Site search

You are here: Home » Budget & cooking tips

Budget & cooking tips

Download Print

The value of this section is that it's by students (or former students) for students. This is a list of all the tips you've sent us or uploaded on our Facebook page so far with the initials of the person who sent it in. We've tried to group them broadly by subject so it's easy to find the sort of info you're looking for.

Remember that under our reward points scheme you can earn 2 points for every tip you submit that hasn't already been published on the site or submitted for a competition up to a maximum of 5 tips a month.


  • Take advantage of Freshers’ Fair freebies (if you’re in your first year at university) – often they give away things like tea bags and drinks.NM
  • I have found few places ever provide crockery etc. Places like Woolworths, Wilkinsons, Ikea and even places like Asda have some very cheap stuff VM


  • Have you got some fruit that's going off and you won't have time to eat it? Then chop it up into little pieces and freeze in a little sandwich or freezer bag. Then when you want a smoothie, just take it out and stick in in the blender (frozen) with half a pint of any fruit juice and you've got a  lovely smoothie! AD
  • If you've got some leftover rice from a meal ( I always seem to) add a tin of tuna to it, a hard boiled egg, some tinned sweetcorn, some cucumber and a bit of mayonnaise and it makes a great lunch. AD
  • I use left over rice with tuna too but make them into burgers. Anything left over makes burgers, throw into a bowl, eg chicken, pork, salmon, veg together with some left over rice or mashed potato. Beat in one egg and roll the patties in flour before cooking. Serve with salad or a tin of baked beans.JHS
  • If I have left over bolognese I stir all the left overs together, put into an oven dish with grated cheese on top and leave in the fridge for the next day’s dinner or lunch. JHS
  • If you cook a roast, you can use leftovers for sandwiches or to put in pies or pasta. This will be more economical than buying pre-sliced packets of say chicken. NM
  • Some ideas for using up leftover yoghurt:
    Smoothies. Mango lassi (equal portions of mango puree and plain yoghurt, whizzed up and diluted with water. Breakfast fruit pots (layer of fresh or cooked fruit, layer of yoghurt, layer of granola), Rebecca's Really Moist chocolate cake (see video), makes a good dressing for a beetroot salad (add it to a mustardy vinaigrette dressing), mix with mayo when you use mayo in, say, a chicken salad or sandwich filling for a lighter effect . . . FB
  • Freeze and batch portion as much as you can – when cooking a meal, cook double of what you need. Freeze the extra and it means you have a lunch/dinner already created and just have to defrost it. Saves time and money. NM
  • If you come across a recipe and it has an ingredient you don’t have, don’t be afraid to improvise. For instance, I’ve used crème fraiche instead of soured cream in a cheesecake, and yoghurt instead of cream in a curry. NM

  • Salmon
    Great salmon recipe . maple syrup salmon. 60 ml maple syrup and about 30 ml soy sauce. You can add a bit of garlic and black pepper if you'd like. Marinade the lot and I guarantee you it's lovely! Instead of buying expensive maple syrup though just use the same people who do golden syrup - they do a maple syrup - it's a lot cheaper and just as great. AD
  • Get a quarter of a small bottle of sesame oil, ginger (powder will do fine from spice section in supermarket) and soy sauce. mix the three together. leave to marinate for about 1 hour at least, then gently cook in a wok and add veg and noodles. Also works for pork AD
  • Chicken
    Lovely mango chicken – get some chicken breasts, apricot jam, soft brown sugar, dash of Worcestershire sauce, ground ginger (or fresh or both!), a clove of garlic, some black pepper and some tomato puree. It’s fab if you marinate the chicken and then either BBQ or cook it in the oven! Great recipe, makes chicken very moist and tastes lovely. AD
  • To vary your meals experiment with herbs, spices and mixes. Just mix some herbs with a couple of spices, some olive or virgin oil, squeeze of lemon and marinate your meat. Makes cheap meat taste much better! MS
  • The problem some people find when cooking with spices is that it can make the object being flavoured somewhat bitter. Spices such as cumin or coriander are naturally bitter to the taste. When using a lot of spice and herbs, it is always a wise idea to sprinkle a bit of sugar; best is caster, into the mix. This takes away some of the bitterness but also has an added bonus that when it heats up, it melts adding texture to the final result and helps to keep the flavourings "stuck" to the object being cooked. MS
  • If you can afford it, always use fresh herbs. Packet herbs just loose their taste after a while and you normally have to add loads to get any real flavour. If you're worried about wasting money, then why not buy potted herbs and create a mini herb garden in your kitchen. I managed it, though many herbs don't take well to the uni kitchen and being fed with booze ;-) MS

