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4th October 2016

Budget banquets: spending less, eating better

Stanley Johnson runs through some ways to eat good nosh for less dosh

At some point in your time at Manchester, it’s not unlikely that you’ll find yourself sitting on a sofa eating a pot noodle and drinking black tea out of a bowl (you couldn’t find a clean mug). That’s fine. There are lots of valid reasons to indulge in the student stereotype. Lazy? Busy? Just fancy it? Slob out to your heart’s content.

Broke? Maybe not such a great excuse, unless you actually don’t have enough money to buy food.* If you’re only “student broke” (in other words, you have at least enough money for nights out and occasional Asos deliveries) then feeding yourself on a student budget doesn’t have to mean eating crap food. A few simple things will help your money go further while enriching your culinary experience and, hopefully, student life in general.

It might sound obvious, but actually cooking is one of the best ways to eat well for less money. Takeaways, ready meals and meal deals will add up quickly. That’s not all: cooking can help you to stay healthy, too. It’s often hard to know how much salt, oil, or sugar goes into takeaways or packaged foods. Cooking meals from scratch allows you to control exactly what you eat.

Learn to Love the Lentil
Cheese, meat and fish can all be pretty expensive. Cooking more plant based foods is a good way to save money, and beans and pulses are very cheap source of protein. There’s no need to live on a diet of bland lentil salads like a dowdy 1970s vegetarian, but beans and pulses are super cheap, nutritious and are great in all kinds of curries, chilies, stews and sauces.

Photo: Stanley Johnson

Shop around

Buying everything at Sainsburys is definitely convenient (or whatever supermarket is closest). But you’ll pay a premium if you add anything out of the ordinary to your basket. Fortunately, Manchester has a huge variety of specialist and world food stores to help stock your cupboards with all kinds of bargain gourmet goods.

Nestled just behind the Main Campus, on Upper Brook Street, WH Lung is one such superstore. Specialising in Chinese groceries, the supermarket also stocks lots of delicacies and staples from across East and Southeast Asia. As well as approximately one million varieties of noodle, at WH Lung you can pick up good quality soy sauce for around £1 per litre. In mainstream supermarkets, you’d be lucky to get a tiny 150ml bottle for that price. They also have fresh fruit and veg, including big bags of fresh chillies that can be frozen and used later.

Located at the Fallowfield end of the Curry Mile, Manchester Super Store bills itself as an ‘Asian, Continental, Arabian, Mediterranean, Polish, Bangladeshi, and Afro Caribbean’ food specialist. That’s a lot of specialities, but they’re not lying. Manchester Super Store is well worth a visit if only for its huge selection of cheap fruit and vegetables sold by the kilo. It also has loads of cheap spices and baked goods: twenty-five pita breads for £1!

Venus Foods bread: the best in town? Photo: Stanley Johnson

Also worth a mention is Turkish superstore Venus Foods on Anson road, opposite Birchfields Park. Venus bake what is possibly the tastiest bread in South Manchester… and it only costs a quid for a big loaf. There’s also a deli counter selling fresh marinated olives by the kilo, for a fraction the supermarket price.

Even if you can’t escape the pull of the mighty Sainsburys, it’s worth bearing the following in mind. Most supermarkets reduced section somewhere in a refrigerator aisles. In this little fridge there are sometimes crazy bargains (think big blocks of cheese for pennies). Find this area. Check it regularly. Also, for some reason the “world” aisle often contains cheaper versions of foods sold in other sections.

The olive counter at Venus Foods, Anson Road Photo: Stanley Johnson

Share the Love (and your food)
Cooking big meals and sharing them with your house mates and friends is a great way to bond and strengthen relationships. It is also more efficient in terms of money, time and effort. Cooking a meal for two is cheaper and easier per person than cooking two individual dinners.

Some make cooking rotas and go fully communal with all of their groceries. If you can make that work and all of your housemates are willing, then great!

If not, just be spontaneous with your sharing. If you share your dinner with someone else they are likely to reciprocate in future, which translates into less cooking for you in the long run. Of course, some people are likely to never return the favour. Don’t share with these people.

If you don’t have anyone to share with – or if you know they won’t reciprocate – you can still bulk cook and freeze individual portions for later to save time and money.

Or cook enough for lunch and raise a middle finger to the meal deal. Tupperware essential.

* If this is the case, seek help! There are various services offered by the Students’ Union and the University for students in a tight spot. For more details see here:

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