The title might be a bit on the nose, but the stereotype of students living on noodles and pizza isn’t entirely untrue. I’ve heard of students in my own college only eating once a day because they couldn’t afford anything more than that. Not eating properly or often enough will lead to a lack of energy affecting your performance academically and on placement. It’ll also make you feel like pure shit.
Like I said last week, planning is a solid way to saving money. I know that I’m back in Dundalk for five weeks before I head away on placement, so I’ve done my best to plan for those five weeks. Being honest about bad or counter-productive habits helps as well. I have inherited a horrible habit of over-buying food if I don’t plan out my meals, so I’m reducing my food waste now as well.
I’m definitely not an expert in meal planning but it’s all that difficult, and you can make it flexible. I’m on a somewhat limited diet (thank you, IBS) so I try to make a couple of different meals out of the same ingredients in a week. Sometimes I have to sit with a food pyramid to make sure I’m actually getting what I need out of my meals. Once I have a plan, I’ll prep as much of the meal as I can at the start of the week so that I’m not tempted to just order takeaway. It’s so much easier to stick to the plan if all that you need to do is pick out what you need and throw it together in a pot. So I’ll chop veg on a Sunday evening, freeze half to throw into meals with something later in the week and cook two or three portions of something else with the other half. I try to bake something like banana bread or oat cookies to stop myself buying treats in the college canteen as well.
The key for me is shopping around rather than floating around one shop (Tesco, I love Tesco so much) and grabbing things pretty much at random. I discovered a few weeks ago that my local Asian food shop does noodle packets for a euro cheaper than the other shops. €1 doesn’t seem like a huge saving until you realise you buy a lot of something. Now I keep a rough list of things I buy regularly and how much they cost in different shops, and I check shop websites for deals and discounts whenever I remember.
The biggest saver is probably that I have zero brand loyalty. None. I couldn’t care less that Andrex toilet paper is the only brand that my mam might ever have at home – I’ll be using the Lidl version because it’s cheaper until something of similar quality but lower price comes along. Dolmio sauce and Dunnes own brand tastes the exact same to me. I’m not saying buy the cheapest version – buy the best value version.