Cooking on a Student Budget

meal prep

The sad reality is that we can’t live on Jägerbombs and Apple Sourz alone; we all need to eat. It’s easy enough to get a takeaway, but when you’re working with a student budget, it’s not always possible to feast on pizza and kebabs. But we’re here to help you out with a few suggestions that will enable you and your housemates to cook without breaking the bank.

Meal Prep Is Key

Planning your meals in advance will help you to manage your money more effectively. Knowing what you are going to eat through the week will mean that you don’t buy food unnecessarily – plus you will be in a better position to make some tasty meals instead of the usual last-minute beans on toast.

Planning all of your meals for the week will take some time, and the best way to do it is to download one of the many free meal-prep apps that are available. The Food Planner app allows you to import your favourite recipes before you plan for the week ahead, which puts you in a good position to create a cost-effective shopping list.

Shop for Reduced Items

When products are nearing the end of their shelf lives, supermarkets will drop the prices to encourage people to buy them. Fortunately, most of these food items will still be fresh and ready to use – which is where you step in. Buying reduced items rather than the ‘fresher’ products could cut the cost of your shop in half, leaving you with more money to spend on socialising with friends.

It’s not just supermarkets where you can bag yourself a last-minute bargain. Find out where your local farmers’ market is and you could get yourself some fresh produce for a fraction of the price. Generally, vendors will try their best to shift any fresh fruit and veg in a few hours, so if you time your visit to go in the late afternoon, you could get your 5-a-day for less.

Join Forces with Your Housemates

When you’re at college, you and your housemates are one big happy family, so why does it have to be any different when it comes to the weekly shop. You’ll find that if you all contribute the same amount of money to a shopping fund, you will save on the perishable items because there’s less waste. Think about it: there’s no point having several loaves of bread in the cupboard when you’re only going to eat a few slices yourself.

If you’re sharing the food, then you may as well eat together too. If you and your pals make enough food to feed the whole house, then you’re bringing down the wastage, saving you money in the long run.

The Whole Chicken Trick

Chicken is the most versatile meat that you can use, making it a staple in households all over Ireland. Fortunately, bargain-supermarket chains sell whole chickens for a fraction of the cost that you might pay in the larger chains. You can then use this to make a wide range of meals throughout the week – in fact, one chicken can provide you with not one, not two, but five different dinners!

From curry to casserole, you’ll be equipped to make enough food to get you through the week, and if you effectively pair this with the other tips on this list, then you’ll be able to do it for minimal spend.

Go Veggie

The chicken trick is useful if you’re a meat-eater, but it’s worth noting that things like chicken, beef, and lamb will still be the most expensive parts of your weekly shop. Cutting these out of your diet completely is a great way to save money, and because you won’t be forking out for meat, you’ll have money to spend elsewhere.

You can keep up-to-date with some delicious vegetarian recipes by downloading cookery apps such as Green Kitchen and Vegetarian Society. Remember, you can use these recipes with your food planner app to make sure you’re saving money when it comes to do your weekly shop!

Make Lunch in One Go

Buying lunch each day can add up, and even the supermarket meal-deals can become expensive if you get into the habit of making them your only lunch option. One way around this is to make your lunch at home, because this way you’re only paying for the raw ingredients that go into it and not the packaging and preparation – which is how the supermarkets justify charging more.

If you want to save even more money on your lunch, you can make a big batch all in one go and eat the same thing throughout the week, rather than having different meals each day. For example, you can use stock cubes and any leftovers that you might have to make soup, which should sustain you for the next few days.

Managing Your Money Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

If you’re new to college life, it can be difficult to adapt to managing a student budget, but over time you’ll pick up on some useful ways to keep costs low. Take a look at our blog for more useful tips on how to make the most of your time as a student.