Cost of living: Is it better to cook in an apartment or just cook yourself?

The cost of living has never been higher, but is it high enough to change the habits of an apartment full of scarves?

A six-person apartment in Dunedin shares the rent, but not the food bill. In the middle of exam season, they helped Things test whether cooking in an apartment was worth it, even if it saved money.

Their task was to come up with five days worth of dinner ideas and make it happen, then compare the cost and effort of going it alone.

Their first hurdle was instantaneous: picky eaters couldn’t agree on certain ingredients.

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From left back, Keegan Gill, Bram van den Bosch, Lucy Snuggs.  Front left, Saffron Wilson, Amy Wynne-Jones, Claudia Lassiter.  All are 21 years old, except Safran who is 20.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

From left back, Keegan Gill, Bram van den Bosch, Lucy Snuggs. Front left, Saffron Wilson, Amy Wynne-Jones, Claudia Lassiter. All are 21 years old, except Safran who is 20.

Partners Lucy and Bram usually cooked together and separate from others due to Lucy’s vegetarianism; Keegan and Saffron tried to maintain a high meat and protein content because they exercised a lot in addition to their studies. friends Claudia and Amy often opted for a late lunch-dinner combo, especially since sophomore medical student Amy was often at the library until it closed. For Claudia, all tomato-based foods were forbidden.

The apartment calculated what they spent and how much they spent on food in the five days before the experiment. The average was $5, but meals were sometimes non-existent or just a box of spaghetti.

For this test, they pledged to cook themselves decent food. After agreeing to a meal plan, it’s off to Pak ‘n’ Save for a 54-minute shop.

From leaving the apartment to returning to the door, the grocery trip took 54 minutes.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

From leaving the apartment to returning to the door, the grocery trip took 54 minutes.

The total cost was $159.50, or about $5.30 per person per meal – more expensive than doing it alone, but guaranteed to hit all major food groups, and usually resulted in enough for seconds or leftovers.

The most expensive ingredient was the $15.29 chicken, which they hoped would cover two nights worth of meals, but didn’t. Instead of the scheduled butter chicken on night 4, they had takeout.

The next most expensive item was a 1kg block of Colby Edam cheese for $14.99, which lasted four meals.

On the first night, the whole apartment got together to watch Love Island while Keegan bustled about in the kitchen making mac’n’cheese. He didn’t pre-boil the water in the kettle which resulted in a wait of almost 15 minutes for the water to boil on the stove.

Keegan Gill follows a cheese sauce recipe from memory.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

Keegan Gill follows a cheese sauce recipe from memory.

“I’m following mom’s recipe,” he said, mixing from memory the proper ratio of cornmeal to milk and cheese.

The airfryer was a staple in the apartment, and there would soon be a third.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

The airfryer was a staple in the apartment, and there would soon be a third.

At the last minute, he remembered frozen vegetables, which he tossed into a bowl and then atomized in three separate increments until “cooked”.

“It’s not bad at all, yeah,” Bram said after he got back to the apartment.

The next day was burgers, cooked by Lucy and Bram. Although simple, it left a few wishes – there had only been enough patties for one burger each, but the boring thought of stuffing it with hash browns and eggs would have made it quite good. Another yum, but disappointing result.

Amy Wynne-Jones Sunday night tacos.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

Amy Wynne-Jones Sunday night tacos.

The enchiladas were next. Claudia was recovering from the flu, so Lucy helped out. Everyone at the apartment agreed that Lucy was the best cook, so they were glad she had a second night. It ended up being the favorite meal of the lot, but took the longest to cook – about an hour – and used up all the chicken. “Just because of the way we did it,” Claudia said.

Friday and Saturday were write-offs, the first being Amy’s 21st birthday, then Saturday the flat was plagued by illness and general kitchen fatigue. Keegan’s Snapchat revealed a game of beer pong with KFC packaging in the background.

Sunday, the fourth and final night, was tacos. Amy was stressed about how to bulk up the meal without adding beans to every dish, as Keegan didn’t like the ingredient. They decided to mix the beans to mix with the hash in hopes he wouldn’t notice. It worked.

The apartment had no plans to continue cooking together, but some said they now plan to cook larger portions so they have leftovers for lunch.

Sinead Gill / Stuff

The apartment had no plans to continue cooking together, but some said they now plan to cook larger portions so they have leftovers for lunch.

For most nights the apartment tried to be together while one of them was cooking

“It’s quite nice to be together, but everyone has very different meal preferences,” Lucy said.

“Everyone has to be on the same page for it to work, but we’re usually pretty indecisive. It has to be structured. »

If someone wasn’t at the library, someone else was at work or in training, then someone just wasn’t hungry.

Even buying individual items to share wasn’t ideal – the cheese was overpriced and people ogled each other if they ate too much.

Then there was the test of whether green or blue milk was better.

“Going forward, we will continue to do what we used to do, but cook more and bigger for leftovers,” Bram said.

“I used to make the effort to make one meal, but buying larger quantities is cheaper.”