Moving out of home can present its challenges, and having to be in control of cooking your own meals is an added pressure that some of us would rather not have to face. Ready meals and takeaways are certainly an easy option, but they can have a huge impact on your bank account (and indeed upon your health). When I was a student, I found it really difficult to do food shops that would last me a long while and I would end up just buying pizza’s and ready-made pasta. I may not be much of an expert now, but I think I’m slowly grasping it. To help inspire you to get cooking, I’m sharing my weekly food shop with you and how I put it to good (ish) use. If I can do it, you can too!
It’s important that you buy foods that you like, so for me it’s always plenty of greens. I also choose to drink almond milk because it’s healthier and it lasts much longer in the fridge (so less waste). It’s also really handy to have a good stock of herbs and spices to add some extra flavour to your meals – I personally love using black pepper, paprika, parsley and basil. You’ll notice that most of the meals I cook involve ingredients that weren’t in my weekly shop; like the herbs and spices, it’s always handy to have a cupboard full of ingredients that can be used in many different recipes such as dressings, sauces, stock cubes etc.
Loose carrots x 3 – 32p
Loose parsnips x 3 – 57p
Sweet potatoes – 95p
White onions – 59p
Baby potatoes – 89p
Oranges - £1
Wholemeal pasta – 59p
Broccoli – 45p
Almond milk - £1.50
Mozzarella – 70p
Diced beef - £2.89
400g chicken breasts - £4
Cherry tomatoes – 53p
Passata x3 – 40p each
Baby spinach - £1.50
Green beans - £1
Feta cheese - £1.20
Mixed peppers - £1.50
Loose bananas – 48p
Covent Garden tomato soup - £1.17
12 medium free range eggs - £1.75
• Frittata – ingredients: onions, red pepper, sweet potato, spinach, eggs, feta. This meal lasted me for two evening dinners and two lunches.
• Covent Garden tomato soup with a slice of granary bread (you can buy a loaf of bread for under £1) – one carton allowed me two lunches.
• Beef stew – ingredients: diced beef, baby potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, beef stock and a handful of gravy granules – this meal lasted me for two dinners and one lunch.
• Mozzarella and pesto stuffed chicken breast with baked sweet potato, broccoli and green beans. This meal as standard was for one evening meal; however, I always have this meal more than once a week and I will mix up different ways of cooking the chicken e.g. with different herbs and spices.
• Chicken salad – sliced chicken breast, spinach, tomatoes and pepper with a bit of Caesar salad dressing. This was for one lunch.
I hope this helps to give you at least a small idea of how you can utilise one food shop for a week’s worth of meals – there are also many ingredients that didn’t get used in the meals mentioned above, and I find it can be quite fun putting together some quick meals with whatever ingredients I have left over. For example, I always keep a bag of Quorn mince in the freezer (it tastes just like normal mince, it’s healthier and it can be cooked straight from frozen), so often I use up some ingredients by throwing together a Bolognese – this is where having a good stock of passata/tinned tomatoes comes in handy. Another good one it making an omelette with left over eggs and veg. It’s all about making meals that work for you and buying ingredients that you can utilise in many different ways.
- Buy ingredients that can be utilised in many different ways.
- Equally, buy ingredients that will allow you to make a big sum of food that will last you for more than one meal. This is especially useful when you’re busy; because it’s less time you have to spend cooking.
- Have a good stock of herbs, spices etc. so that you can mix up the flavouring of your meals and make your food more exciting.
- Utilise your freezer – meat tends to be very short dated, especially chicken. So, invest in some freezer bags and freeze your meat in portions. If you know ahead of time what you want to cook that evening, you can take the meat out of the freezer in the morning and leave it to defrost during the day.
- If you’re guilty for snacking (I can’t resist my daily biscuit fix), keep an eye out for when your favourite snacks are on offer and stock up. Or even give the cheaper supermarket brand a try – quite often they taste just as nice for half the price.
- Buying things in multi-packs can often be much cheaper in the long run than buying individual items, so be sure to take a moment to consider whether you’re getting the best value for money when you’re choosing items to put in your trolley.
- Get together with friends or housemates and cook a meal together – you can all split the cost of the ingredients and it’s always a great way of spending time together and taking your mind off of the stress of uni work for a while.