Eating cheaply and healthy in the CBD

By David Amaya

Students who live in the CBD face more than academic challenges. 

Eating well, for example, can be harder than studying for the next test. Noodles and tuna are for many, the basic products of their diet. But, is it possible to eat healthy on a low budget in the centre of the world’s most liveable city?

According to the 2016 Census, around 15,000 university, technician and vocational students live in the CBD. This figure represents around 39 per cent of inhabitants. As one of them, who every day tries to survive on a minimum spend, I decided to give you some tips on how to get a healthy diet on a small budget.

First of all, I surveyed 32 students. On average, they spend between $50 and $100 dollars a week on food, but some of them also said their budget didn’t allow them to buy all the products they considered vital to ensure good nutrition.

Regarding fruits and vegetables, I suggest to avoid the big shopping chains where a kilo of anything costs more than $4. A better option is the Queen Victoria Market ,which offers affordable prices. Currently, many products are cheaper due to the winter season.

Moreover, if the idea is to find the best bargains, the best time to arrive is after 2pm, especially on the weekends.

The one-dollar fare

Although some stalls manage the same high prices of the big chains, there are others where plenty of products can be found for just per $1 per kilo. Examples include bananas, oranges, pears, mandarins, apples and melons.

Also, tubers such as potatoes and sweet potatoes can be bought for the same price, as well as onions, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and lettuce. Some types of bread and tortillas can be found as well for $1 per bag.

With a bit of persuasion, it is possible to find some products even cheaper. Virendra Zen, a student from India, found bananas for 65 cents per kilo.

“I bought five kilos of bananas that I will eat during the next two weeks”, he said and added that he preferred cooking at home because restaurants meals are between  $10 and $15.

There are other stalls too where the purchasing can be done per unit-product. A big eggplant can cost 55 cents and a bell pepper or a cucumber can be had for 30 cents. A good idea for this season is to make pumpkin soup by paying $1.50 for a big one.  Also, 100 grams of quinoa, beans, lentils or chick peas can be purchased for 50 cents.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the minimum price. Hassam a trader who just wanted to give his first name, said: “I always try to help the customer, especially those with low budget such as students. They just take a bag and fill it up with different products and then I just weight the bag to sell it really cheap.”

Rice, pasta, milk and some cereals for breakfast are the only products that can be cheaper in the big supermarket chains. I have bought two kilos of rice for $2.50, pasta for 60 cents a bag and milk for 90 cents.

Although there are many expensive products like cheese, eggs, ham, meat, chicken, or fish, shopping around will help students save money.  Then, the benefit of a good diet will be seen in academic performance.

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