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Savvy Student Cooking: How to eat well on a budget

Vegetable Stir Fry image

As you begin planning your move to university, you’ve got to start working out how you’re going to feed yourself. Yes – believe it or not, this is actually something you will have to think about and even take time to plan. This might not sound particularly fun, but it is worth knowing some tips and tricks to help and make sure that you eat well without hurting your wallet!

London is known for being an expensive place to live, but by incorporating these tips into your food plans and budget management, you can make sure you’re belly and bank balance stay topped up nicely. We’ve also thrown in some recipe ideas at the end to get you started! 

Before we continue...

All students have a part to play in keeping themselves and the rest of the LSE community safe. This isn’t just applicable when you are on campus or in LSE spaces, it also applies for when you are off campus as well. This is why the recommended guidance and advice should be followed at all times, including but not limited to: adhering to a safe distance, wearing recommended protective equipment and practising good hygiene and sanitation. 

We strongly advise all students to check for the most up-to-date advice and government guidelines and follow them when shopping for food and essentials. Many retailers and outlets have put in place practices to support the safe visits of its customers. There will most likely be safety precautions that you will need to take prior to your visit and practices that you’ll need to follow during your visit, so make sure you are aware of these by checking their websites and follow them when visiting shops, retailers and outlets.

It’s important for all of our students to keep safe, especially those at a high risk. To find out if you fall into a high risk category and for more information about the precautions you should take, please click here.

Set a budget: how much will you spend per week?

According to the annual Money Survey by SaveTheStudent, students spend an average of £92 a month on grocery shopping alone! Usually students plan to have a rough idea of how much they want to spend every week, though most still end up breaking the bank. Therefore, it’s really important that you try to have some numbers in mind and stick to them!

And with this one, it’s important to remember that setting a budget doesn’t necessarily mean making the amount you spend as low as possible. It has to be reasonable and factor in everything you may want or need to eat – snacks, drinks and munchies included!

Keep your eyes peeled for yellow stickers!

A great tip to ensure that you fall within budget is to buy more reduced items! We all love a bargain, so why shouldn’t that apply to eating well for less? Every supermarket has yellow sticker markdowns (sometimes twice a day) – you may even find an entire aisle section dedicated to yellow stickers!

Reduced Items typically expire that day (hence why they are marked down in price). It’s a top tip to keep in your mind if you’re looking for a quick lunch or snack on the go for that day. A great hack is also freezing reduced items – aslong as it can be frozen, freeze it on the day of purchase and you’ve just extended it’s shelf life by a few extra months, for a fraction of the price!

Shop for your freezer!

If you’re lucky enough to have a freezer in your halls, be sure to make use of it! Besides buying the usual easy-to-cook items – like oven chips, garlic bread and pizzas – you need to make sure that you’re eating well and healthily.

Frozen vegetables are generally cheaper than their fresh produce counterparts – so you can rest assured that you won’t have to spend much on your five-a-day! In addition to buying cheaper frozen items, buying and cooking with frozen veggies can considerably reduce your waste as you keep it for much longer (without compromising its taste)!

Why not try batch cooking?

Instead of living on greasy takeaways and overpriced pizza, you can save a huge amount of your budget if you cook responsibly. One way in which you can do this is by planning and cooking in batches.

Imagine making pasta – preparing, cooking, and cleaning up – every day (it might seem unlikely, but it happens)! So, instead of doing the same cooking routine each evening, why not try whipping up a larger batch of pasta sauce including onions, olives, mushrooms and whatever else takes your fancy? This way, you can save a significant amount of time throughout the week and you can also eat well for less!

If you’re worried about having the same meal every day, you can switch things up a little – use different ingredients, try new sauces, make a pasta salad or even a pasta bake!

Making use of leftovers!

While batch cooking effectively means that you reuse the same food(s) over and over again… you can also make the most of your cooking by making use of any leftovers!

What can I make with leftovers? Depending on what you have left over, you can try and add it to a range of meals. For example, you can try adding leftovers to toasties, wraps/quesadillas, and pasta dishes… you could even try making a stir-fry! 

Can’t be bothered to cook?

Check out our recommendations of cheap meals on- and off-campus on our Mega Deals for Students post, but remember to follow the recommended guidance and check any establishments’ website for the latest changes to service updates!

Finally, we thought we’d help you out with a handful of delicious, affordable, and easy-to-make recipe ideas.

  • Pasta bakes – It’s quite an easy one to get right. After throwing in your favourite veggies, seasonings and meats (or alternatives), you only have to add some grated cheese and whack it into the oven until the cheese is all nice and golden!  
  • Omelettes and frittatas - Frittatas and omelettes are very versatile, as you can add lots of different things. They are also a good way of making a meal in only one pan meaning that there is far less washing up to do!
  • Quesadillas – Cheesy Mexican food… need we say more!? Quesadillas are far tastier than their grilled cheese counterparts. So, to add some extra crunch and flavour – throw in some avocados, cured meats, refried beans, and/or salad!
  • Pizza and flatbreads – This is self-explanatory: all you need to do is buy (or make) the base and prepare some toppings of your choice! If you want to switch things up, instead of a pizza base, you could experiment with puff pastry.
  • Salad bowls – Salads are among the easiest meals to make and they’re also super healthy! While Caesar salads are generally unhealthy, you can swap out a couple of ingredients (i.e. Caesar dressing for vinaigrette) and add some homemade garlic bread on the side to fill you up! If you make a large batch of salad and have some left over, you can throw the remaining in a wrap for lunch the following day!
  • Stir Frys – Such a quick and easy balanced meal. You’ve got your noodles or rice as your carbs and your meats, tofu or alternatives for your protein. Load it up with tons of veggies and pour over some soy or stir fry sauce. Start experimenting with your seasonings and spices and you’ve got the perfect fakeaway meal to tuck in to!