You may have heard about the ‘fresher’s 15’ or that most people put on weight when they start university. With all of the drinking, cooking for yourself and limited food budget, that could be true – but it doesn’t have to be. Starting healthy eating habits throughout university will ensure that you take good habits with you when you leave, and help keep those pounds off. You may think that healthy eating is hard with your limited income, but there are some things you can try to help you do it on a budget.
Create weekly food plans
Food plans aren’t just for people on a diet or a health kick, they can also be beneficial for students on budgets too. Setting yourself a weekly food budget and working out what you want to eat each week will help you get the most out of your food shop and allow you to plan healthier meals too. Whilst you’re bound to indulge in the occasional takeaway or meal out with friends, at least you’ll have the majority of your meals covered.
Cook meals in batches
Cooking for one can be difficult, but if you prepare yourself some healthy meals, you can make more than one portion to use the next day or to freeze for times where you don’t want to cook. This is a much healthier option than purchasing dozens of ready meals each week which can be packed with salt and sugar. You may even wish to take it in turns with your housemates to cook home-cooked dinners which will ensure you get a healthy meal each night, without having to cook it all yourself.
A key reason why people, students included, don’t buy fresh fruit and vegetables is because they don’t always use them and have to throw rotten food away. Another is the amount of preparation which can be needed with certain fruit and veg. Buying frozen fruit and vegetables is an easy way to cut the preparation out as well as reduce waste – you’ll only use what you need and won’t have to worry about it going off. You can also buy frozen meat and fish portions to use as and when you wish, rather than worrying about cooking whole packets at a time. You can also buy tinned foods if you want to buy products with a long shelf life.
Unbranded foods in the supermarket are often the same quality as your favourite branded goods. If you did a blind taste test, you probably wouldn’t notice a difference. You can save a lot of money by buying foods from alternative brands, and buying from local shops and markets will often offer even better value.
Learn to cook from scratch
There’s something quite satisfying about learning to cook foods from scratch. Aside from the feeling of accomplishment from creating your own home-cooked meal, you’ll also benefit from knowing exactly what you’ve put in your food. Making home-cooked versions of your favourite restaurant or takeaway dishes is simple once you start and you can find a recipe for pretty much anything online, meaning you won’t even have to pay for a cook book. The NHS Easy Meals app is a great resource for finding healthy versions of your favourite foods.
Eating healthily on a budget requires some discipline on your part, but it can be managed. Keep an eye out for deals and offers on your staple groceries as a way to stock up and save money, and who knows – you may even have some cash leftover for some treats too! If you want further ideas on eating healthily, the NHS Choices website has plenty of great resources for maintaining a healthy diet.