Meal Planning for Students on a Budget

1 min read • June 14 2024

When food shopping, it’s easy to put more in your trolley than you planned to. There’s nothing worse than getting to the self-check-out and having to pay a lot more than you were prepared to. Luckily, there are ways to be more organised so you can stop this from happening and start spending an amount you’re happier with.

Setting a Budget

Come up with a price for your weekly food shop which you think is necessary. Many supermarkets have scanners which you can use as you do your shop, and this can help you keep track of how close to your budget you’re getting. When setting your budget, be realistic, you don’t want one which is too low. You still want to make sure you have enough food to last you until you do your next shop. If you don’t know what your budget should be, do trial shops by experimenting with how much you’re buying. When you find you’re spending an amount you’re happy with that comes with a good amount of food to last you, set this as your budget.

Essential Ingredients

Ingredients like dairy products and vegetables can be used across a large number of meals. Buying ready meals can be useful as they’re quick and easy, but using ingredients can go a long way and be used on several occasions. For example, to make cheese sauce, you need cheese, milk, butter and flour, all ingredients which are often found in the house. If you have these available, as well as pasta, you can create a macaroni cheese. Making one from scratch may be cheaper if you have the ingredients lying about instead of spending money on a ready meal. Not everyone is the best cook ever, but there are lots of simple meals that you can make.

Planning Ahead

Many people plan ahead for the week by noting which meals they’ll be having on each day. Doing this means you know exactly what you have to buy from the shop, so you shouldn’t end up purchasing much more than what is needed. This can also help you be aware of what’s in your fridge, so food is less likely to go wasted.

Meal Prep

In between lectures you might get hungry, and this can lead to spending money on food if you don’t have any with you. If you have a whole week of lectures and you’re buying food at university every day, this cost can build up quickly overtime. If you’ve done a weekly shop and you have food at home, it makes sense to meal prep so you can start saving some money.
A way to minimise how much money you’re spending in the university canteen is to make food the night before. An example of this is to buy a loaf of bread and sandwich fillings like cheese, ham and egg mayonnaise. If you make sandwiches in this way, you’ll soon find you’re saving some money over time. There are other foods you can prepare to eat at university like pesto pasta, salad, and wraps. Some university canteens will have a microwave on site so you can warm your food up too. The options are endless, you just have to be creative and spare some time to get food ready for the next day or week ahead.

Using Leftovers

When cooking dinner, if you make more than you usually would, you can then put this aside and take it to university the next day. For example, if you’re cooking a pasta bake, make a little bit more than normal, and pop the leftovers into a container.
If you don’t want to eat the same meal twice, leftovers can be changed around slightly to make your meal a bit different. If you take the pasta bake again for example, you could add more ingredients to your leftovers, like mushrooms and sweetcorn.
Another thing you can do is keep track of what’s in your fridge and when it goes out of date. This works as a reminder to what you need to use up and you can then make meals out of this. For example, if you have bacon, eggs and bread which are all set to go out of date soon, you can make yourself a nice breakfast.

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