Living away from Hotel Mum is one of those things that some people love and some people hate. Cooking your own food, cleaning your own house, doing your own washing etc. are things that quite a few people really have no experience of outside the odd home-alone omelette or tray of chocolate brownies.
Suddenly when university really kicks in and you have to buy, prepare and cook your own meals, it can all get a bit too much and you end up falling back on the local chippy or a good old M&S microwave curry.
I’m going to tell you a secret now: it really doesn’t have to be like that.
Sadly, as students we don’t all have the money we’d like to spend on food. Trust me, if I could afford only organic free-range finest food I 100% would. But I can’t. So we’re just going to have to make do.
One of the simplest ways of making your money last (until student night, that is) is to plan your meals in advance and shop accordingly. I have quite literally saved many monies only buying what I know I’m going to need and not giving in to the ‘oh but it’s 3 for 2 on coconut milk and hummus’ temptations. Meal planning really is the bees knees.
But where do you start?
Realistically, how long are you going to be able to last between shops?
This is probably the most important step – hence why it’s numero uno on my list. Work out your time frame. Are you going to plan for the week? A few days? A whole month? Slow down there, buddy. Generally speaking I find it best to work on a weekly schedule, planning my meals on the Sunday evening before hitting the shops on Monday. Working with a closer time-frame allows for greater variation with your food so you can beat the ever-present uni food boredom and also means each shop will seem a whole lot cheaper…
Where are you going to write down all of this fabulous planning?
My second best piece of advice is to find yourself a weekly planner that can be easily amended. I use a dry-wipe board and different coloured pens to plan my week, but paper week planners and even specialised meal planner boards also do a wonderful job at keeping you up to date. Make meal planning fun and interesting for yourself – it really shouldn’t have to be a chore!
Using pretty stationary can also help you choose and stick to what you’re going to eat that week. Think pretty page markers for recipes and coloured pens for extra meal planning excitement.
Get a shopping list together!
So you’ve planned out what you’re going to eat over the next week! Now strip it all back to the bare bones and write it all down. All of it. Even things you might think you already have in your cupboard of random spices and herbs. You can check it all later and then cross it off the list but hey, better to be safe than sorry at this point.
Stick to your list like its the instructions for a nuclear rocket or you might accidentally blow up the earth. This list is your holy grail. The answer to your life, the universe and everything.
Make sure storage isn’t going to be an issue.
I started this year with one tupperware box and some clingfilm – I now have around 8 different sized boxes, a few jars and a series of clever shelves that make storage an absolute dream. Planning meals in advance is one thing, but planning the storage of said meals is quite another. However, I believe in you. You are a tupperware warrior and I have totally got your back. Don’t let mouldy mac n’ cheese ruin your day.
This cute lilac tupperware set from Tesco is definitely a good idea – a few boxes, a bit of eye candy and a low price!
Just go with it!
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Well, a lot of the time. Student living is all about living on the edge and fitting in that last helping of pesto-pasta in between shots and essay deadlines, so naturally things can fall apart quite quickly. Try to anticipate as much as possible and don’t let it get you down if it all goes tits up. As I mentioned above, I have complete faith in you. You are a meal planning warrior. Plan meals that you love and they’ll love you back!
And there we have it, a few of my top-tips for meal planning and saving a few pennies in the process!
Happy meal planning!