heading off to college or university, the chances
are youíre living away from home for the first time.
Itís now up to you to make sure you donít waste
And what's worse, you're expected to do it with only
a fiver, a two-ring hob and a toaster.
If up till now youíve avoided the kitchen on a
matter of principle, here are a few tips on how you
can avoid the hunger pangs and eat healthily on the
tightest of budgets.
How to make your ringgit go further
Plan your budget - Work out how much you're
going to spend on food each week and stick to it.
Otherwise, you could be eating like a king at the
start of term and recycling your teabags by the end.
Get back to basics - Processed food
is a pricey option because you're paying for the
processing. It's much cheaper and often more
nutritious to buy basic ingredients and make your
Compare prices - Remember to shop
around. Find out whether your local greengrocer or
market stall is better value than the supermarket.
And you'll often save a few cents by buying a
supermarket's own products, rather than the big
Don't be seduced by special offers
- Getting 20 cents off, three for the price of two,
or 15% extra is great if it's something useful. But
don't fill the cupboards with Battenberg cake just
because it's on special offer!
Cook batches - It can be expensive
buying a different set of ingredients for every
meal, so it's a good idea to cook up a batch of
food. After cooking, cool the food quickly (within
one to two hours), then freeze in serving-sized
portions. Make sure you reheat the food until it's
steaming hot all the way through.
Watch your waste - If you buy food
that goes off quickly, plan your meals so it all
gets eaten or frozen for future use.
You should eat lots of starchy carbohydrates as part
of a healthy balanced diet. So, try to base each
meal on a starchy food, such as these below. The
good news is that these foods are often very good
value, if you shop wisely.
Porridge oats - This is a really
filling meal to start the day. If you don't like
porridge made the traditional way with water and
salt, try making it with milk and honey. And you can
add some fresh or dried fruit for variety.
Bread - Bread is a good source of
starchy carbohydrates. Choose whole meal bread rather
than white, because it's more nutritious and more
Potatoes - Heard the expression
'cheap as chips'? Well, there's some truth in it.
Baked potatoes are great value and very versatile.
You can have cost-effective fillings like cheese,
tinned tuna, and baked beans. You can also boil,
roast, mash, sautee or fry them. But remember you'll
generally pay more for baby new potatoes, especially
if they're pre-bagged and washed rather than loose.
Rice - Another good source of
starchy carbohydrates is rice. It goes really well
with dishes like curry and chilli. You can also use
it to make risotto or add it to salads. Make sure
you store cooked rice in the fridge and reheat it
until it's steaming hot all the way through.
Pasta - It's generally cheaper to
buy pasta in bulk. It's filling, low in fat
(provided you don't smother it in creamy sauce) and
very easy to cook. Experiment with making your own
sauces with tomatoes and veg, chicken and fish,
rather than buying ready-made pasta sauces, which
can be quite expensive.
We should all be eating at least five portions of
fruit and veg each day. The good news is they still
count whether they are fresh, frozen, tinned, dried
or juiced (but juice only counts as one portion a
day, however much you drink).
Avoid overcooking vegetables, because most of the
vitamins end up in the cooking water. It's better to
cook them for a short time in as little water as
If you have the freezer space, try buying frozen veg.
These are economical, because you can take just what
you need out of the freezer and then there isn't any
Tinned tomatoes - These can form
the base of all sorts of sauces, are low in fat and
count towards your daily portions of fruit and veg.
Carrots - Carrots are one of the
cheapest veg around when bought loose, but you'll
pay a premium for packs of baby carrots. Add them to
soups or casseroles, or snack on them raw.
Onions - These are usually really
cheap and are useful to add flavour to pretty much
any dish. Red onions tend to be pricier though so
it's better to stick with white.
Frozen peas - All you need is a pan
of water to cook these from frozen in a few minutes.
Adding a few spoonfuls to a meal is an easy way to
boost your fruit and veg quota. Serve them as a side
dish or put them in rice and pasta dishes.
Apples - Of course, the cost of
apples differs according to the variety and the time
of year, but some are really cheap. A medium-sized
apple counts as one portion and makes a healthy
Fruit juice - Concentrated fruit
juice, which you will usually find in the soft
drinks aisle, tends to be much better value than the
varieties sold in the chilled section.
Baked beans - Beans on toast is a
classic student dish and it's actually a very
healthy option, especially if you use wholemeal
bread, low-fat spread and beans without added sugar
Chicken - Chicken is great for
cooking and for freezing. So, if you've got a
freezer, you could chop it up (removing the skin to
lower the fat content) and then freeze it in small
amounts. Always defrost and cook chicken thoroughly,
and make sure it's steaming hot all the way through
with no pinkness left.
Pulses - Dried beans and lentils
are a cheap source of protein and other nutrients
for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Always follow
the instructions about soaking and cooking on the
Eggs - Eggs are easy to cook and
versatile. Try scrambled egg on toast, make an
omelette with leftover veg, or chop up hard-boiled
egg to add to sandwiches or salads.
Canned fish - Mackerel and sardines
are good sources of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.
And since canned fish keeps for ages, it makes a
great standby meal, served with a bit of toast or
mixed into pasta.
Milk - It's full of calcium and
vitamins, so a glass of milk is a healthy drink at
any time of day. Choose semi-skimmed or skimmed milk
for a lower fat option.
Some people think that having piles of dirty washing
up in the sink and eating foods of dubious safety is
an essential part of the student experience. But if
you don't think a bout of food poisoning is going to
enhance the term, here are a few of the safety
corners you really can't afford to cut:
Leftover takeaways - It's not the
best start to the day, but eating a bit of leftover
pizza or curry for breakfast won't hurt, as long as
it's been kept in the fridge. But you mustn't eat it
if it's been left out at room temperature overnight.
In the right conditions, one bacterium could
multiply to thousands of millions in twelve hours.
Remember to cool leftovers within one to two hours
and then put them in the fridge. If you reheat them,
make sure they are steaming hot all the way through.
'Use by' dates - 'Use by' means
exactly that. There really isn't any leeway - once
the 'Use by' date has been and gone, you just can't
be sure the food is safe to eat. If you chance it,
it could make you ill. 'Best before' dates are used
on foods that take longer to go off. Once this date
has passed the food might not have such a good taste
or texture, but it's unlikely to make you ill.
Mouldy food - Once you spot some
furry growth on food, don't be tempted to cut that
bit off and eat what's left. Moulds and other fungi
produce invisible toxins, which can make their way
into the rest of the food and make you ill. So, if a
food has gone mouldy it's safest to bin it.
Food on the floor - Floors aren't
clean, so any food that's dropped on the floor -
even it makes contact for just a fraction of a
second could be covered in dirt and germs when you
pick it up. So, if your toast lands buttered side
down it belongs in the bin.