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How To Save Money On Food With A Student Budget

I've just finished my first semester of university, and I'm about to head into my second, so I know a thing or two about budgeting and saving money, especially on food. It took me a while to get a budgeting system going where I can buy and cook healthy food, without being broke at the end of the month, and I want to share those tips with you today.

Eating healthy is something that is non-negotiable for me. It should definitely be cheaper, but unfortunately we live in a world where fast food is the cheapest and most convenient option. 

That doesn't stop me from trying my best to eat well, even with the added pressure of being a student. Before I moved to China, I watched videos that said it's super difficult to be healthy in China, that fruit is so expensive and that it's better to just have take away all the time. But since coming here I've found that it's not actually that difficult (for me, at least) and I can manage to balance pretty well.

I have a few tips that I use daily when it comes to buying food and still being happy with some money left in the bank. I hope you find them useful!

The first thing is to create a budget. I love Aja Dang's YouTube channel because to me, she's like the budgeting guru I've always needed. She creates videos where she outlines her monthly budget, videos that show what she's spending her money on weekly, and tips on how to stick to a budget. Her driving force is that she's aiming to pay off all her student loans, so she's definitely a channel to watch (I was definitely inspired by her to create this post!).

My budget is pretty simple; I look at how much money is going in versus going out and I see what I can cut out so I can have as much as possible. Then, I allocate different amounts of money to different expenses, such as groceries or school equipment, and I only use that amount of money per week on that specific expense.

My budget is weekly, but this can definitely work monthly too. If you allocate money to buying food that's good for you and not to just anything you can get your hands on, then you're more likely to spend money on just that.

Because I know myself, I also have a certain amount of money each week I can spend on junk food, and I am not allowed to go over that no matter what. This makes it easy to have money left at the end of the week to save!

I buy my vegetables exclusively from the market, and it's a 10 minute walk from the dorm building, which is great! It's so much cheaper to buy from the market compared to a supermarket, so this is definitely something to try if you can.

A definite bonus is that the more I go, the more familiar they become with me and I can haggle cheaper prices!

When I cook, I often choose to buy tofu as my protein for the week instead of meat, and it's so. much. cheaper! I can buy tofu for less than ¥3 (less than 40p!!!) and it lasts the whole week. This is compared to chicken which I buy for around ¥10 for a week, or beef (which I only just bought a couple of weeks ago for the first time since coming here), for around ¥20. 

Going meat-free has other benefits too, but the benefit for your pocket is pretty great!

Something that I cannot stress enough, especially when you live in East Asian countries, is to not buy imported food, or at least limit the amount of imported goods you buy! They are always going to be more expensive than locally produced food, for example my coconut milk. It's not something I can avoid because I'm lactose intolerant so this is something I add into my budget. My milk comes from Thailand and I haven't been able to find Chinese-brand coconut milk unfortunately.

Some things like Heinz ketchup, or Lays (or Walker's if you're from the UK!) aren't expensive at all, so there's no problem there, but if you can, definitely buy goods from the country you're in!

Something I love about China is how easy it is to buy whatever you want online.

I buy my sweet potatoes online (the market doesn't have the white ones which I prefer) and they come fresh and they're just as good as buying at the market. I've also seen teas, snacks, meat, breads and other types of food online and it's usually cheaper then buying in-store.

Meal prep saves so much money and time, and it's something I know all students have tried at least once before.

I cook once or twice a week, and keep the food in tupperware in the fridge. When I want to eat, I just warm it up and I'm good to go! My favorite things to meal prep are my tofu and broccoli, or any kind of chicken dish as my main meal, along with rice that I also cook for the week. I'll chop vegetables once and keep them in tupperware too and cook them when I'm ready to eat, just because mushy veg isn't very appetising.

Meal prep has changed the game and I strongly advise you to give it a go if you can.

If the thought of eating food you've cooked a few days ago doesn't sound good, then you can prep ingredients too, and cook them when you're ready to eat!

Something I look forward to are the sales in Walmart, because it's when I can stock up on staples like rice, oil, meat or snacks. 

If you have sales going on in the supermarkets near you, definitely take advantage of it and buy buy buy and save some money! 

