“Eating well not only has benefits for your physical health but it impacts other areas of your life, like your academic performance,” says Virginia. “For example, research has shown people who eat breakfast do better academically than those who skip breakfast.”
If you’re not sure what foods are good for you, Virginia and Helen say it’s best to keep it simple and use the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating as a guide.
Ideally, for each main meal you should aim to fill your plate:
“Low GI foods like wholegrains release their energy over a longer period of time, which gives you sustained energy to go about your activities throughout the day,” says Virginia.
If you’re not sure where to buy groceries, major supermarkets are a great place to start for all of your staples. Don’t be afraid to branch out to markets and community gardens, especially if you’re on the hunt for a bargain.
“A lot of products in Aldi are cheaper than Woolworths and Coles,” says Helen. As well as the main supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA, check out alternatives such as OzHarvest Market, Food Co-op, and the USU grocery box.
"OzHarvest Market runs on the principle of “Take what you need, pay if you can” so you can pay as little as $0 or as much as you want. Keep in mind that every dollar you spend equals two meals served to vulnerable women, children and men across Australia, so give what you can."
If you’re looking to tighten the reins on your budget, a little meal prep can save you from spending big on last-minute takeaway orders.
“Try to write up a meal plan for one or two weeks. Stick to your shopping list when you go shopping. Try to avoid wastage,” says Helen.
How to make the most of your shop:
Be sure to check what you already have in your fridge and pantry to avoid unnecessary purchases. If you plan to buy in bulk, make sure you have plenty of storage space available.
While it can be tempting to order food when you have assessments to complete and are feeling short on time, it may not be the best option for your health or your wallet.
“You’ll know exactly what you put it in your meals, a lot of restaurants add a lot of salt, sugar and fat,” says Helen.
There are a few time-saving strategies you can use to get the most out of your cooking:
“If you have a busy period coming up, cooking something that can last you for a few days will give you time,” Helen. Cooking can also be a relaxing way to take a short break away from your screen.
Knowing how to prepare your food safely will help you avoid getting sick. Perishables and cooked foods must spend as little time as possible between 4 and 60 degrees. This is known as the danger zone, where bacteria multiplies rapidly.
Store your food properly – make sure pantry goods are sealed to prevent pests, perishables are stored in the fridge and frozen foods are kept below zero degrees.
Often people avoid cooking as they don’t feel like they have enough cooking skills. You’ll only get better with practice! To help you get started, download the cooking on a budget guide (PDF, 1.5mb) and try some of the simple recipes prepared by Virginia and Helen.
Take your skills even further with a free cooking on a budget workshop on 17 September – register now on Eventbrite to receive the Zoom link. You can even order a USU grocery box with all of the ingredients you'll need.
This article was adapted from a student workshop hosted by the STAR Team and sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance.