This article was written by Chloe Warren, our newsletter editor. She’s also a freelance science writer, comedian, PhD have-er and all round struggling life- attempter. She wrote about her PhD experiences on her blog, Let’s Try This PhD Thing.
Postgraduate study is a tough gig. When you’re not busy writing, you’re probably busy running experiments, trying to get your head around statistics packages, or tracking down an elusive reference or an even more elusive supervisor.
Even when you’re not studying, you’re thinking about studying.
It’s hard work – and if you’re going to keep up your energy levels and motivation, you need to fuel your body with the Right Stuff. But postgraduate study isn’t too much of a lucrative business, and we’re not exactly swimming in spare time. So how can you eat well on a budget AND without spending hours in the kitchen?
1. Learn how to cook.
I’m not talking about fine dining, or even necessarily meals which require more than one pot.
Once you’ve got two-three meals in your repertoire, you can start experimenting and expanding. My main three would be:
- Stir-fry with rice/noodles (with whatever protein & veggies you like!)
- Tomato-based pasta sauce (with whatever protein & veggies you like!)
- Frittata (with whatever protein & veggies you like!)
It’s really easy to find really basic recipes for these types of meals, and once you’re comfortable you can start making them a bit more complicated (try using a white pasta sauce, try adding fried rice to your stir-fry, try making a super thick frittata and then baking it etc etc)
I love these ones because they are so easy to customise based on whatever you’ve got in the fridge and they only take about 20 minutes to cook. Also they only require 1-2 pots, so not too much washing up. Look up great herb & spice/ veggie combinations and have a play!
Check out the UON Student Sustainable Cookbook for inspo.
2. Pack a lunch!
Packing lunch is probably my least favourite thing to do in the mornings. I’m never particularly organised or awake before 9AM, so making a meal is a fairly taxing thing to do.
It’s a good thing Past Chloe already made a meal 12 hours ago at dinner time – that’s right guys, it’s leftovers to the rescue.
Cook enough for two meals at dinner time AND PUT HALF INTO A PLASTIC CONTAINER IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise you will just eat it for dinner and call it seconds. Well, otherwise I will eat it for dinner and call it seconds.
Hey you just saved yourself some dollary-doos, go you!
3. Eat MOAR heckin veg!
So, you know several years ago we all had that “five-a-day” fruit and veg message crammed down our throats? And then they got sneaky and put it up to seven? Well, guess what? The ACTUAL recommendation is TEN A DAY. And did you know that only two of those portions are supposed to be fruit?
That’s a hellovalota veg is what I’m saying.
Before you go out to stock up on kale, please remember that there is no such thing as a superfood, and no one vegetable is healthier than another. It’s all about variety!
The easiest way I’ve found to get more veg in my diet is to snack on them throughout the day. Carrots, capsicum, celery, cucumber are perrrfect – and really cheap. If the idea of eating those on their own bores you to death (come on, it totally does), and you don’t love hummus (wut.), try tzatziki or some other yummy healthy dip to jazz it up a bit.
4. Invest in plastic containers.
What with all this packed lunch and snack business, you’re going to need some way to store it all. Buy your hummus, yoghurt, nuts, veg etc in bulk, then decant into smaller pots for lunch to save on money and packaging.
5. Eat less processed and red meat. (tofu is not terrible)
Cancer Council recommends eating no more than 700g of red meat per week (here’s a handy infographic to illustrate what that actually looks like), and avoiding processed meat due to high salt and fat content.
Substituting red meat with alternatives is also a great idea because it’s generally cheaper.
If you’ve only ever tried tofu once and decided you hate it, you should probably have another go. I can’t STAND silken tofu but I eat firm tofu at least once a week and it’s DELICIOUS. Have a look around at all the different ways to prepare tofu (marinating, coating with egg and flour, frying etc) and have a play. It’s such a cheap and yummy source of protein and it’s not just for tree huggers, I promise.
(I personally hate trees.)
Check out the University’s nutrition guide for more tips on healthy eating and meal planning.