Living on a student budget isn’t easy, especially when like me you enjoy cooking. So this week, I attempted to shop on a strict £35 budget. This had to account for three meals a day, seven days a week. It’s unsurprising that a lot of students’ biggest worry is managing a budget. Food is easily one of the largest expenditures behind rent, which is why it is important to keep an eye out for any tips or tricks to keep costs low. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that planning is key to keeping the cost of your food shop down. Also, don’t be afraid to swap key ingredients about for cheaper ones. My meals weren’t vegetarian which increased the cost too - so it’s worth keeping that in mind.
For breakfast I had a bagel with cream cheese on. The bagels were 5 for £1 (or 20p each) in my local supermarket and the cream cheese was bought in my weekly shop for 85p and lasts for about two weeks.
Lunch consisted of pasta - buying dried pasta is really cheap and an iconic student staple. A jar of pasta sauce is notoriously inexpensive, especially at discount supermarkets, and frequently contains more vegetables than you realise. I usually bulk up my sauce with fresh vegetables - spring onions, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. With plenty of seasoning it’s a warm and nutritious meal to keep me going through the day.
Dinner today was pancetta risotto. I make this in bulk to save money, usually having three large portions to last me through the week. The most expensive ingredient is easily the butter at £1.90. The pancetta, peas, cheese and rice can be kept for a while if stored correctly. This meal worked out at £1.60 a portion.
Breakfast today consisted of beans on toast. I used a couple of slices of a loaf of bread I bought in the reduced aisle for 40p and froze to keep good. The beans were 35p a tin and have been sitting in my cupboard for several weeks. I always find it easier to cook after buying in bulk.
I often use my leftover vegetables to make a tomato stew, something my mother encouraged us to do to stop things going to waste. Today I’m using a few potatoes that were leftovers from last week and the remainder of the vegetables from yesterday. If you make sure to stop anything from going to waste, you’ll find yourself being far more effective with a limited budget when it comes to food.
Dinner tonight was my one luxury of the week. A local pizzeria is doing take-away to bake at home for £6.90. It was worth it.
Breakfast again was a bagel, this time with some roasted tomatoes on it. I usually put them in a pan in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, with a little drizzle of olive oil, some garlic and a generous seasoning. The tomatoes were 75p for a large bag, so the meal came to about 30p in total.
Lunch was leftover risotto that I made earlier in the week.
Dinner tonight was my favourite - chicken ramen soup. Noodles are inexpensive in most supermarkets and chicken breasts can be bought cheaply too. Alongside some stock, spring onions and some toast, the meal came to about £1.95 a portion.
Today, I was in a rush to get work done, so I had toast for breakfast. Probably the most cost-effective morning meal, and a firm favourite, I love it with soup for lunch too which is a very cheap meal, especially when you make it yourself.
Lunch today was a sandwich. I find it so satisfying seeing the reduced aisles at supermarkets - the ham today was found last night for 30p. The best time to shop, in my opinion anyway, is always at the end of the day when produce is being reduced. If it can’t go in the freezer, it can be eaten the following day!
Dinner is beef tacos. Taco kits are my hidden luxury - especially when they’re on offer at the supermarket. I got mine for £2 and the ingredients cost about £5. I made a lot, so this could’ve fed several people. Dinner was followed by fruit, which cost only £2.
For breakfast I had another bagel with cream cheese.
Lunch today was a salad, with bits of halloumi and an olive oil dressing. The halloumi was expensive (but worth it), I used half the block and the salad leaves and vegetables came to about 40p and were leftover from yesterday’s tacos.
Tonight, dinner was at my friend’s - I live alone so have a social bubble with her.
I got in late last night so I slept through breakfast. Lunch was a bagel with cream cheese and some soup. It was on offer and cost £1.
Dinner tonight was sweetcorn, pepper and halloumi tortillas. I used the other half of the halloumi and the rest of the ingredients cost about £2. I splashed out on pudding and bought some cookies for £1 on offer in the supermarket.
Today I had a late lunch and made an omelette using leftovers from the week. The eggs were 80p and the vegetables were budgeted in other meals.
Dinner was hot smoked salmon, pea and green bean pasta. The pasta was from the same bag as earlier in the week and the remaining ingredients cost £3.
The total cost of food this week came to £29.