We’ve all heard about the ‘broke student’ lifestyle about a thousand times each, and most of us will, at some point, live through it. It’s an age-old stereotype, but that doesn’t mean that the lifestyle isn’t problematic. Turning to another cliché as an example, let’s look at food.
Eating healthily isn’t cheap, and living on a budget means that healthy meals aren’t always available. Having come from a household where cooking was the cornerstone of the family, I have a few quick, easy and most importantly cheap meals that can help any student save cash.
One of my favourite dishes to cook is vegetarian chilli. This dish is really simple, and once you buy the spices to make it the first time, they can last for ages! Another bonus is that it’s meat-free, so as well as being environmentally friendly, it’s a lot cheaper! Don’t worry, you’ll still get the protein you need from the kidney beans. The basic ingredients for this dish are as follows:
• Chopped tomatoes
• Tomato puree
• Chilli powder
• Curry/tandoori powder
• Yellow pepper
• Kidney beans
The best part of this recipe is that it makes enough for a few nights, or even a whole flat if you happen to be cooking for mates. Also, you can’t get food poisoning from the ingredients, which is a plus if you’re hopeless with meat! One tip to make this dish even healthier is to fry the onions off in white wine vinegar rather than oil. This in turn adds even more flavour to the chilli.
Every time I make this dish, it turns out completely different! That’s one of the joys of cooking; you never know how it’s going to turn out! If you like more spice, like myself, you can add more chilli and paprika – the options are yours to experiment with!
Another favourite dish of mine to cook is pasta (and let’s not forget the sauces that go along with it!). This is one of the most basic meals out there; it’s so simple and quick that even extremely busy students can make it! What’s great about pasta is that everyone can make their own version.
To make pasta, start off with a base, which usually contains tinned tomatoes and herbs, then basically, just add whatever you have in the cupboards, or whatever flavours you love. My personal favourite is adding pesto and white wine vinegar, which are actually surprisingly cheap products if you buy them from stores such as Aldi. For a busy student, pasta is perfect because you can just throw it all in one pan and let the flavours infuse. If you want a bit more texture, onions and sweetcorn are great accompaniments to the dish.
Both the above dishes are clearly vegetarian (which is what most of my meals are) but if you are more carnivorously inclined, a cheap way to enjoy hearty student food is through the use of mincemeat. Adding mince to your pasta sauce to create a Bolognese is a great way to add amazing flavour and body to the whole meal.
Mince and Gravy
Another meal idea is a mince and vegetable ‘gravy’ dish. Through the use of stock cubes and white wine vinegar, you can create a quick and easy gravy (which is more of just a coating on the mince). This, added to seasonal vegetables such as broccoli, onions and carrots, then paired with homemade wedges makes for a great meal, which again, can last several nights if you’re just cooking for yourself.
As I’ve already mentioned, many meals can last more than one night, and the best thing to do with them, in my opinion, is to have any of their leftovers with couscous. Couscous is quick and easy to prepare, meaning extra time to study or just relax without having to stress about cooking again.
So, don’t take on any extra stress. Cooking is easy when you decide to get into it. Don’t be afraid to try strange combinations or experiment with weird flavours; anything goes, and nothing needs to be expensive!