Cooking Tips for Students on a Budget

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When people leave home to become a student, it is the start of a new chapter of their lives. Along with the freedom and independence come additional responsibilities which require the development of new life skills. Two such skills are cooking and budgeting. The majority of students will have limited funds and will need to cover bills in their new accommodation as well as making sure they eat a healthy and nutritious diet. To achieve this on such limited funds can be tricky, but it is manageable with a little thought and planning into shopping and the preparation of food. Here are some ideas of some staple foods that every student should buy and some ideas for student meals on a budget.

Pulses

These are a much cheaper source of protein than meat. They can be used to make vegetarian alternatives to meals or to bulk up a meal if only a small amount of meat can be afforded. Chilli con Carne is one such meal where meat can be entirely replaced, or kidney beans and haricot (or baked) beans can be used to bulk up the meal using only a small amount of minced meat.  Beans on toast are also a really quick snack or meal to eat that is cheap and packed with nutrients. Opt for tins with low salt and sugar content.

Rice

Rice is usually really cheap to buy and you can buy it in large bags to store for long periods of time, thus avoiding wasting money and food. You can use rice as a side dish to accompany another item, such as a curry, or to create a dish on its own. Adding spices, small amounts of meat or fish and as many vegetables as you like are quick, easy, cheap and tasty ways to use rice. Rice is also an ingredient that you can experiment with a little as it will absorb the flavors of the other ingredients with which it is served.

Pasta

Similarly, pasta is inexpensive and you can but it in large quantities that store for long periods of time. There are countless ways of serving pasta.  One really easy and cheap option is to simply add a tomato sauce to the pasta.  You can do this either by using a jar of pasta sauce or making a homemade sauce using fresh tomatoes and some herbs. A simple ratatouille added to the pasta is another option for a cheap, tasty and nutritious dish. There are many variations of this but frying courgette, tomatoes and peppers together is really easy even for an amateur cook. Other options with pasta include tuna pasta bake, pasta carbonara (adding cheese, ham and mushrooms) or spaghetti bolognese. 

Experiment

Finally, the best advice that can be given to a student is to experiment with the food you create. Buy lots of things that store well and try out different combinations of ingredients together. Keep a stock of dried herbs and spices in the cupboard so you can get experimental with flavours in your cooking.

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Reducing Salt Intake In Your Diet

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There is a never-ending stream of advice with regards to how people should live a healthier lifestyle.  Doctors, magazines and TV programmes alike are telling everybody to reduce their alcohol intake, quit smoking, eat five fruit and vegetables a day and exercise on a regular basis.  Amongst the things that they tell people that they should be doing is reducing the amount of salt that is in their diets.

The Health Risks

Whilst some salt in your diet is essential.  Too much salt is linked to many illnesses and diseases including heart disease and increasing the risk of having a stroke.  It can also cause damage to the kidneys if eaten in large quantities.  This is bad news for people who crave salt in their diets.  However, there are healthier options for people who crave salt in their diet.

Reduced Sodium Salt

A kitchen essential for those who are trying to reduce their salt intake but enjoy the flavour that salt gives their food is reduced sodium salt.  Using this when preparing food or adding it to food once it is cooked will still give you the flavour of salt, but will have a less harmful effect on your body. This is the first step in cutting back on salt in your food.

Avoid Pre-prepared Foods

Whenever possible, avoid buying pre-prepared foods as these are often high in salt. This applies to food in packets, frozen meals, and tinned food. If you prepare your meals yourself, then you have full control over how much salt goes into the dish. If you must buy ready meals, then choose ones that have reduced salt.  This means that they still contain salt and will have the flavour, but there is a reduced amount in that product, thus making it a healthier option.  Gravy granules are also available in reduced salt varieties.  Gravy is generally a very salty product so this is a good alternative.

Choose Naturally Salty Ingredients

Another tip is to cook with food that has a naturally salty flavour and will not require you to add salt to the dish.  Gammon and bacon are good options as they are naturally salty and will flavour any food that is cooked in the same pan.  You can also save the stock from a gammon joint to add to soups or gravy giving them a meaty, salty flavour.

Use Alternative Flavours

Finally, if it is simply that you feel that food is bland without the addition of salt, then look for alternatives to use in your cooking to add extra taste and flavour to your meals.  Experiment with different herbs and spices to find ones that tantalize your taste buds and use these instead.  They are a much healthier option and you will greatly reduce the amount of salt in your diet by doing this.

