Living the stressed life of a student doesn’t leave too much room for self-care and cooking meals. It’s all about cost-effective and quick dishes that you can whip up with next to no effort. Hopefully, if you have a flatmate, they will contribute to the grocery and cooking duties. But if you’re on your own, you need to be disciplined and look after yourself. Eating out isn’t an option because of, well, money. And not eating isn’t an option because of, well, life. Here is what needs to be on your grocery list that will satisfy your hunger and accommodate your student budget.
If you aren’t living off coffee 90% of the time you’re in university or college, then you’re not “studenting” correctly. Okay, so tea and Red Bull also works to get the caffeine levels up there, but coffee is both cheaper than red bull and has a higher caffeine content than tea.
Coffee is life in the student world and you know you owe the attendance of your eight o’clock classes to your morning coffee.
Long-life milk is the best for students. You need it for your morning tea or coffee (unless you’re one of the view species of human who drinks coffee and tea without milk), your cereal and a few other cooking things. But you don’t use milk often enough to buy it fresh every few days. Long-life is your economic and sustainable friend.
Everyone needs to eat breakfast in the morning, especially students who want to be alert and energised for the day ahead of them. But you can’t afford to eat egg and bacon bagels every morning. Family-sized cereal boxes should last you long enough throughout the month and makes more money sense.
Have a few eggs on hand (just keep their expiry dates in mind) and possibly even some yoghurt for breakfast in the morning. Alternating between these three breakfast items will keep your grocery supplies going until the next time your allowance comes in.
An absolute must. Sandwiches are the sum of your student lunches when you don’t have leftovers from dinner or aren’t treating yourself to your once-a-month takeout meal. Toast also makes for a great and quick breakfast. And if you want to be fancy, you can even mix eggs and milk to make french toast.
Seeing as most of your lunches will be sandwiches, you’re going to need things to put inside of your two slices of bread. Butter isn’t a necessity and you could save some money by not buying it, but that is completely up to you. What is necessary is peanut butter – tasty, affordable and a good source of protein and energy.
Then we have cheese. Cheese is a must for many meals that you’ll be making in your kitchen, but also for sandwiches. Peanut butter and cheese as a combination is an underrated delight and just adds a little something extra to your sandwich.
Study snacks are essential but can get expensive. Popcorn, however, is abundant, affordable and a relatively healthy snack that’s super quick and easy to make. You can even ziplock-bag it and take with you to eat between lectures or as an after-lunch snack.
All things chicken
As for dinner and leftover lunches, you’re going to need all things chicken. Chicken breasts, drumsticks, chicken nuggets and chicken strips are all you need to put up a good-enough dinner. Chicken breasts with rice, chicken strips added to pasta, chicken nuggets… well, they’re just essential to student survival, and drumsticks with a few spices can make a healthier KFC streetwise meal.
Tuna is also an ingredient found in almost every student kitchen because it’s affordable and sort of nutritious. It’s also quite a versatile ingredient that can be used in a salad, a wrap, a pasta dish or in a sandwich with some mayonnaise.
Don’t forget to put mayonnaise on the grocery list.
Nestle Maggi instant noodles is a life saver when lunch or dinner fails. The total time (including prep, water boiling, microwaving and straining) is about five minutes and then you are free to enjoy any flavour of your choice from their wide variety. Extremely affordable and enough to satisfy your tummy for a little while longer, two-minute noodles are a must on your grocery list.
Hot tip: add some chicken strips and cheese to your noodles to make it more exciting.
You have chicken, you have cheese, now all you need to add is a tomato-based pizza base and you can have a homemade pizza for dinner. It’s super easy and only needs to be cooked for a maximum of ten minutes (until all the cheese is melted) before you can enjoy it.
But if that’s still too much effort for you after a day of lectures, then there are ready-made mini and large pizzas available. They’re just slightly more expensive.
Essential carbohydrates has nothing to do with a healthy diet, it has to do with the energy you need to survive as a student. Pasta will be a staple on your grocery list every time and can be used to make a variety of dishes. Add chicken, cheese or tuna and any packet pasta sauce and you can have that for dinner, lunch and dinner again.
And the other carbs that are cheap and will be used a lot are rice and potatoes. They can accompany almost any meal you make and will compensate for the lack of other ingredients to fill you up.
Amongst all of this, there need to be some vegetables. Any packet of frozen mixed vegetables will do and can also be added to many meals. That’s if you know you don’t eat vegetables often enough to buy them fresh.
Salt and pepper
And lastly, every student kitchen needs salt and pepper. You aren’t at your parents’ home anymore where the spice rack has every spice and herb under the sun. But you’ll find that all you really need to bring out the flavour of food is salt and pepper.