Without a doubt, food shopping can be one of the most eye-rolling chores of being a student. Despite living a mere five minute walk from Aldi, I tend to put off the venture for as long as I possibly can. But when my food has the audacity to actually get eaten instead of remaining stocked up in the fridge like at home, I am forced to do the weekly rounds. Food and drink may be crucial for survival, but when you have far more important things to spend it on such as alcohol and nights out, it’s good to stick to a budget.
When I first came to uni I had no idea how to cook, it appears the realisation that my skills only got me as far as a basic bowl of pasta or cheese on toast came too little too late. However a lot of guidance and many very disappointing dinners later, I managed to get the hang of making proper meals on a budget. Don’t get me wrong I’m no Gordon Ramsay, but I can make some decent meals with ingredients that last long and don’t break the bank, and that’s good enough for me.
So for all you students out there, I wanted to share some of these ideas, showing five different meals that all come in at £5 or under, not too shabby.
**Disclaimer: I am NOT a chef of any kind, this is just how I make these dishes. Also, the photos are not mine, because I’m usually far too hungry to think about taking a photo of my food before eating it.**
Spaghetti Bolognese: £4.20
I genuinely wouldn’t be exaggerating if I told you I ate pasta at least five times a week, and I often eat it for lunch and dinner on the same day. A self-confessed addict, spaghetti bolognese is definitely one of my go-to meals that is quick, cheap and easy.
Chopped tomatoes- 35p
Beef Mince- 1.49
Onion- 75p (pack)
Tomato puree- 37p
Garlic- 75p (4 piece)
- Fry onions in a frying pan over a medium heat and transfer into a deeper cooking pot once browned.
- Put the mince meat in the already-hot pan and fry until brown. Once brown use a slotted spoon to transfer it into the cooking pot avoiding taking the excess fat with it.
- Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, 1-2 crushed cloves of garlic, a squeeze of tomato puree and season with salt and pepper.
- Mix together and place over a low heat on the hob with the lid on, stirring occasionally for roughly half an hour.
- Cook the spaghetti to packet instructions, drain and combine in a serving bowl with your bolognese.
Simple as that. This meal is so easy that even I could remember how to do it. What’s more is that a whole packet of mince makes enough for two portions, so you can keep one portion in the freezer for a quick microwave meal.
Chicken Curry/ Korma £4.53
This is another meal that I make all the time because it is too easy not to. I must admit that I’m not a fan of really spicy food but there are a wide range of different sauces available in Aldi for even the most sensitive mouths.
Chicken breasts (300g) – £1.69
Curry sauce of your choice- 89p
Rice packet- 79p
- Cut up the chicken and veg into small chunks and fry in a pan with some oil until the chicken is completely cooked on the outside.
- Add the spice cap that comes with the sauce and fry for 2 minutes.
- Then add the sauce, mixing it all in and then turning down the heat to leave it bubbling for around 20 minutes.
- Cook the rice according to instructions then combine it with your curry on a serving plate.
Again, this is enough to make two portions so you can freeze the rest for another day. The Aldi sauces taste great for their price and allow you to put a meal together with minimal effort, excellent.
Sweet Chilli Salmon £5.42
Okay so I know this one is slightly over £5 BUT, other than the salmon, all the other ingredients will last for multiple more meals, so if you can work out the specifics it does come up cheaper than a fiver overall- but I’m no mathematician.
Salmon fillets- £3.19
Sweet chilli sauce- 79p
- Chop your potatoes however you like e.g. in halves, or in wedges. Place on a tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper before putting them in the oven at about 180°C.
- Whilst the potatoes start cooking, place each salmon fillet on a piece of tin foil wide enough to wrap over the top. Then cover the top of the salmon in a layer of sweet chilli sauce.
- Wrap the foil over the top of the salmon and place them in the oven with the potatoes after they have been cooking for about 10 minutes.
- Leave to cook in the oven for half an hour making sure you move around the potatoes occasionally so that they don’t stick.
- In the last five minutes of cooking, heat up the sweetcorn according to packet instructions. Remove the salmon from its foil and place all components on a plate.
They say that fish is food for the brain and being at a Russell group uni, I definitely feel like I could use some extra brain nourishment. Salmon and sweet chilli are a match made in heaven and this dish is great for when you’re wanting a lighter dinner.
Creamy Mushroom Pork Chops £4.77
My mum taught me how to make this and I have been cooking it at uni ever since, even my housemates have gotten hooked on the recipe.
Pork chops- £2.29
- Fry 2 pork loin chops in a pan until browned on the outside and transfer into an ovenproof dish.
- Then fry some mushrooms in the same pan, adding a teaspoon of flour.
- Gradually add some milk, then continue to stir over a low heat until thickened into a sauce (have patience!!) seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Once the right texture is achieved, pour the sauce and mushrooms over the chops, ensuring they are covered, then place in the oven for half an hour at 180°C.
- I like to have this dish with rice, so cook the rice according to packet instructions whilst the pork is cooking. Ensure you stir the sauce occasionally to prevent it separating. Serve together in a bowl or plate and season with salt and pepper.
Alternatively you could have this dish with some potatoes and veg for an equally tasty combination. What’s even better is that the Aldi pork chops come in a pack of four so once again you have enough for two portions!
Cheesy Chicken Wrapped in Bacon- £4.87
This dish is just genuinely really tasty, combining some of my favourite foods all together. I don’t often stray too far from pasta, but when I do, this is my go-to choice.
Chicken breast (from a 2 pack)- 85p
Grated Mozzarella cheese- £1.49
- Slice the chicken breast along the middle but not all the way through the other side. Fill the inside pocket with cheese, close up and wrap around the chicken breast with 2 slices of bacon.
- Chop your potatoes into wedges, place on a tray and drizzle with oil, seasoning with salt and pepper. Place them in the oven at 200°C.
- Once the wedges have been cooking for about 10 minutes, place the chicken breast on some foil on a baking tray and put in the oven. Let them both cook for half an hour, ensuring you move around the chips occasionally to prevent them from sticking.
- When there are 10 minutes left of cooking, place your chopped broccoli on the same tray as the wedges, also covering them in some oil and seasoning.
- After the half an hour is up, slice into the chicken to check that it is completely cooked and if so place it, along with the wedges and broccoli onto a serving plate and enjoy.
I make this meal a lot because it tastes soo good. I also find it useful to pre-prepare some of the chicken breasts and put them in the freezer for when I’m going out and I need an easy dinner.
So there are five of my different favourite (and most importantly: cheap) meals to make at university. I still have sooo far to go when it comes to cooking and I have gradually come to accept the fact that I will never be able to make meals as well as my mum does. But as a student, if I’m eating anything other than microwave meals or beans on toast, then I’d say I’m doing alright.