When living on-campus, money is tight. It is the biggest concern that most students face, how can I make ends meet? This was definitely a worry for me when I first moved into Chisholm in my first year. What I’ve found however, is that it is possible to feed myself (quite well I might add) with just $50 a week, some weeks even less!
Before You Go
- Work out what you eat
Food should be about enjoyment, and therefore you should eat the food that you like to eat! If you fill up on meals that you enjoy you will less likely be looking for those in-between-meal snacks, which can increase your spending. You will also be less likely to find yourself making multiple trips to the supermarket, because you know that what you have in the fridge will be delicious! I personally am an unashamed meat and three veg kind of a girl, who needs to have a carb (particularly potatoes) in my meal, so most weeks this is what I buy. For some of you, you may be impartial to curries or pasta.
- Work out how much you eat
Each of us, require different quantities of food, so make sure you know how much you will need to purchase for each meal. This will help in your ability to portion at each meal time as well. This doesn’t just apply to the amounts of fruit and veg you eat, but also to how much cereal/toast you eat in the morning, or how much milk you use.
- Work out the number of meals you need
We are all busy, and each week may be different to the next in terms of how many meals you may need. You may be going home for a weekend, and therefore only need five dinners and lunches, instead of ten each, or you may be going out for dinner one night. It’s important to know how many meals you will need as this will reduce food waste, and over spending on items that you may not need.
Make sure that you see what is in your cupboard/fridge before you head out to the shops! Incorporate what you already have in the meals that you plan on eating. So if you have a spare chicken breast in the freezer, come up with a meal that will use it up, like a stir fry!
- Write a List!
Bearing all this is mind, write your shopping list! Writing a list is just about the most important thing you will need in order to keep your budget on target.
Tips to Keeping the Cost Low
Cheap Meats + Nutrition
- Meat is one of the most expensive components of one’s shop. Be on the lookout for reduced meat that can be put in the freezer, such as a cheap steak.
- Chicken is a great meat that is really cheap. It goes for around $9 a kilo at the Woolworths Deli. It is a lean meat, that can be used in almost any meal, such as a curry, stir fry, pasta or even steamed with veg. It is almost a staple in every uni students diet.
- Pork is also another cut of meat which is quite cheap. It often goes for around $16 a kilo or less depending on the cut that you choose. It is a great alternative to beef and lamb, as it has just as much iron as those red meats, but is around $8 less a kilo.
- Don’t always buy mince and sausages, these, whilst they are delicious, are full of fat and have very little nutritional value. I’m not saying avoid them at all (because how else will you make spaghetti Bolognese) just be mindful.
Cook BULK Foods
- Cooking in bulk can provide multiple meals throughout the week, that are already prepared so all you have to do is microwave.
- Foods such as pasta, curries and stir fries all make for great frozen meals. You can also buy the sauce bases at the shops.
- These kinds of bulk foods can also have the veggies added so they can be healthy as well!
Discover the Frozen Veg Section
- All supermarkets have a wide range of in-house branded frozen veg. My personal favourites are the Woolworths cauliflower and broccoli.
- These veggies are snap frozen, and can live in your freezer until you need them. This means you won’t have semi-wilted vegetables at the end of the week that need to be thrown in the bin.
- Frozen veg is often also cheaper by the kilo, than fresh veg, and they are just as tasty!
- The biggest way to increase your spending at the supermarket is to buy up on snacks.
- If you are eating big enough meals, throughout the day, you should not be needing to buy snacks.
Become a ‘Reduced to Clear’ Hunter
- Always be on the lookout for things that are reduced to clear, especially if it something that is already on your shopping list, or could be added to the freezer!
- Get familiar with the little orange (Woolworths) or yellow (Coles) tags, which could save you money each shop.
My Shop This Week
- 2 x chicken breast
- 1 pork scotch fillets
- 2 x steamed chicken with veggies
- Pork fillet with veggies
- Sweet chilli chicken schnitzel wraps
So bearing this all in mind, your shop can be reduced to less that $50 a week.
Above is a breakdown of my shop this week. For me, this week was a small shop, as I will only be home for four days of the seven, however coming in at only around $35 means that if I had to extend it for another few days, I would be able to easily. I chose to shop at both Aldi and Woolworths, just because Aldi have great frozen products (their frozen potato gratins are to die for!). This week also included the indulgent purchase of a t-bone steak, which was $7, which on another normal week could be rotated out for chicken breasts, which are around $9 for four.
With time and practice, you will gain a feel for your requirements, and will soon be on track to stick to that budget!
By Nicola from Barnes Way