How can students eat healthily on the cheap?

Easy alternatives to the takeaway

Moving away to college or university may well be your first taste of independence. It may also be your stomach’s first taste of non-stop takeaway food! But there is an alternative to meals that are heavy on both the calories and the bank balance, so read on as SavvySave give you the lowdown on cheap ‘n’ healthy eating.

At SavvySave we know only too well the temptations, trials and tribulations of being a student who needs to cater for yourself. The student diet is pretty much a standard joke and the theme of many a meme but it really doesn’t have to be that way.

We all know that there’s probably going to be long days of study, plenty of coursework, and the odd drunken night out or two (or insert your own number here!) and it’s inevitable that you’ll have nights and days when eating something other than a kebab or a burger and chips just doesn’t cut the mustard. But, and we don’t want to sound like your parents here, eating rubbish all term long is not going to do your waistline any good - or your bank balance.

Like many students, you might be at uni to both work hard and play hard but if you’re subsisting mainly on a diet of fast food, you’re not doing yourself any favours. You’ll feel sluggish - which will affect your grades, you’ll be making a serious dent in your bank balance - which will affect your social life, and you’ll likely be packing on the pounds - which might even affect your ability to pull!

We get it, eating out, takeaways and food delivery are attractive options when you’ve spent a hard day studying, getting to and attending lectures, or an even harder night partying, but if you want to stay on top of your game, getting some healthy grub down you will actually make these things easier to cope with. After all, you’ve heard the phrase ‘a healthy body equals a healthy mind’ and cliche as it might sound, it’s true. (After all, cliches are cliches for a reason!)

If you’re in a halls of residence, chances are you have a decent quality kitchen at your disposal. Who knows - it might even put your takeaway joint of choice’s kitchen to shame in terms of hygiene! And even if you’ve never cooked before or have limited faith in your own cooking capabilities why not just see it as another small moving-away-from-home hurdle to overcome? And once you’ve learned to rustle up a few healthy dishes, no matter how basic, you can award yourself a few Brownie (or Cub Scout) points in the life skills department.

Still not convinced? How about these reasons to start cooking healthy student meals? If you’re in a communal kitchen, why not turn it into a social activity? You’ll get to know your housemates or other people living in your halls of residence better for a start - after all, there’s nothing quite like bonding over a boiling pan of spaghetti (and bonus, you are allowed to drink the rest of the wine that you bought especially to make the bolognese sauce!)

Being able to magic up a few signature dishes is always a good way to impress a potential partner too. Let’s face it, your date is going to be so much more impressed if you cook them something first before you hit up the student union bar. Check mums’ staple Good Housekeeping for some easy student recipes - and yes, you will find stuff to do with baked beans there!

The thing is, cooking for yourself doesn’t have to be a chore if you approach it in the right way. And if you’re rolling your eyes already, just remember that the goal here is to save you money - which unless you’re extremely lucky - is probably one of your main issues as a student adjusting to life outside of the family home.

Cooking in bulk and then freezing it for the weeks to come is an awesome idea. Stir fries and chilis are great for this, as they are for cooking in a group so you can make bigger batches and therefore cut down on costs. Why not grab your housemates or hall mates and come up with a few simple recipes that you can all agree on such as those offered by the BBC Good Food’s basic recipes for students?

One great SavvySave tip that we swear by is to go to your local supermarket at the end of the day when fresh veggies, fruits, bread, meat and other perishables are discounted. All of these will still be within their sell by date, even if only by a few hours, but you’ll definitely be able to pick up some bargains. In fact, you’ll often see us hanging around the reduced section giving someone the stink eye until they put that reduced yoghurt back down!

So what happens on those inevitable occasions when you’ve been out shopping but still have nothing in the fridge or cupboard to eat? We’ve all been there: the aimless wandering into the kitchen and opening of the fridge, wondering if something remotely edible has appeared within the 5 minutes since we last peered inside. Try the My Fridge Food website which believes that even the most motley crew of ingredients should be able to be cobbled together to create something worth eating. Honestly, this SavvySaver tried it earlier today and was amazed to find that the contents of her fridge could actually be pulled together to make a meal that actually looked pretty tasty! (Disclaimer, this probably won’t work if you only have beer and ketchup in your kitchen!

So there you have it: SavvySave’s official guide to helping students everywhere live happier, healthier, and cheaper lives. And if you’re STILL not convinced, how about if we reminded you that all that money you could save on fast food could be spent on textbooks, new clothes or tequila shots?!