Student Food: Cooking on a Budget

Eating well is one of the most important parts of life, but it can be hard to do with restrictions on time and money as a student. So read on for our top good-eating tips:

Shop Smart

First things first; you need to shop smart. We have some tips about managing your money here but the take home message is buy things that will last, and buy supermarket brands. Store/freeze what you can, and make the most of the things that you can get cheaply. Things like pizza can be made from few ingredients, taste great and are comparatively priced, if not cheaper, than the store bought alternative. We made pizza at the halls on Park Campus to prove just that:

Rice, pasta, potatoes and other staples can form the base of loads of different meals and are available cheaply and in bulk. You can eat really good food every day by making rice or pasta with a different topping or sauce.

Jacket Potatoes

There’s nothing that doesn’t go well on top of a jacket potato. Pierce the skin with a fork, chuck it in the microwave for 7 minutes or so, pop it in a bowl then cover it in whatever you want. Cheese, tuna, meat, beans, leftover chilli, leftover curry, leftover leftovers. Boom. Also works with sweet potatoes for a super-food kick.

Potatoes — the staple of any student diet

Egg Fried Rice

Egg fried rice is delicious and really easy to make. Cook the rice first and let it cool, then fry up in a pan with sesame oil, peas, spring onions and bean sprouts. Once it’s going nicely, add in some beaten egg and keep stirring as the egg cooks. Serve immediately or it’ll go weird…


Meat, veg, sauce, pan, done. You can get pre-made jars of curry sauce for loads of the best curry dishes for not very much at all. Keep them in the cupboard for when you have left over meat, vegetables or anything else really and you can mix them all together over the heat for some surprisingly good food. It’s actually quite hard to go wrong, or see here for some more formal recipes for curries.

Mouths are watering now…


In the summer months barbecuing food is much better for you than frying. Barbecued bacon is amazing, other meat is great and even vegetables like peppers filled with cous-cous and wrapped in foil can be really good. If you don’t have a barbecue in your garden you can get a cheap disposable one and have a party with some friends in the garden.. :) Just please check with your landlord/halls that you are allowed to BBQ first, and be careful, barbecued flesh is not what we’re looking for here.


If there’s one thing which ramps up the costs of your weekly food intake, it will be the snacks. Biscuits or crisps are not good for you, but cheap(ish), and you’ll need to splash out if you want the healthier alternatives like cereal bars, those “raw” seed things or roasted crisps.


Home made snack bags can be cheaper, better for you and have exactly what you want in them. We put together ours with pretzels, home cooked pop-corn (buy bags of corn kernels for less than microwave popcorn and cook on the hob) and chocolate raisins. Not massively healthy but really nice. Replace the chocolate with just raisins or sultanas, and the pretzels with something a bit healthier and you’ve got cheap, easy to make up bags that keep you going throughout the day.



These are so easy to make: 
Mix peanut butter, sugar, an egg and vanilla extract together, form into balls, flatten with a fork and bake for not quite enough time (10 minutes or so). SO GOOD. Not healthy in the slightest but that’s not really the point with these. Eat one, eat a batch, make another batch, repeat. Sprinkle sugar or salt on top for an extra kick.

Ok with that last one we went off track on the whole eat well thing, but hopefully you’ve got some ideas of the kinds of food that you can make fairly easily at uni.

Fast cooking doesn’t have to mean bad food, so just experiment and let us know if you have any recipe success stories that we can share out @UniNorthants or #UoN. Happy Eating!