Guest blog: Eating like an adult vs eating like a student

Posted by: Scott Ko

When I went back for my masters (read: was poor again) I had an epiphany which I can only assume came from the sudden drop in nutrition that comes with eating ramen more than once a day. I am not going to eat like a student again at the age of 23. I am an adult. And I have to eat like one.

Some of you just read that and went, “well (haha), I’ve graduated already/am older than that/am also wallowing in over-education and I don’t even eat like an adult (more hahas)”. But this stuff is important, if only to avoid the constipation that comes with regular consumption of 2-minute foods: How Do I Eat Like An Adult, And Pay For It On Centrelink?

Firstly, you have to know where your money is at. This is often the limiting factor for students. Even those who budget often don’t have a fixed expenditure for nights out – in Australia where living ain’t cheap it can range from $20-$100 when drinks are in the mix.

Secondly, you have to have staples. Some things will never change: Italians know what diameter of pasta they prefer. Asians everywhere have a rice cooker that makes no sense to non-regular rice eaters. Few Middle Eastern dishes can’t be scooped up or finished off with flatbreads. But when I say staples, I mean, what ingredients are going to make up ¾ of your plate every time you eat dinner?

Well thirdly, you have to know how to use them. In undergrad I discovered that I was the only student who didn’t know at least 3 different ways to have Indomie, that savoury weirdness of a food that tricks the brain into thinking that having 5 sauce-pockets was enough ingredients to constitute “cooking”. Yet, did anyone know how to make up asparagus?

That’s all there is to it. You just gotta put them all together.

Everyone can cook from a cookbook, except the can’t-help-themselves hipsters who think home-cooking is terrine and croquembouche on a bamboo serving board. Screw that – what can you cook at a snap? You’re in a campervan halfway down the coast of New Zealand (every student loves backpacking right?); can you boil frozen vegies and grill a minute steak from the supermarket? Probably. So I guess you should have some of them veggies from that frozen pack in the freezer then. That would be carrots, broccoli/cauliflower, and corn if you were wondering. Beans if you’re feeling fancy. Boiled or steamed, together or alone. Top tip: those are also things you can stir fry or bake with cheese (cheeeeeeeeese).

So my weekly shop includes those veg, from Aldi, plus (since I’m Asian) a 25kg bag of rice I buy twice a year. Leafy greens like Gai Lan and other veg like eggplant also feature. That’s Rice and Veg, 2/3-3/4 of my plate every night, plus leftovers for lunch. Eating like an adult already, and it only costs me $20/week.

That’s a lot, you say! Well even for those who still live with mum, you have to know where your money is at. If you’re not a journal-keeping type (I’m not), collect receipts for a week and see if you do it that cheap. Check yourself if you’ve eaten a bag of snackfood (I’m looking at you, Shapes) as a meal once or twice “by accident”. If you have, you just ate $3, which is how much it cost me to feed myself every day of the week with just staples. As for 40c Indomie – surprise! Indomie is a sometimes food that costs more than a cup of rice or pasta. Just because it comes with sauce does not make it a meal. Plus the cheapness of Indomie often helps people justify Maccas. Medium meals are $9 now, wtf?

That’s where your budget comes in. And you gotta stick to it, because it’s the only reason you’ll keep eating this way.

It’s balls to ask a student to spend only $50 a week on food. So try this. Staples are a given and can’t be messed with, so I’m only gonna spend $20 this week on what I really wanna eat with them. $7 for a Taco kit, $6.30 for the mince. Then I might have enough left for a 1kg bag of chicken wings from Aldi and a pack of minute steaks from Coles. I’ve got four meals sewn up with plenty of protein to not feel like I’ve missed out.

Well that’s tough. How the hell can I make interesting food out of pasta and vegies every day, you ask? This is where MealDish is your best friend. You’ve got your staples, you already know what you CAN cook (even if it’s just boiled veg and whacking chicken wings in the oven) but if you want to know how to make it really special, plug it into MealDish and watch some stuff you’ve never tried fall out. With my 1kg chicken wings, I can make honey-soy chicken, lemon-basil chicken, chicken and pea risoni, or chicken fricassee.

Don’t bother counting the rest. You’ll figure out yourself if you’ll never use turmeric again and won’t be making the dish that has it if you’re really money-conscious. Or, you’ll commit to using that turmeric again, and build up a spice-cupboard like a grown human being who can feed themselves accordingly.

If you find yourself bored with the above, it’s probably because students live random and eat random. But that’s adulthood: whatever your dreams for the future, you are not going to be that guy who buys a family bucket at KFC and eats it over the course of two days. You’ll be the guy who looks at the asparagus in the fridge and asks himself: blanched or fried with bacon?

Above all, remember this: food does not have to be super quick or super fancy to be enjoyed. If you can be satisfied with vegemite on toast or anything off Masterchef, you can be satisfied with eating chicken fricassee once in your life. And eat like an adult who’s tried a thing or two.

Written by Sophia Ling.

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