Things I won't eat right away get frozen and that way I just have to defrost and get cooking. One thing I love about China is that things on offer also come with additional goodies, like one 4L bottle of oil can come with a smaller one attached to it, or bottles of drinks come with things like bowls or cutlery. I've even seen toothpaste come with a bowl! 

So, the next time there's a sale near you, take your shopping bags and stock up!

So, those are my tips for how I save money on food, manage to eat healthy, and remain happy and sane at the same time! This is probably a really long blog post, but I had so much to cover and I didn't want to miss anything.

I hope this was helpful for anyone looking to get smarter with food and money, and if you have any other tips, I'd love to hear them below!

I'll see you in the next one!

6 Tips For Creating Content

When I first started my blog, one thing I was definitely afraid of was whether or not I'd be able to keep coming up with content. I was afraid I'd eventually run out of ideas and have to call it quits, but somehow, I've managed to keep coming up with post ideas after all this time (it's been over a year already!).

Sometimes it does seem like I have nothing to post on the blog, but with these sources, I'm always able to have an idea I can flesh out and get up on the blog before long. I hope you enjoy the post!

Pinterest is the home of creative ideas, and it's perfect for blog posts too. If I'm feeling stuck, I go through my boards and have a look through what I've been pinning lately and get some inspiration from there.

The key word here is inspiration. I don't believe in outright copying content someone else has spent time working on and passing it off as an original idea. I just get a feel of the content and get inspired by it, instead of just copying it outright. Whenever I get inspired by someone else's idea, I always mention it within my own blog post!

Anyway, I go through my boards and get an idea of what I can write about and if that doesn't work, I move onto the next step!

Reading someone else's content is another way I get blog post ideas, and again, this is about being inspired to write, not practically hitting copy and paste.

I love using Bloglovin' to read blog posts, and I always come across interesting posts on Twitter too. Once I've read the post, I always make sure to leave a nice comment telling the blogger I appreciate it.

Using YouTube is also similar to reading blogs, and I love it. I've got a post coming soon about budgeting and saving money on food as a student, which was inspired by Aja Dang's video on how to be healthy on a budget. As you can see there's definitely some inspiration taken from her.

Since I'm on YouTube a lot of the time, I always come across video titles that inspire me to write something, so if you haven't used YouTube to get blog post ideas, give it a shot!

A lot of the blog posts I've written (and are writing) come from conversations I've had in real life, such as Finding Joy in The Small Things, 5 Signs You Need A Social Media Detox, and How To Achieve Your New Year's Goals.

Listening intently to what people are saying is such a dose of inspiration, and when someone sees me whip out my phone to write down what they're saying, they know a blog post is coming (lol). 

I know I'm not the only person who goes through this: you're laying in bed, and you're on the verge of sleep when a blog post idea just comes completely out of nowhere!

I love it when this happens, and I just have to get my phone out to write the idea down before it's gone forever. I don't know how to explain this but, if it is something that happens to you, then make sure you write those ideas down too!

I also feel like I get inspired by my daily life and what's going on right now. My post on culture shock came when I was on the subway and I was thinking about how different life is in China compared to the UK. Just being open to what life is showing you is inspiration enough.

Finally, I also try coming up with the title of a blog post first, then see if it's something I can work with.

For example, my for my posts beginning with "How To..." I think of different scenarios and see if it's something I can write about, like my How I Practise Mindfulness post. This is a creative idea for getting a post written!

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any other ways you get blog post ideas, leave them down below!

I'll see you in the next one!

Photos: Unsplash

3 Days In Wuhan

Last week, I took the train up to Wuhan in Hubei province to visit my cousins. I had the absolute best time and the only thing I regret is that I didn't stay long enough!

I travelled during the Lunar New Year period (aka Chinese New Year), so a lot of the restaurants and stores were closed. Not many people were walking around as normal, but we still managed to venture out and eat!

I have some photos of the restaurants we visited and they're not really the best but I loved the trip so much, I want to share them here too.

The first place we visited when my train arrived was a Japanese curry house called CoCo (老番屋).

I went with the traditional Chicken Katsu Curry, which was so amazing and flavorful.

For the table, we got two small sharing platters with potato wedges, fried chicken, and deep-fried octopus.