Eating Habits in America in the 1900s

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During the 1900s there were many changes to the foods that Americans ate in comparison to the Victorian era.  Many factors influenced these changes.  Here is an overview of the factors that influenced the food that was eaten in America during the 1900s.

Immigration

There was a great deal of immigration of people from all over the globe during this period.  They introduced new concepts, flavours, spices and ingredients that were not commonly used in American cooking or were never used. Majority of these immigrants moved to urban areas of America and some chose to set up businesses, often restaurants.  This brought multi-cultural food to the general public. For example, during the early twentieth century, many people came from Italy to America.  In 1905 in New York City, the first ever Italian Pizzeria was opened. 

Government Intervention

In 1906, the US government introduced the Food and Drugs Act.  This meant that all meat products were inspected as part of Federal Law.  Also, adulterated products could not be manufactured, sold or transported in America.

Home Economics Education

During the Victorian era, there was a huge push on educating young women in home economics and nutrition science, with the aim of improving people’s knowledge of health and nutrition.  This education continued into the early twentieth century and influenced ideas about food preparation, the use of ingredients and food safety. Many women who had studied the subject at school went out into the community to work closely with families, particularly those who were poor, to share their knowledge and educate others. 

Science and Technology

One of the greatest factors that changed the ways that Americans ate between 1900 and 1910 was the innovations of science and technology.  It was no longer necessary to eat only seasonal food as it could now be shipped in from other areas or grown in America.  The advances came in the form of increased transportation, better food preservation and improved food storage options.  The introduction of electricity in urban homes around this time also influenced how people stored and prepared their meals.

Business Expansion

During the 1900’s, the American market became flooded with new businesses and brands that were supplying food for the masses.  Many of these came in the form of tinned/ canned or dried foods.  Major names that came into play during this era, and are still well known today, include Quaker Oats and Campbell’s.

How to Eat Healthily On a Budget

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One excuse that people often make for being overweight or unhealthy is that they cannot afford to eat well. They believe that eating convenience foods is cheaper than eating fresh foods. This doesn’t have to be the case. As a mum of four, I know how the groceries bill can soon add up but I still like to give my children a varied and balanced diet. Here are some ideas on how to eat healthily even when you are on a budget. 

Stock Up Your Cupboards

Buying lots of items that can be kept in the store cupboard is a good idea as these items will keep well. This will avoid the costs created when food is bought and then not used before its sell-by date. Items like pasta and rice are really cheap and are an excellent source of carbohydrates which are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. They also provide a lot of different options with regards to meal choice as you can serve them as part of many meals. Similarly, pulses are a really cheap option and are high in protein.  This includes tins of baked beans, although look at the salt content on the labels as this can sometimes be quite high. Tinned fruit and vegetables are also good to keep in your cupboards as they are inexpensive, store for longer and are usually prepared so you will save time as well as money.

Shop Frequently, Buy Less

One of the main reasons why people believe that buying fresh and healthy food is more expensive is because they have a big shop and then throw lots of food away as it has gone off or is past its use by date.  However, if you made the simple change of shopping more frequently and only buying items of food that you are going to use over using for the next few days, then this can be easily avoided.

Grow Your Own Vegetables

This is the ultimate way to save money and eat fresh, healthy foods. To grow a few simple items will not require you to have a large garden or to be particularly green-fingered. If you have a windowsill or a balcony, then you can grow a few vegetables- not enough to feed your family for the next year, but it’s a start.  Packets of seeds cost pence to buy.  Some of the simplest fruit and vegetables to grow yourself are tomatoes and courgettes.  Of course, if you are green-fingered and you have a large garden then you can plant fruit trees, potatoes and any vegetables that your family enjoy. 

Cheaper Cuts of Meat

People often dismiss the cheaper cuts of meat, but these are often the tastiest cuts. They are usually particularly well-suited to longer cooking methods, such as stewing or braising. Therefore, they are ideal for throwing into a slow-cooker with some water and vegetables before you leave for work and you will have a delicious and healthy casserole to come home to at the end of the day. Remember, to remove the fat before cooking!

Offers and Vouchers

Look out for any foods that are on offer or that you have collected vouchers for.  Many supermarkets have offers on healthier items such as fruit and vegetables as they are trying to promote healthier living.