September marks the beginning of a new academic year, which means an influx of international freshmen and exchange students. Being a health-conscious foodie on a student budget, I can’t justify the $40 price tag for a bowl of noodle soup with just two measly slices of beef. And after four years, eating the same canteen food day in and day out gets boring, so I have a few tips on how to be creative with your food when at university.
Cooking might seem intimidating to some, but like with everything else, practice makes perfect. Not only can you track your nutritional intake, but it also saves a lot of money, so maybe you can treat yourself at the weekend. And, who knows, your cooking skills might even impress a potential date!
1) Get a rice cooker
If there is one valuable financial tip I can pass on, it’s this: save up by getting used textbooks, but invest in a rice cooker. You’ll be surprised by the number of dishes you can whip up merely in a rice cooker. Too lazy to go out of your room and make instant noodles? Cook instant noodles in a rice cooker, in the comfort of your own room. It’s also cheaper to cook rice in a cooker rather than paying $5 for every bowl you buy, trust me.
Pro tip: if you get into the habit of cooking your meals, start preparing your rice in bigger batches to save time. Just reheat in the microwave when you need it!
2) Microwave everything
I can attest to how lazy university students can be. If there is one life skill that you will acquire during your time at university, it’s how to use the microwave. I use it to thaw frozen proteins and to cook pasta, noodles, eggs and even potatoes. Make sure to use microwavable containers and NEVER microwave anything with the lid on.
3) Start meal prepping
I first started feeling like I’m developing into a somewhat okay adult when I began making meal prep a habit. Set aside an hour every Sunday to meal prep your breakfast, at the very least. The easiest way to have a nutritious breakfast every morning is to blend, blend, blend. I blend down oats, protein powder and flaxseed meal and portion them into small containers along with frozen fruits. Dumping everything into a juicer takes just 10 seconds.
If shakes aren’t your thing, you can also meal prep overnight oats or portion granola and/or muesli into small containers. Just add some yoghurt in the morning and you’re good to go.
4) Remember that frozen food is your best friend
While it’s ideal to have fresh protein, frozen protein is cheaper and has a longer shelf life. Try to always have frozen protein in stock so that you can dump a couple of chicken fillets into your ramen when late-night hunger strikes. Frozen dumplings are also a godsend because they’re both delicious and versatile. Boil them, pan-fry them, eat them with rice, eat them with noodles – the options are endless.
5) Grocery shop with a plan
It’s easy to get lost in the discounts offered at supermarkets, so be sure to have a to-buy list so that you only buy the things you need. It’s also useful to know where to get your groceries. For example, vegetables are cheaper at Wellcome and PARKnSHOP, but if you’re looking for imported goods, Taste and city’super are better bets.
Tip: spare a few minutes to sign up for a supermarket membership card so that you can collect reward points. It may not feel like much, but after three or four years, you’ll likely have enough points to claim a free Ocean Park ticket.
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