The best way to save some money if you’re heading to uni may seem like drinking all night and sleeping all day, so that you then simultaneously don’t have to eat, or face what you did last night. But if you want to actually enjoy your first year during the daytime too, then you may want to think about what you’ll be eating.
Before I left for Newcastle, over a few weeks, my mum and I stocked two boxes with food. Not biscuits and pot noodles, but simple healthy ingredients- which combined can make a meal in minutes, and allow you to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15. I ended up with enough food to see out a nuclear war under my bed, but by picking up canned and dried foods when they were on offer (and from cheaper stores that Newcastle doesn’t have) my food bills ended up being dramatically slashed when I got to uni. I didn’t manage to get through all of the food I took either, which means some of it has been used by my family this summer, and a lot of it can come to uni with me this next year. So what are the very basics you should try to get hold of? Well, below I have them all listed for you. Choose some from each section, and pack them up ready. I also have a post coming up to give you meal ideas to use them, and so check that out to make a shopping list from before you leave…
Before You Go…
Wholemeal noodle nests (due to noodles cooking faster and being lighter on the stomach I actually ended up abandoning pasta throughout the year in favour of them)
Dried fruit, such as….prunes, sultanas, dates
Nuts or seeds, such as…walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds
Cereal with no added sugar, such as Shredded Wheat
(If you’re feeling fancy…mixed quinoa and bulgur wheat cooks quickly, lasts forever, fills you up, is a nice change, and is an protein and energy powerhouse)
Several cans beans of choice, such as red kidney beans
Canned chopped tomatoes
Fish, such as…mackerel, tuna, sardines, pilchards, mussels (look our for deals and multipacks)
Herbs & Spices
Chilli flakes or powder
Black and white pepper
I love to cook, and so you may not want to bring all of these ingredients with you, but I strongly recommend at least bringing some from each section. With these basics, and a few frozen and fresh ingredients once you arrive at university, you are then ready to take on cooking as an adult. And even if you’re running low on fresh food, you can whip something up with whatever is lurking in the bottom of the fridge.
Once You’re Settled In…
Once you get to uni you’ll want to stock up the freezer, fridge, and the cupboards- but sit down first and make a meal plan. I made one the day before I left, so that I was prepared to stock up the fridge on arriving. Write out the ingredients you need for each meal, when you’ll eat the leftovers, and how many portions you can freeze for emergencies. I have a post on planning and shopping for meals right here: http://ecstaticallyem.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/7-simple-steps-to-meals-as-student.html
Fresh and frozen ingredients I bought regularly included:
Spinach or kale or lettuce
Greek or natural yoghurt
Fish fillets (multipacks of salmon fillets were on offer)
McCains Jacket potatoes
Frozen ingredients can be stored for a long, long time. Some fresh ingredients also last for weeks (if stored correctly), such as onions and potatoes. Be sure to freeze food you know you won’t be eating according to your own personal meal plan though. This includes the pitta bread, berries, and leftovers. If your bananas are becoming too ripe then slice them up and freeze them; they can then be used in smoothies, to make one ingredient banana ice cream, or eaten as a snack on their own. There are loads of ways to save money with food, you just have to get your head around pre-planning.
What Shouldn’t I Do?
Now, on the other hand, here are the foods and shopping habits to avoid being tempted by (I’ll give you great alternatives in the next post, I promise)….
- Branded ice creams, on offer or not. (Maybe treat yourself occasionally, but this is one food that guzzled up some friend’s loans. Along with…)
- Alcohol. (Bring a couple of bottles of your favourite, and some mixers, with you. Use them for pre-drinks, and you can avoid having to spend that much on this during fresher’s; free or cheap drinks may be around at some events. The shop conveniently placed underneath the accommodation may do good deals to begin with, but you’ll notice prices rising as you get further through the year. By limiting alcohol you also ensure you feel better for the majority of the year, and that you don’t live in your overdraft.)
- Pre-prepared pizzas
- Ready meals
- Buying lunch out every single day
- You may want to cut back on meat, simple but effective (I switched to only occasionally eating fresh fish at uni, and once my meals became predominantly veggie based my food bill fell again)
- Shopping solely at the supermarket (checkout smaller bargin stores for canned goods, ethnic stores for items such as spices and rice in bulk, and the market if you’re lucky enough to have one locally- although keep an eye on what is cheaper in the big shops too! Get to know the shops around you and what they charge for ingredients you use a lot of)
- Shopping on an empty stomach
- Shopping without a rough budget (look at food stores online once you have your ingredients listed, and work out roughly how much it is)
- Shopping mid-day (in the mornings the shops are quieter and less hectic, and in the evening foods are often reduced in price. ALWAYS check the offers and bargin bin)
- Don’t be sucked in by “great deals” you don’t need. (Ask yourself: can I afford it? If so, do I need it? Will I use it? What will I use it for/in? Nine times out of ten you’ll walk away)
If you really can’t trust yourself to shop and ignore the things that you’re tempted to buy? Shop online. This can also be a time saver if you’re super busy, and delivery can be free. Warning: they sometimes bring the wrong things.