Monday, 9 April 2018

How I lived on £5 per week as a student

This may potentially be the most boring post ever™. I don't really feel like a student now, mainly because 1. it's almost over, thank god, and 2. I gave up on that whole living with 6 people thing a while ago. When I was a studenty student I *hated* spending money (and I still do really). I was determined to live off as little as possible. Of course some weeks my shop would be slightly more/less expensive but in general I was living off around £5 per week.

First a disclaimer:
  1. I am a small female. At 5'1" and 50kg (110lbs), I do not need to eat as much as the 'average' person. Even now I eat 1000-1500 calories a day.
  2. This £5 is just for food. Alcohol and nights out are extra but if you save this much on food you can still have fun while everyone else is in their overdraft!
  3. Since fruit and veg is sold by the kg I didn't know how to add this to my list very well, sorry.
  4. It's much easier to spend £10 for 2 people rather than £5 for 1, which is what happened most of the time. We shared vegetables and cooked up a stir fry to use up leftovers.
This table gives an idea of what was in my cupboards/fridge/freezer. The freezer is king. Sometimes I would even buy the biggest bottle of milk and freeze some of it to save money. Haha, this post is really making me realise how much of a miser I was. But seriously, freeze your bread.

How long will it last?   Cost per week  
EssentialsMilk£0.75   1 week£0.75
Eggs£0.852 weeks£0.43
Porridge oats      £1.60 10 weeks £0.16
MeatsChicken thighs£3.152 weeks£1.58
Frozen white fish   £2.003 weeks£0.67
Frozen prawns£2.503 weeks£0.83
StodgeLentils£1.158 weeks£0.14
Potato£0.252 weeks£0.12
Wholemeal bread£0.403 weeks£0.13
Couscous£1.2012 weeks£0.10
(apologies for the table formatting, I'm not the best at html)

Other essentials like onions, garlic, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and other veg it's really hard to remember how much I'd get through. There was a very cheap vegetable market that my house would take turns getting stuff from and sharing it which is a great idea.

The key to my frugality was making food in batches and then freezing. A nice big chili con carne can last for an age and you don't have to eat the same thing every day. I liked having the prawns to mix up with couscous and salad stuff when I wasn't feeling the stodgy homemade meals. Frozen fish you can cook in tin foil with some potato and lemon juice. Lentils are great for filling out stews and soups.

So in conclusion, my tips:
  1. Buying big bags of lentils/rice/pasta and keeping them in the cupboard is a great way to save. The weeks when you have to restock these it'll be more expensive, but will even out in the long run.
  2. Supermarket own brands are fine. If in doubt just look at the price per kg.
  3. NEVER buy basics mince though, that is my exception to that rule. It's not worth it. In fact, meat in general. However stodgy things like bread and pasta there's no difference.
  4. The key to cheaper cuts of meat (like thighs rather than breast...heh) is to cook it slowly in stews or casseroles. They're a bit fattier but also tastier because of it.
  5. If you're worried about not getting your nutrients for strong and healthy growing you can buy one-a-day multivitamins for £3 that will last you for 6 months.
  6. Make the most of university events! Career events particularly provide free pizza, and if you help at open days and school visits you get food as well as money. They used to send around an email in the physics department if there were leftover sandwiches on offer in the seminar room... cue a not-so-subtle upstairs migration of PhD students.
Hope you can forgive my dodgy maths and appreciate this as more of an idea I was trying to get across!

Limpet x

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