Words and photos by Tim Burdsall, a Pre-Vet Science major from the University of Massachusetts who studied with CAPA International Education in Sydney during the Spring semester of 2013. Read on for Tim’s healthy eating tips and how to shop on a budget while abroad. He also tells us about some of the iconic Aussie foods he sampled while he was there.
How to eat healthy while studying abroad was a thought that crossed my mind a few times before I arrived. Where was I going to eat, how was I going to eat on a budget, and where was I going to get food? Staying at the Meriton, Waterloo, you have cheap, good food right at your fingertips.
Coles is an Australian supermarket chain that has pretty cheap food. Initially, when the CAPA staff told me I’d be doing my shopping at Coles, I assumed they meant Kohl’s and wondered how I was going to go grocery shopping at a clothing store.
Coles is located about a minute walk down the road from the apartment complex. It is the center of the little village that the Meriton is in. Within this plaza you will find a gym, pool, various sushi and pizza places, multiple coffee shops and a liquor store.
As you walk into Coles, you'll get a feel of a regular grocery store back home. It is set up very similarly to a Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, Wegmans or Cub Foods. I mean, it's a grocery store, nothing too crazy about it.
Now I am kind of a health nut so I like to buy healthy fresh foods and I spent a little more on food than some of my friends here. On average, I spent about $75 a week on food. That's kind of a lot of money and I know people who managed to only spend about $45 a week so it is really as expensive as you make it.
There are a lot of easy ways to eat healthy abroad. Australia is all about fresh produce and fresh meat. Fresh food isn't cheap, but it’s not much more expensive than back home. On average, fresh produce is about $2 more.
Now the food will appear to be even more expensive because they put everything in price per kilo. They use kilos for everything here so find a way to easily convert it to pounds (approximately 2.2 pounds) or just learn to understand kilos.
They key with produce is to search out the sales and deals for the week and capitalize on them.
Personally, I used to buy a family size bag of salad, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, 5 apples or oranges and about 7 bananas for the week. The salad and vegetables went towards dinner most nights and the fruit usually contributed to lunch that I would pack myself for my internship or class. (Packing your own lunch is FAR cheaper than buying your lunch from a cafe or food court every day and healthier.)
As far as meat goes, prices can get really expensive really fast if you don’t pay attention. Look for the deals. I found that sometimes buying fresh chicken and meat is actually cheaper than buying the prepackaged stuff.
I used to buy about a kilo of chicken on Sundays and bake all of it. I would then use this for sandwiches and in salads and stuff throughout the week. By the end of the program I never wanted to look at chicken again but it did its job.
Minced turkey and beef is sometimes cheap so burgers and meat sauce for pasta is a good alternative.
With having a fully stocked kitchen at the Meriton I did a lot of cooking throughout the week.
Now, even with eating healthy, I found that I also ate a lot of PB+J as it was very inexpensive and pretty easy to make on the fly.
SOME FAST GROCERY SHOPPING TIPS AND TRICKS
1. Look for the Coles down price hands for deals.
2. Eggs are not refrigerated here, so they are just on the shelves.
3. TimTams are the best cookies/ biscuit things that you will ever eat, often on sale.
4. What are these? Muesli bars are just granola bars.
5. These are a national cookie, and you will learn all about ANZAC in class, so don’t worry...
6. This tastes like salty cat food. Vegemite is awful, but you have to try it.
10. Frozen fruit is cheap and a great way to eat healthy.
11. Frozen pizza is cheap and easy to make.
12. Frozen veggies - a great way to eat healthy that won’t spoil!
13. Biscuits are just cookies and crackers, so you will find everything from Ritz Crackers or Saltines to Oreos and Chips Ahoy here.
14. Ask for Wedges at a restaurant first then buy you own and enjoy.
So to sum it all up:
- Eating healthy:
- Make a lot of your own food
- It's more expensive, but worth it
- I spent about 75$ a week
- Eating cheap
- Search out sales
- They are not always healthy, but you will save money for other things that are
- Frozen foods are often the cheapest