Food is pretty much treated as the elixir of life when you’re a student – especially since it is. But our love for food borders on a line somewhere between religious worship and unhealthy adoration. Admittedly, in my poorest of uni student days I pretty much ate whatever wasn’t going off, including stuff that was past its ‘use-by’ date. I’m not proud of it. But eaters gotta eat.
Figuring out how to shop like an adult instead of a kid on a Red Bull high is a trial by fire in university life. You have to buy your fair share of $1 nondescript grape flavoured ‘juice’ before you realise it’s almost entirely sugar and the tears of fruit farmers. The brutal truth aside, I’m willing to let you cut a corner and get some advice from someone who has weathered the storm of a juvenile Doritos diet: here’s how you buy groceries like a real human adult.
This is rule numero one. If you’re already in the grocery store, stop. Go home. Eat something and come back. This is the only way to stop yourself from buying stuff you don’t need. Do you really need a family value pack of individually wrapped Malteser Bunnies from Easter? No. Walk away, and take a good hard look at yourself in the reflection of the oddly-placed mirrors on the sides of the meat section. Shopping hungry never ends well.
There is nothing worse than the realisation that you spent your precious few dollars on a bag of rice when you had one sitting in the cupboard at home. If you’re strapped for cash, which most of us are, sticking to what you need is the best way to play it. Have a glance at what’s running low and write a list. Making sure you update your staple dry foods like pasta, rice, canned beans or anything else with a long shelf life – it will be a Godsend when you run out of food and money at the same time. It happens, and those beans will be your dinner one fateful night.
Boring, I know. But you don’t always have the luxury of eating what you feel like eating each night. Sometimes you gotta cook in bulk and ration it out like a sensible person – I’m saying this because I was the insensible person that bought Mexican food with my last $20 and then had to eat dry pita bread for three days. Cook up some stir-fry or a big fried rice on a Sunday night and let that baby sustain you for the week.
Stop it. The pharmacy on my campus used to have self-serve lolly bags where they weighed it and then you paid. That system was my undoing. I ate like an 8-year-old and then freaked out when all my money was gone at the end of the fortnight. If you want to snack that’s cool, just get them when you do your grocery shop, it will be cheaper and there is usually more of it. That way you’re not blowing your money on impulse sugar hits.
If you’re the kind of person who wraps a half-eaten sandwich in plastic and leaves it in the fridge for three months, it’s bad and you should feel bad. That sandwich costed anywhere between $5-12, and now half of it is nondescript mush in the fridge you haven’t cleaned out since 2009. Do yourself a big ‘ol favour and buy a value pack of freezer bags and Tupperware. You can get them in Coles/Woolies/K-mart for a decent price and it means you can save half of your sandwich for dinner, instead of turning it into a subject for a petri dish.
Take it from someone who wandered the desert plains of bad food purchases for a good 2-3 years, you’ll figure it out along the way. Just don’t buy stuff you don’t need and uni life be sweet.