Food, Budget and You

Written by Queenie Lei, a fourth year Communications student with an intended minor in International Studies. She is fascinated with international affairs and is always trying to discover more about herself. 

Currently, I am on my exchange at the City University of Hong Kong, studying Asian and International Studies. I am living in one of the student residence hall buildings during my exchange, and I found that being on a tight monthly budget and having a limited amount of space to store my groceries can be a bit problematic and a waste of money as vegetables and meat can go bad within one week of purchasing the groceries.

For my building, I live on the fourteenth floor. Every floor has its own common room where we can cook, store our food, and hang out. However, I have heard stories from other exchange students about how their food went missing when they put it into the common room refrigerators. Luckily for me, my roommate bought a mini refrigerator so I do not need to worry about it (but earlier in January, I did have two eggs go missing). Although I do have a mini refrigerator to store things, there were a couple of incidents where I had to trash away fruits such as strawberries, mandarin oranges and vegetables because I could not finish them before they went bad.

To combat the problem of not finishing the food I bought and to ensure I am still eating a balanced diet, I have devised a few techniques to reduce the likelihood of leaving my food for a long time while being frugal with my money. This relates back to being sustainable because it helps reduce my consumption and helps me be more socially conscious of my actions and the impact it has on the environment and the people around me.

1.Purchase in small quantities

Because fruits and produce can easily go bad within one-two weeks, I now purchase fruits in small quantities. By buying in small quantities, there is less of a chance for the groceries to go bad. Since every dollar that I spend counts, it is good to buy only what I need. 

2. Check best-before/expiry dates
I also check the best-before/expiry dates before I make a purchase to make sure that I have at least 4-5 days to eat the food before it actually expires. By getting “far-away” expiry dates, it gives me time to consume the fruit/groceries.


Image source from 

3. Make a check-list

Because I am living on my own, it can be easy to ‘overdo’ grocery shopping. What I mean by overdoing groceries is getting too much and not able to finish. Hence, I make sure to look at what food I still have before making a checklist (using the Android app List&Notes and My Finances) to remind myself of what to get during my grocery shopping and to remain focused on the objective of the shopping trip without buying anything extra.



Image source from 

4. Having leftovers! 

Sometimes when I am making a specific dish (eg. soy-sauce chicken or fried rice), there tends to be leftovers. Instead of throwing it out, I use re-usuable containers to store it for next time. For example, when I am making soy-sauce chicken, there is usually 4-6 pieces. Knowing I won't be able to finish it all at once, I would pack 4 of them for future meals. By doing this, I am saving money and reducing food waste. 

Happy grocery shopping from Embark Sustainability team!



Donate Volunteer Find an Event


get updates