Also on the menu was Beef Omurice (stewed beef curry with rice and a fluffy omelette on top), and beef and vegetable curry. Any type of curry you can think of was there!

That evening we then ventured out to another restaurant called Beer Barn.

We got pepperoni pizza, chicken quesedillas, and the juiciest cheeseburger I've ever had.

They also had cocktails, cold drinks, and teas to go around!

This was definitely our favorite place during the whole trip; the vibe of the place was great and the food was the icing on the already amazing cake. We went there every night for dinner!

When in a foreign country and you don't know what to eat, your safest bet is to find the nearest McDonald's, which is what we did!

I decided to try the chicken rice bowl after hearing so much about it, and it did not disappoint!

It's served with rice at the bottom, followed by lettuce, then chicken, then drizzled in mushroom sauce. It was perfection!

On my final night, we went to Show Coffee and Tea (秀玉红茶坊 (汉街店)), which, unlike the name suggests, did not just serve coffee and tea.

I initially had my heart set on the Thai Basil Rice that would come on a sizzling stone plate, but the whole selection of Thai food was unavailable!

I went with the Japanese Beef Rice, and I quickly forgot about what I previously wanted.

For the table, we got a spicy Mexican beef pizza, fries, spring rolls, and mini chicken wraps, along with two jugs of lemon ice tea, and orange ice tea.

Also ordered were steaks, which came with spaghetti, a fried egg, a baked potato, swimming in gravy, all served on a sizzling stone plate.

Probably the best meal I've had in a long long time!

Being in Wuhan was so much fun and I definitely want to venture out and travel a whole lot more this year.

I hope you enjoyed this post, it's very different from my usual, but I loved looking back on this day!

I'll see you in the next one!

Top Apps You'll Need To Survive In China

China is known for having an app for just about anything you can think of. Do you want someone to stand in line for you for a product you've been waiting for? There's an app for that! However if you're coming to China for the first time, then these apps I'm going to show you are the absolute essentials. You'll need to download them before coming here so your stay will run much smoother.

Some of them I'm sure you'll have heard of, but I'm going to explain how they work and how you can use them!

Undoubtedly the most important app you will download is a VPN. VPN stands for virtual private network, and it changes your IP address to one in a different country so you can access blocked sites. If it sounds illegal, it is, but it's known by the government and all foreigners use them, whether they come for school, work, or travel.

In China, apps and websites like the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even WhatsApp are blocked. If you try to connect to any of them, your page will just keep loading for years. However, if you connect to your VPN, you can browse anything that you did back home! It's easy enough but sometimes a pain in the behind!

You can get free VPN's or paid ones. I prefer free ones for now, and I use Turbo VPN and Psiphon Pro. The best paid one I have seen is Express VPN. One thing to note is that sometimes, around Chinese holidays or even just random days, the VPN connection will be so poor for a while. It passes but when it's there, it's super annoying!

Make sure you download this before you come, because it's going to be really hard to get one once you cross over into China!

WeChat (微信)
The next most important app is obviously WeChat. Think of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp all rolled into one. On top of that, imagine being able to buy plane tickets, order food, and pay for things in the shops all within the same app! I hope every single day that other countries begin using WeChat too because it makes life so much more convenient.

WeChat is how everyone communicates here (the WhatsApp element) and how they share what's going on in their lives (the social media element). If you set up your bank details to it too, you'll be able to pay for anything, either in the shops, a restaurant, or online. 

I use it to talk to my friends, ask my teachers questions if I have any, order food, check train tickets, and buy everything I need (and I mean everything, I don't carry cash anymore!). It has so many other features I don't use, like booking taxi's and paying bills but the fact that it's there is pretty amazing! I only wish there was a weather feature to be honest!

Definitely one to download if you're staying long-term! You'll absolutely need it to contact anyone you need!

The next most important app for those still learning Chinese like me is Pleco. Pleco is a dictionary that has translations for 99% of things you'll want to translate, either from Chinese to English, or vise versa.

You can draw the character out, search it up, and speak the word too. It's been so useful; if I don't know what to say or how, I type it up and show it to someone who can help!  

There are also options for you to create and save flashcards, which is super useful if you're learning the language! 

