coffee is a great source of antioxidants and fat-burner, it is also extremely dehydrating and can cause insomnia due to its high levels of caffeine. What's more, coffee can also make you feel more anxious instead of calm, which is definitely not ideal especially when you're sitting for a major exam.
So what is moderation? Well, the recommended amount of coffee per day is 1 to 2 cups and that’s it. So if you really depend on cofffe to stay awake during classes, at least stick to this.
Bonus tip: substitute coffee with green tea, hot chocolate or apple juice to keep you up.
If you eat the same thing every day, it can make you feel less motivated and bored, as if food is just a necessity and not something to be enjoyed.
Make it a point to change up your student budget menu as frequently as possible. Have variety, eat different types of vegetables, prepare meat in different ways – there are many options. Since you are working with a student budget try to use the few ingredients you have to make something new and delicious– be experimental!
Have fun preparing your meals, for example if it’s toast; try different toppings every day, if it’s cornflakes or oat meal; try to add fruit or honey. Instagram accounts like Tasty (Buzzfeed) and Tastemade have fun, easy meals you can prepare on a budget, with step by step videos of the recipe and preparation.
Bonus tip: fun toppings for toast other than scrambled eggs are avocado and hardboiled egg, poached egg with salt and pepper, mozzarella and tomatoes (pop in the oven or microwave for a few minutes to get the cheesy all gooey), and lastly get creative!
It is always good to invest in food which does not expire very soon after the date of purchase.
Food items like canned tuna (tuna canned in water is a healthier option than oil), baked beans and noodles will last quite awhile as well. These food items are also easy to prepare and do not take much time.
You can opt for healthier options like dried vegetables, dehydrated fruits, pasta, cheese and legumes (a good substitute for rice).
The best way to save up is packing your own meals and snacks when going to university.
You may think that buying a sandwich from the university canteen or an eatery along the way may be convenient but at the end of the month you’ll realise that you have spent more than you intended. Pack a simple meal like sandwiches or even pasta (another meal you can prepare in bulk and store in the fridge for multiple meals). Your university may have fitted a microwave in certain study areas, so you could heat up your food.
Pack some snacks like grapes or an apple, even a chocolate bar – you need to indulge once in awhile!
Opt for more vegetables in your diet if you feel meat products are a little over budget. Veggies like lentils, beans, sweet corn, broccoli and artichokes are rich in protein. If you aren’t a fan of vegetables you can go for mushrooms as a meat substitute it is quite meaty and tastes great. It is also a versatile vegetable and can be prepared in many ways – stir fried, boiled, baked, and even as a curry!
If you love a certain brand of tea or a certain type of fruit, keep track of the deals at supermarkets and other stores. It is better to stock up on items with a long shelf life so that you’ll always have food available at home.
Bonus tip: If there is an excess of food, you can always give it to people in need or even your roommate.
Hope this list will help you with your food budget blues and convince you to eat more healthy food. Healthy food doesn’t always have to be boring and cooking doesn’t have to be a chore – have fun with it!