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I’m a mathematician on a budget, here’s what goes in my shopping basket!

Does your shopping basket bring you bother? It doesn’t have to. I’m a mathematician on a budget, and here’s what goes in mine!

Bananas, 12p each

If bananas aren’t an absolute staple of your diet, what are you doing? Bananas are DELICIOUS; bananas are CHEAP; and bananas are healthy. I let mine get nice and speckled and then I enjoy them as snacks between meals with a cup of tea. However you look at it, bananas are the most affordable fruit and it’s glorious.

Wholemeal bread, 36p/loaf

You’ve tried the rest, now try the best. The cheap wholemeal from Tesco is elite. In my opinion, branded loaves of bread are a scam; I don’t think there is a noticeable difference between this bread and a £1.15 Hovis. Take your 69% saving and put it towards something you’ll actually enjoy!

Frozen vegetables, 66p/kg (cheaper than their ambient counterparts!)

My housemates seem to decide what to cook based on what went out of date yesterday. Whether it’s a mushy pepper or some smelly mushrooms, this daily disappointment inevitably results in wasted food and wasted money. If you’re the sort of cook who sticks to a plan, go ahead and fill your boots with broccoli. But I’m more of a free spirit: by keeping a selection of canned and frozen staples around, I can cook up loads of dishes without ever worrying about things going off. My top picks for frozen veggies are peas, peppers, and mushrooms. Honourable mention to spinach.

An exception is carrots. At 41p/kg fresh they are an absolute steal and I keep them in the fridge for general snacking or making soup in bulk for my lunches. Omnomnomnom.

Dunns River Creamed Coconut, £1

I love cooking with coconut milk, but at 69p in Tesco it’s not cheap. Creamed coconut comes in a dry block and I chop some off and put it into the pan to dissolve when I add stock. Each block is the equivalent of 2-3 cans of coconut milk, and it lasts ages once opened! 

Chromecast, £19

As soon as we moved into our house this year one thing became apparent: plugging laptops into the TV to watch Netflix was not going to cut it. Instead we split the price of a Chromecast, which lets you cast your favourite shows to the TV right from your phone. This is a must-have for every household.

My top tips

In Durham it can be a pain to get to a “real” supermarket on foot. Marketplace Tesco is convenient, but the prices there can be higher than at bigger shops. Maybe the time saving is worth paying for, but I look out for the Aldi price match signs on daily essentials, so I know I’m not paying the “marketplace tax”. No matter where you shop, however, write a list, and don’t do it hungry, or you’ll come home with things you don’t need.

Being confident in the kitchen is a superpower when it comes to eating well without breaking the bank; you can make everything from hummus to pizza for a fraction of the cost if you know how. I got good by cooking as much as I could at home. Try it – you will become the favourite child.

Finally, just by being thoughtful about when you’ll use the ingredients you buy will save you time and money by keeping spoilage to a minimum. Not wasting 20% of everything is better than any student discount!

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Matt Clough

Hi, I’m Matt, a second year at Mildert studying maths. My favourite thing about living in Durham is going for epic bike rides in the Pennines.
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