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Frugal Feeds: How to Survive on a Student Budget

Written by:

Suzi O'Shea


November 10, 2020

Last updated

August 12, 2022

Reading time

5 minutes

Suzi O'Shea

Suzi O’Shea is a contributing writer for Oiyo. She has a Bachelor of Arts, Communications with honours from Southern Cross University. Suzi has worked in media for over 15 years and has been published in several online publications as well as print magazines. She has worked as a freelance writer, speaker, and change management facilitator.

Saving money and staying fed

This car crash of a year is almost over. As a new year approaches, so do new beginnings. You may be finishing school, going on to university, starting a new apprenticeship, or finally getting a place of your own. Wherever your next adventure may take you, things may be a little tight financially. By the time you have allocated your drinking budget and paid for your textbooks, there may not be much left over for food. So, we’ve put together some killer tips on frugal feeds to keep you fed on a budget.

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Fun fact

The Australian Government recommends students budget $140 to $280 per week for groceries and eating out.

#1 – Learn to cook

First hot tip, learn to cook. You don’t have to be fancy or enter any reality cooking shows, just know the basics; how to cook rice, how to scramble eggs, how to boil water, etc.

The fact is, eating out is expensive and ready made meals add up real quick. Invest in a good cookbook with basic meals (borrow one from your parents) and experiment. Cookbooks like 4 Ingredients or 15 minute meals are a good place to start. Less time in the kitchen and cheap!

#2 – Shop as a group

If you’re moving into a shared house or living on campus, buddy up with one or more friends and do a shop together. It’s far more economical to shop for a group of people than to shop and cook for one.

You can take turns cooking, learn from each other and eat together. It’s a great way to not only save money, but to make friends and enjoy a meal together. Who said frugal feeds were just good for saving money?

#3 – Go vegetarian

The volatility of the Australian climate wreaks havoc on our farmers. Crazy conditions, drought, floods, and fires all impact the price of meat and fish. This can mean that having a steak every night can be a very pricey affair.

The rise in popularity of initiatives such as Meatless Monday have come off the back of the many benefits people have seen from going meat free. For example, it’s better for the planet, better for your health, better for your waistline, and more most of all, excellent for your back pocket. Having just a few vegetarian meals a week, can save you loads. So, you don’t even need to go full vego!


#4 – Get a slow cooker

If the thought of going meat free makes you shudder, consider investing in a slow cooker. As well as garden fencing and a motorcycle helmet, a decent slow cooker can be found in the treasure trove that is the centre aisle of Aldi. Most department stores have slow cookers for cheap.

Slow cookers are the pinnacle of frugal feeds. They can turn the cheapest cut of meat into a succulent dish. Plus, the great thing about slow cookers is you can throw in a few ingredients first thing in the morning, and when you come home dinner will be ready. No faffing in the kitchen, just serve up, and you’re good to go. You don’t even have to have great cooking skills. You can get cheat packets and jars to form your sauce base so you don’t have to stress or compromise on taste.

They’re not just for meat lovers either You can make vegetarian or vegan meals, desserts, snacks – the range of culinary magic that comes from one appliance is endless.

#5 – Shop later

This glorious country of ours has very strict laws around food standards, which makes it illegal to sell out of date food. This means frugal feeds aplenty. Although each grocery store will have their own set times of when they start to mark down food, generally, they will mark things down towards the end of the day. Look to the meat, bakery, dairy, and fresh produce sections for the best bargains.

Worried something might be too far gone? We’re all for a cheap feed, but not at the cost of your health. To ensure food is still ok to consume, check out this handy guide at Eat by date. The site offers some simple guidelines around how long different types of food stay fresh and can help you avoid a nasty bout of gastro.

#6 – Visit the markets

Most students I knew (myself included) had a diet that consisted mostly of carbs, a tiny bit of protein, Fruity Lexia, and coffee. It’s important to at least try to look after yourself and get a decent intake of fruit and vegetables. Your local farmers market can be a great source of produce at a discounted price. Take your friends, buy in bulk, and share your bounty.

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Pro tips:

  • Go later in the afternoon as vendors will be keen to clear all their stock before they leave the market
  • Always buy whatever is in season as it will be cheaper
  • Experiment with different kinds of veggies (whatever is cheaper) and get crafty

#7 – Noodles

The versatility of noodles knows no bounds. Boil them and enjoy plain, add a tin of tuna for a protein boost, scramble in some eggs, use them for stir fries, use some for your leftover bolognese sauce, eat them dry, crush them up and sprinkle them on a sandwich. You can survive a three year degree on noodles alone and never get bored. There are endless flavours and possibilities. Your imagination is your only limit.

#8 – Treat yo’self

I did start the piece by saying eating out is expensive, but you can’t deny yourself the occasional treat. These are the best years of your life, and we all need to indulge a little. When you have gone weeks on frugal feeds and saved yourself a little cash, take the crew out and enjoy a good feed. Almost every town and city will offer student specials or a night where students eat cheap. Sign up to or groupon and keep your eyes peeled for some discounted restaurant meals and go peak fancy.

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Above all, enjoy these next years to come – make some memories, embrace new relationships, and enjoy all of the food. You won’t be a student forever, so enjoy it while you can.

For more tips on how to survive life’s next challenges, check out our graduation guide.

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