Student Budget Friendly Meals

Student Budget Friendly Meals

Can you cook well on a budget? Whilst junk food may seem cheap often when you compare it to cooking yourself it actually works out far more expensive on a per person cost. Not to mention the longer term cost for your health.

There are three areas which really help keep food budgets under control, meal planning, cheap protein options and seasonal ingredients.

One of the first things you need to learn when on a tight budget is the most cost effective cuts of meats. Take the humble chicken – the demand for breast meat is high so it can cost between $12 to $16 a kilo, by comparison thigh cutlet chops are around $10 a kilo and chicken drumsticks often average $4. Cuts which include the bone usually respond better to slower methods of cooking but are great when you are on a budget. My Easy Roast Chicken recipe is a great way to use thigh chops.

Legumes are meat for vegetarians as well as a cheap and filling source of protein. Adding legumes such as lentils and chickpeas to a potato curry creates a healthy and filling meal.

old wooden typesetter box with 16 samples of assorted legumes: gThe second area that really helps keep costs under control is learning to cook using seasonal ingredients. Apple crumble is a bargain when apples are $1.99 a kilo but less so when they are $8.99 a kilo. Usually high prices represent the out of season cost and also reflect that it may be imported. Vegetables in particular change price significantly over the year depending on the season. The website seasonal food guide has a list of all the common fruits and vegetables and when they are in season. Check it before you go shopping.

The last but most important area to focus on in shopping on a budget is meal planning. Its much easier if you write out a week’s menu in advance and ensure that your recipes do not involve a lot of different ingredients as this can really add up specially if you only use them for one dish.

A sample week’s menu could be as follows;

Marinated Drumsticks with Asian salad

Marinated Drumsticks with Fried Rice

Vegetable curry with sausages

Vegetable curry with lentils

Turkey mince bolognaise with spaghetti

Turkey mince cottage pie

Baked Beans or dinner at your parent’s place (very cheap option)

Whilst not really a fan of minced meats (as often you don’t really know what you are getting) turkey mince is a good lean protein which has more flavour than chicken and is a good substitute for beef. Mince recipes are easy to stretch by adding chopped carrot, celery or cooked eggplant.

Honey Soy Drumsticks

1kg chicken drumsticks scored with a knife (cut in about half a cm)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce

Combine sugar and soy sauce and pour over drumsticks and allow to marinate for up to 2 hours. Place drumsticks uncovered in an over at 180c for 40-50 min. Turn at least once during cooking.

  Turkey mince bolognaise

750g turkey mince
1 brown onion finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 jar of passata (chopped tomatoes)
1 glass of red wine or beef stock
1 tsp chili (optional)
1 clove garlic crushed

In a little olive oil saute onions and carrots on a low heat for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add mince, continue cooking until mince is browned and then add remaining ingredients and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Serve with pasta and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8

Turkey mince cottage pie

Leftover Turkey bolognaise
4-6 potatoes peeled

Depending on the remaining quantity of bolognaise you may want to add additional carrots, celery, mushrooms or lentils to bulk it up further. Boil potatoes for 15-20 minutes until soft and then mash with a little butter and milk until soft. Layer the bolognaise in a casserole dish and top with mashed potato. Heat in over for 15-20 minutes and then serve. Ideally with some seasonal greens such as steamed beans or snow peas.

Baked Beans

80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tbs freshly chopped rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 x 425g can 4-bean mix, drained

425g can diced tomatoes

ΒΌ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat half the oil in a frypan, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add rosemary, garlic and cook for a further minute until everything is well combined.  Add the beans, stir well, then add diced tomatoes.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent catching.  Stir in half the parsley.  Place on toast, sprinkle with parmesan and remaining parsley. Serves four to six or gives you an easy breakfast for a few days!!

This prompted a number of ideas about alternate menus so I will follow up with a second blog with some more ideas.

Let me know which of these recipes you try and how it works for you.

What’s your mineral status like?

Dairy products

Most of us are aware that we need calcium and the dairy lobby do a great job at reminding us that we need three serves a day. I think we need a marketing lobby for the other sixteen nutrient minerals which really don’t get the same air time but have really critical roles to play in how well we function.

I have posted extensively about the role of magnesium in the past as its probably calcium’s forgotten partner. Calcium and magnesium are required for effective muscle contraction and release as well as to assist calcium to mobilise into bone. Muscle cramping is a common sign of magnesium deficiency. Good sources of magnesium include most of the green leafy vegetables, ideally at least one cup a day.


Magnesium is also well indicated if your energy levels are low and will often help improve energy quite quickly. However if magnesium isn’t doing the job you may need to add Manganese as well. Good sources include most of the legumes such as chickpeas and lentils.

Zinc for example is critical for effective digestion as it is required for many digestive enzymes. Good sources of red meat are zinc and oysters – two things that many women don’t eat enough of or don’t like (really oysters YUK). Low zinc status means low immunity so you are prone to getting every infection that goes around. Signs of zinc deficiency include white spots on the finger nails and noticing you are losing your sense of taste or smell. Compromised digestion can also be another signal that zinc levels are low.

So how do you check all these levels easily – there are a couple of tools in naturopathic practice , Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, which is offered by a few companies such as Interclinical and Healthscope Pathology. There is also a new tool which has been recently released in Australia called Oligoscan, which uses Spectrophotometry to measure the optical density of the trace elements, minerals and heavy metals, currently present in the tissues. It provides, in real time, a precise analysis of the minerals in the skin and peripheral blood vessels. No biopsy, blood or hair sample is needed. There are often delays in waiting for Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis as women often need to grow out colour before a sample can be taken and many dislike cutting their hair.

Having recently introduced the Oligoscan I have found it really helps target potential health issues related to mineral deficiciencies and heavy metal toxicity. One of the areas that is consistently a problem is Aluminium levels as we are exposed to it in so many ways. Basically you think of Aluminium in cans and foil but it is widely present in toiletries and cosmetics as well as being used in the form of aluminium sulfate to treat water to kill off bacteria. Given the concerns about Aluminium and it relationship to Alzheimers it would be sensible to reduce your exposure to this element as much as possible. A good quality water filter should remove the Aluminium before you drink the water, after all you only need the Aluminium sulfate to do its job killing bacteria you don’t need it after that.

A quick preview of the technology is given on this Youtube clip.

More information on Oligoscan is on their website at or you can visit me at St Ives and organise a test either as part of a consult or as a standalone test. Clinic number is 8084 0081 and I am available Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Other days I am lecturing at Nature Care College.