I must admit this title sounds impossible. Sometimes even we can’t believe we’ve managed to achieve it! However, the proof is in the pudding – yes, we can afford to still treat ourselves without slacking on nutrition or living off rice and beans entirely!
Many people ask us how, as students, we manage to travel so much and we can never really give them a satisfactory answer. Well, until we started to plan this blog post and then we realized that our methods are actually very effective.
However, we must give some disclaimer and say that it may not work for everyone. As students, we are given 3 bulk sums of money which have to last us 4 months, 3 months and 2 months. Now, this seems like an easy life but it isn’t. With rent and bills to be accounted for in advance, we are left with hardly any money for food. Yet we still manage to feed ourselves for 6 months on £99 worth of food*. That we worked out equated to roughly just 58p a day… to feed us both three meals! Unbelievable we know!
If you want to find out how we manage this, then read on.
*excluding fresh produce like milk, eggs, fresh veg and cheese.
1. Buy and cook food in bulk.
Any great money conscious person will tell you that your freezer is a gift from the gods. Our freezer is always much more bountiful then our fridge and that is because of our abundance of bulk cooked meals, frozen meats, fish and vegetables (with the occasional tub of ice cream tetris’d in if it is on offer).
At the beginning of the semester, we will make a special effort to get some bulk cooking done so that we are prepared for the weeks ahead. Favourite freezer meals of ours include a good bolognese sauce, curries, stews, a base tomato sauce and a creamy chicken sauce (that can be had with pasta, mash and veggies or even in a pie!)
I also like to cook up a few different soups which are great for bringing into uni for lunch. Last year our freezer contained leek and potato soup, spicy tomato and lentil soup and a chicken broth made with pearl barley, split peas, yellow lentils and carrots, and this year is no different. Having a choice of soups means avoiding boring, repetitive lunches and if we did ever get bored a great idea is to head down to your local supermarket and grab a handful of veggies that are in the reduced section and get inventing! Smokey sweet potato and butternut squash is my latest creation with a recipe soon to come upon our own blog.
So what else is in your sub-zero chest of wonders I hear you ask?
Well, we always have our bag of frozen sausages – great for if you’re feeling a sausage sandwich on a relaxing Saturday morning, but they are great for so much more! Our creations include spicy sausage pasta, Supreme Sausages, and, bangers and mash; the possibilities are endless. Toad in the hole is a classic which we love! Home making yorkshire puds may sound fancy and expensive but they’re SO simple, we always have flour in our cupboards so we only need to go out of our way to buy eggs and any leftover eggs will then get used in a carbonara or a sweet treat or a new invention (like our panchiladas).
Alongside sausages, we have fish, chicken and mince. We recommend separately bagging up the produce so that it is portioned out and ready to use, so for the mince, we divide it up into smaller chunks. Although Iceland does a lot of great deals, a tip of ours is to buy your chicken fresh and then freeze it, we found in the past that most frozen chicken breasts are 50% water, meaning a solitary mouthful of chicken followed by a still-hungry-belly.
2. Budget a maximum of £5 a week for dairy and fresh produce.
When it comes to dairy and fresh produce, we give ourselves a budget of £5 a week although we don’t often spend that. We tend to use a lot of milk due to the copious amounts of tea we drink and the milk we use in cereal. We tend to buy a loaf of bread every two weeks, freezing it a day before the sell by and defrosting before use. This way no food (or pennies) go to waste. A great tip for cheap bread is getting yourself down to your local supermarket when they start markdown. We managed to get 20 bread rolls for 20p!
We all have different relationships with cheese and if you are a cheese lover then it becomes obvious the reasons why you may be spending more on your shops. We buy a massive block which can usually last us a month, maybe even longer. This is because it is mainly used on top of meals like pasta bake or the occasional sandwich!
3. Experiment with base sauces and recipes.
As you’ve probably noticed on our blog (if you’ve heard about us before) there are some pretty wacky recipes on there. Our favourite being panchiladas; the ultimate fusion of American and Mexican cuisine. A tomatoey mince filling encased in a sweet pancake, sounds crazy right? But it taste delicious! This was created when Maddie became bored and somewhat creative but it has become a staple meal in our household. We also use the same Mexican base in tacos or burritos too (if we are wanting a vegetarian option we put our paella mix in a taco/ wrapped tortilla) so it is a very versatile recipe.
When it comes to livening up the mundane everyday dishes, you can’t go wrong with some classic herbs and spices. We tend to keep a mix of different from mixed herbs to chilli flakes and Chinese five spice to your classic curry spices. Spices help to add a certain je ne sais quoi to any dish and helps keep the passion for food alive. Spice up your food and your life – you won’t regret it!
4. Never waste food.
We try to never waste food. We do this by learning suitable portion sizes for the both of us and using everything that will go out of date in soups or bases. If it is coming to the end of a semester and we know there is going to be food that needs using up we will often cook up ‘feasts’ which is basically our way of using everything in the freezer which gets us super stoked about leftovers. Chicken feasts consisting of at least 4 different ways to cook chicken has to be a personal favourite but others include filled Yorkshire puddings (coming to our blog soon), spaghetti carbonara, a big stew of some description, a filled pie or fruit brack. The possibilities that leftovers create are infinite.
5. Last but not least, budget, budget, budget!
I always create a budget at the start of the year, it’s a very simple Excel spreadsheet and I update it continually throughout the year. This way I know how much I will have left over (if anything) before the next payment arrives. Budgeting is a great life skill to learn now because it will help you a tonne in the future. It may seem tiresome and mundane but by using a budget we know how much (roughly) at the end of a semester we will have, and is a great way to work out how much on average you can put away each month in to a separate savings accounts, after all those holidays don’t come cheap.
By following these simple steps, we don’t guarantee immediate success. But we can guarantee that these steps are a sure way to help you spend less on day to day living while having varied and well-balanced meals. We hope that if you give it time, you too will have a few extra pennies!