Whether you’re just starting uni and having to cook for yourself for the first time or have recently become veggie, these are my top tips for a budget-friendly, vegetarian life at uni:
1. Buy Fresh Veg
Buying vegetables (and fruit) fresh is cheap and can last a long time if you correctly store your produce in the fridge. Don’t be caught out by the pre-prepared packets/mixes; these are much more expensive than buying individually and preparing yourself, and they very often go rotten after a day or two, even in the fridge!
2. Tinned Beans
Beans are cheap, versatile and a great source of protein in the absence of meat. I add them to almost everything (Spaghetti, enchiladas, salad, rice and of course, chilli) because they bulk out meals to make them super filling, are super good for you, and are only about 39p per can in supermarkets. I love them!
3. Frozen Meals
Sometimes you maybe just don’t have time to cook, or can’t really be bothered, so it’s fine to have some microwave meals occasionally – just make sure you look out for the budget options in supermarkets. Alternatively, if you make too large a portion on a night when you do decide to cook, bung the leftovers in an old Chinese box or Tupperware pot and freeze them for another night!
Don’t complicate things if you don’t have to. I always find it easier and more efficient to make pasta meals in bulk and then leave to cool for a cold pasta salad lunch the next day. Don’t forget that pasta doesn’t have to be the same every time; I recommend keeping at least two different types of pasta (maybe spaghetti and fusilli) in your cupboard to prevent meals seeming too repetitive.
5. Veggie Alternatives
Supermarkets offer loads of alternatives to meat. As well as that, there are some big meat alternative brands such as Quorn, Linda McCartney and Meatless Farm. Big names do tend to dominate the market, but own brands are often just as good while being considerably cheaper, so don’t just buy what’s on the sticker!
6. Stir Fry
All you need to make a stir fry taste great is a stock cube and some soy sauce. After that, filling up a stir fry with veg means one packet of noodles often lasts two nights, making it super cheap to eat! Also, there are some amazing oriental sauces that you can buy for very little, so add some variety; chuck in a little bit of what you fancy and enjoy a simple, tasty meal!
Who doesn’t love fajitas, right? One packet of tortilla wraps can make a week’s worth of meals that don’t all have to be the same (fajitas, enchiladas, pizzas). Mexican nights are also a great way to get all your friends together for a nice evening with good food. Why not add some nachos as a side dish as well?
8. The Freezer
You don’t often get a lot of individual space in the communal freezer, but bread lasts so much longer in there, so if you’ve got the room, defo put it in. Frozen peas are a great way to get the veggies into almost everything without having to worry about use-by dates, so a packet of these will serve you well and last a good while, too.
9. Planning Meals
It’s a great idea to plan your meals. Planning means you know exactly what you’re doing, when you’ll be doing it, what you’ll need for each night, and it ultimately reduces how much you waste, making shopping quicker, cheaper and much less wasteful.
If you’re struggling for what to make, there are plenty of sources of inspiration out there. Food bloggers offer great veggie recipes; have a quick search on Instagram and you’ll find a tonne of veggie students sharing their meal ideas.