On a similar vein, Google Translate is also a great one to download if you want to translate small phrases too! Surprisingly, this one works without VPN!

Baidu (百度)
Baidu is what I'd say is the equivalent to Google. It can do anything Google can do, but what I use it for is translating screenshots on my phone.

I wouldn't say it's a necessity but I find it super useful for when I'm looking at something online and nothing is making sense. It's also great if my VPN connection is terrible that day.

A currency converter app
This one is self explanatory, if you want to convert prices, get a currency converter app! 

All of them work the same if you ask me so it doesn't really matter which one you choose. I like to convert currencies so I know how much money I'll be getting in Chinese Yuan. It's also nice to see how things compare back home!

My favorite map is definitely Amap. Google maps only works if you're connected with your VPN and none of the addresses are in Chinese.

It's best to download a Chinese map app because everything in real life will be in Chinese anyway. The app also gives me weather updates so I know if it's going to rain this week or not which is pretty cool!

Taobao (淘宝) or Pinduoduo (拼多多) 
Online shopping is a huge market in China and the most popular company is definitely Taobao. Think of eBay and Amazon combined. You can get anything and everything on there and their selection is huge. 

You can buy Chinese products, western products, fresh fruit and veg, electronics, just everything you need!

Pinduoduo is another popular shopping app and I prefer it to Taobao only because I can directly access it from WeChat and it's cheaper too. 

A few times a year all shopping apps have massive sales and I've been able to get some real bargains! I once bought a clothes rack for 15 yuan, approximately £1.60 and a handbag for 11 yuan, around £1.20! The quality is so good too. I know people have fears that the quality of these products won't be good, but I personally have never had that problem.

So those are the absolute essential apps I think you need if you're coming to China. Other people's lists may have different things, but for me and my daily life, I use these the most and they're brilliant!

I hope you enjoyed this post and I'll see you in the next one!

Keeping Myself Organised At Uni

Being organised is something I'm really good at. Since the days of GCSE exams, I've just had to be on top of it. Sometimes it gets difficult juggling everything together, and sooner or later (at least for me) something has to give, whether it's my sleep or social life. But, I do still stand by the statement that I am an organised person and I'm pretty proud about it!

Being at university means I am organised in a different way compared to the way I was previously and being a language student on top of that means there's a whole new system of doing things. I've got 4 main ways I keep myself together and I wanna share them with you! 

I have been using Google Cal for years now and it's what I prefer when it comes to calendars. Having a digital calendar means I can add things, take things out and swap them around without scribbling anywhere and having it look messy - it's just easier and I can take it anywhere.

I colour code everything depending on what it is, and I add everything to my calendar. I schedule in my classes, my school breaks, when a blog post is going up, when my rent is due, people's birthdays, school events, any travelling I plan on doing, and appointments. Having everything colour coded first of all looks really pretty, but it's also a good visual tool to see when something is happening.

I add absolutely everything in there so I can be accountable and informed about anything going on. It also makes it really hard to forget things!

In addition to my Cal, I also use my bullet journal (see post here!). I have to admit, the excitement of having a bullet journal wore off after some time and now I just use it for my daily to-do lists.

I don't add in habit trackers or any of those fancy spreads because right now I simply don't need them. The general rule of thumb is to only add spreads you'll actually need and use, and I don't need or use any of them!

In addition to my daily to-do lists, the only spreads I do add are my semester at a glance, where I put in all the events of the current semester, and my daily class schedule. Other than that, it's pretty basic and minimal.

For all things relating to school, I use one notebook during class and one after.

In class, I write notes on what my teacher is talking about. We have one topic per lesson and we learn approximately 20 new words per lesson, so I just make rough notes in my class notebook. These notes are a mess of English and Chinese so I try not to be too fancy with it and write as I like.

I don't use any note-taking systems like I did in sixth form because it's only language and I can retain information this way.

After class, I have another notebook where I re-write my notes. I write 99% of these notes in Chinese because it helps me learn and I now know the Chinese meaning from class earlier that day. This is where I add highlighter and coloured pens to make the information stand out and also to look a bit more pretty!

That's pretty much how I stay organised at university! It's not complicated at all and it keeps me from forgetting crucial info!

How do you keep yourself organised?