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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Eating on a budget

-By Jodi

When I first went to uni and was living away from home I had minimal money and I existed on toast (with no butter as that cost too much) and cheap pasta cooked with a can of diced tomato. Luckily, my new family-to-be took pity on me and fed me copious meals of carb-laden homemade pasta, salads, and richly cooked meats.

Like my in-laws, I think we all know the message about five serves of fruit and veg a day, add some protein, some carbs (low GI preferably), some essential fats and lots of water. We also know that food is a fuel to our body and we are affected by what we eat. But with limited time and finances (like when I was living away from home) it is sometimes hard to make an effort to eat well.

I think that planning is a key. As Karen put it so well in her post, it is helpful to write lists, such as:

* a list of meals for the week,
* a list of grocery items that are needed for those meals (include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in this list). 

It also helps to:
* have a budget that you can stick to (I find that shopping with cash means that the budget can’t be exceeded and it makes me think more about my purchases).
* Have a predetermined shopping day each week to make sure that there is food to cook.
*Buy no-name brands as they save so much money and usually taste good.
* I also find that if I cook double portions and then freeze the extra amounts, it saves time and cooking later (more time for study!)

Because we’re talking about food I have included my favourite basic muffin recipe here which can be varied to make chocolate muffins, fruit muffins, or hide-the-veggies muffins. These can also be cooked in big batches and put in the freezer. Happy cooking!

Basic muffin recipe
1 ¾ cups of self raising flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 egg lightly beaten
½ cup of milk
drops of vanilla essence
80 grams of butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Prepare muffin trays by wiping with butter or oil.
2. Sift flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.
3. Add egg, milk and vanilla essence (I find that adding the vanilla essence to the milk first helps spread the flavour evenly), and lastly butter. Mix well.
4. Spoon mixture into muffin trays, filling them to half the height of muffin space. Bake for 20 mins (approx) until golden brown.

At step 4 I sometimes add a couple of dessert spoons of cocoa to make chocolate muffins (choc chips work well here too), or I add berries or sultanas at this point to make fruit muffins. If I have added an extra ingredient then I omit the vanilla essence.

So bake-away and enjoy your semester break :)


  1. Hi Jodi! Great post! Love the tip on having a grocery budget and setting aside a day for grocery. Great tips for everyone really.. Not just for the students =) And thanks for the muffin recipe. Will definitely try them since I got all the ingredients in my pantry, except for the baking powder. Do you think I can get away with omitting that ingredient?

    1. It's worth a try without baking powder, but maybe try it on a small batch first as I think it will mean that the muffins won't rise. Having said that, my best cake recipe doesn't use baking powder and the cake turns out great (gotta love chocolate cake...)
      All the best with the baking :)

  2. Hi Jodi. Thanks for the recipe.

    As a muffin lover, I can learn how to make it by myself now, instead of buying it from cafes

  3. I find that winter time is the best time to bake because it warms up the freezing house! Bake lots and freeze them for later. Enjoy your baking. 😄

  4. I love muffins and like tying lots of recipes so thanks for posting this one. I like to add half a cup of grated zucchini to chocolate muffins(stops them drying out as easily and adds some texture).

    1. Great idea with the zucchini Jo - thanks for sharing!
      I like to add zucchini because I have a small child who doesn't eat many vegetables and I figure if I hide them in chocolate muffins then it means he eats his vegetables :)
      Maybe you could post a photo of your choc zucchini muffins - I'd love to see them!

  5. Yum! Thanks for the muffin recipe-I'm going to try it on my kids! :)