  • If you want to make a basic sponge cake and don’t have a recipe, just weigh 2 eggs, and add the same weight of sugar, butter and self-raising flour. Cream the sugar and butter, then add the eggs and flour. Bake in a low-medium oven, testing with a skewer to tell when it is done.
  • Instead of buying chips, peel and cut a sweet potato into slices, cover lightly in oil and put in the oven. They make a great substitute for chips, and are a lot healthier and cheaper!NMc
  • Always make your own sandwiches! Store-bought sandwiches have a lot of extra preservatives and additives, and use lots of mayonnaise/sauce to make it taste better. And cost lots! NMc

  • Shopping online means you are less tempted to buy things you don’t need (such as the special offers at the end of aisles), although check that the cost of delivery doesn't make it more expensive than shopping in person. NM
  • Experiment with the budget ranges.
    Good: fruit, veg, tinned tomatoes - make them tastier with a squirt of tomato puree and some herbs, tinned kidney beans - but they can be tough so cook for longer, crumpets, choc bars/biscuits, crisps/nuts for parties, dairy products can be used in cooking but I wouldn't eat the cheese in sandwiches for example, fizzy water
    Bad - yogurts, brown sauce, I wouldn't trust the meat, eggs are not free-range, washing up liquid (not so value when you need half the bottle to raise a lather), tea and coffee EC
  • Buying in bulk saves you money – though do check, sometimes with special offers, it is cheaper to buy the product another way. NM
  • Keep a price diary to work out the cheapest places to buy your shopping. Markets, greengrocers and bakers are often cheaper places to buy fruit, vegetables and bread than supermarkets for example. NM
  • Meal plan, so you buy what you need, rather than buying food in case you need it. NM
  • Keep a budget and try and stick to it. In the same vein, go shopping with a shopping list, checking what you need before you go out. NM
  • I save a bit on meat by getting it in bulk from the chinese supermarket and then freezing individual size portions. Is so much cheaper and I think higher quality than some of the really cheap stuff you buy at the supermarket. CHRS
  • Look out for shops and market stalls that offer student discounts CHRS
  • Don't turn up your nose at shops offering loose food where you can weigh out as little or as much as you need. VM
  • Haunt the reduced isle at the supermarket. This pays dividends two ways
    1) You can save money on you were going to buy anyway - freeze them (meat, bread, ready meals) or use them up quickly (vegetables and fresh produce).
    2) It's a bit like a pot luck dinner as you might be inspired to try something you wouldn't buy otherwise. This one's a bit hit and miss and you might end up stuck liking something that is expensive when full price - d'oh - but on the other hand you might find something new. EC
  • We used to have a Sainsbury' s nearby and it was open 24 hours a day. What we did was go there at about 10.30-11.30pm (well students are nocturnal anyway) and that is when they put everything that has to be sold that day on offer. SO you can get loads of fruit, meats, sandwiches etc. It's fab. I would deffo recommend it. Same with bakery goods. They're dying to sell them near 12 before they are no longer marketable. AD
  • In London Portobello Market was a fab place to go on a Sunday. If you go there at about 4pm all of the market stalls are selling bowls and sometimes even buckets of fruit for a pound or two. Not always great if you want to have fruit all week but fab to freeze or cook with or put into smoothies. AD
    Instead of constantly buying water in bottles, buy one and save the bottle. Then fill it up with water/squash and take it when you go out. If you don’t like the taste of water, then you can buy water filter jugs, which in the long run are cost effective as you save by not buying overpriced drinks. NM
    Chilli plants
  • Don't overwater. Repeat this to yourself every day. Where do chillis come from, where have they evolved? Hot places. It doesn't rain every day there, so they don't need watering every day. Seriously, I have drowned young chilli plants before, it's very upsetting. CE
  • Pollinate. Fruit is for containing seeds. Seeds are baby plants, and will only occur after plant sex. Luckily these plants are hermaphrodites. Move the pollen around between flowers. A finger will do. CE
  • Feed. Tomato food, pot plant food, whatever. More food = more fruit. CE
  • Heat. Chillis go from green to red (unless you have a crazy variety, in which case they could stick at yellow, or go purple, or chocolate coloured). After reaching their final colour they start to wrinkle and go waxy. The longer you leave them on the plant, the hotter they will get. This gives home-grown chillis a distinct advantage over bought chillis, as you know better how many to use for your desired level of spiciness. CE

    AD - Alissa Delbarre
    EC - Erica Cule
    CE - Charlie Edmunds
    JHS- Joanne Hamilton-Smith
    VM - Vicki Milburn
    NM - Nicola Mirams
    NMc - Natalie McKay
    CHRS - Charlotte Hannah Rebecca Smith
    MS - Mark Swistek
    FB - Fiona Beckett