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Timely tips for healthy eating on those tight student budgets

September 12th, 2023 6:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

Timely tips for healthy eating on those tight student budgets Image
Get creative with leftovers, says Cammy. Use them in salads, burritos, stir fries and soups. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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With colleges ready to welcome students back in the coming weeks, many young people will be coping with independent living for the first time. Cammy Harley offers some useful tips for those trying to balance limited time and resources with the need for good nutrition

WITH students getting ready to head to college in September, and with many of them leaving the family kitchen for the first time, one of the major hurdles they will face is what to feed themselves for breakfast, lunch and supper on a daily basis.  

Eating well on a budget can be a challenge, especially when students are faced with a multitude of other distractions such as socialising and studying and learning to live a self-regulated life away from home.  

Organic and healthy food can be expensive and students may be tempted to resort to fast food or skipping meals, but with some advance planning, it is possible to have a nutritious diet and save money in the long run.

1 Plan out your meals

Most students have spent time planning music playlists, wish lists and bucket lists, but might not have realised that planning a meal list can be game-changer and one that will save money and cut out food waste. 

Spending an hour a week planning meals for the week ahead, and then sticking to the plan, will stop impulse buying or getting items that seem like a good idea at the time, but which will not be used.

2 Stick to the list

Once the meal plan has been made, a grocery list can be drawn up and stuck to.  It is also worth checking to see what is in the cupboards before heading to the shop so that nothing is duplicated. A way of shopping smartly is to stick to the outer edges of the supermarket, where all the fresher and healthier items are shelved as all the heavily processed items are generally in the middle aisles of the shop.  

3 Never shop when you are hungry 

Shopping when hungry is guaranteed to blast through your budget with impulse buys, many of which would be processed and instant foods which obviously have less beneficial nutrients and can be expensive.  Keep a stash of smart snacks at hand such as popcorn, dried fruit and crackers so that if hunger strikes during a late night study session, or before a grocery shop, sweets, ice creams, processed foods and takeaways won’t be the automatic go-to. 

4 Storage and sorting

Storing food properly at home helps to prevent waste. Apples turn soft quickly at room temperature but keep well in a bag in the fridge whereas tomatoes ripen more evenly at room temperature away from direct light. Sort items in your cupboard or fridge in order of what needs to be used first, so that nothing is forgotten on the shelf at the back until it is past its use-by date. 

5 Diligent shopping 

Shopping like a pro and buying items in bulk that you know you will use (and that have a long shelf) is always a good idea as it will save money and will also be a staple in the cupboard for a rainy day.   Only buy sale items if they are products you know you will use.  Buying the shop’s own brand or generic brand is another way to save money.  All food manufacturers have to follow certain standards so generic brands are less expensive but are usually the same quality as well-known brands. If in doubt, always check the ingredient list against a known brand.

6 Cook your own

Making your own meals is cheaper than eating out or buying pre-made meals and with a plan to stick to, it does not have to be a daily chore.  Cooking in bulk and then freezing portions saves money and time.  

By setting aside an afternoon, all food prep for the week can be done in advance thereby freeing up valuable time for joining clubs and societies.

7 Crafty leftovers 

Get creative with leftovers.  Use them in other recipes or for light lunches. Leftovers can be used in salads, burritos, stir fries and soups.  

 8 Digital helpers 

A dedicated food App such as SuperCook is useful as it allows you to put in the ingredients you have at hand and it will generate recipes accordingly to use those items.   YouTube has a huge store of healthy online recipes and ideas to follow and the videos can show step by step instructions for a recipe that you might not have attempted before. 

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