Anyone who’s had to pay for study (their own or someone else’s) will be well aware of the cost implications – and those clichés about living on baked beans may ring scarily true. But while eating on a student’s budget may have its limitations, you don’t have to sacrifice decent food completely. Here are some ways to get more fuel (and flavour) out of your budget.
1. Put your planning hat on
Spontaneous meals may keep life interesting, but they can also seriously dent your bank account. It may sound boring, but you can get a whole lot more value out of your weekly shop if you do a bit of planning before hitting the supermarket. Work out what meals you’ll be home for, and aim to buy ingredients you can use across at least a couple of meals – that way you get minimal wastage. You’d be amazed at how far a whole chicken can go, for example – you could use it for chicken pie, stir-fry, lunch fillings, and even use the carcass to make broth.
2. Whip your pantry into shape
If your cupboards are packed with junk, it’s hard to see what you do and don’t have already – and you’re more likely to double up on purchases, or forget about stuff and have it go out of date. By keeping it organised (and doing a quick check before you go to the supermarket) you can make your pantry a waste-free zone. It can also be worth investing in some decent storage containers, so food doesn’t go off or stale.
3. Learn to love leftovers
Last night’s stew may not look too appetising but check yourself before throwing it away. A lot of meals can actually be re-purposed as something else – pie filling, sandwich filling and salad ingredients to name just a few. The same goes for stray veggies and other ingredients that you may find lying around. Mushy bananas make a mean banana bread, limp veggies are still great roasted – for more creative ideas, do a little googling or download an app like Epicurious.
4. Embrace the imperfect
These days, shops are increasingly offering ‘imperfect’ fruit and vegetables at discounted prices. If you’re in NSW, check out Harris Farm’s ‘imperfect picks’ – it’s a great way to save on your shop and minimise waste. In lots of cases, the flaws are only very minor or cosmetic, and it won’t make a difference to how things taste! Some other shops also offer food at a discount when it comes to the end of the day, so keep an eye out.
5. Shop in season
Fresh fruit and vegetables can vary hugely in price depending on the season. Those grapes might be a bargain now, but fast forward a few months when they’re not so readily available and the price could rocket. If you’re not sure what’s in season check out Australian Seasonal Food Guide – then you can plan your menu with this in mind.
6. Get together as a group
We all know that buying – and cooking – in bulk is more cost effective. If you’d rather not have spag bol’ for an entire week, why not invite a bunch of friends over and eat as a group? You can take turns and make a weekly event of it (maybe it’s a ‘curry club’, or maybe everyone whips up their own specialty). As well as being a cheap way to eat, it’s a lot more fun that tuna and rice on your lonesome!
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