This student recreates takeaways for just £2 – and he’s revealed how
KFC, Nando's, Wagamama - the allure of fast food can seriously drain your bank account, but this student knows how to recreate your favourite dishes for a fraction of the cost.
Takeaway food is the vice of many students. Whether you’re struggling with deadlines, short on time, drunk or hungover, fast food can be a godsend.
But it can also be expensive and sometimes unhealthy. While it’s of course okay to indulge every once in a while, it can create a serious dent in your student loan if you’re splurging on expensive food every week.
That’s how 24-year-old London Drama student Rob Eades, came to be known as the Lean Student Chef.
I was playing a lot of sport and needed to eat a lot of healthy food, but like pretty much everyone at uni, I had to do this on very little money.
To be honest, on a night out I simply can’t resist - nothing beats a drunk takeaway. But it’s the night in takeaways that used to kill me (financially and health wise).
So Rob started cutting back on takeaways, and creating his own ‘fast food’ at home for less than £2 per portion – including Southern fried chicken, fish and chips and fajitas.
So how does he do it so cheap? We caught up with Rob to find out exactly how you can make these takeaway classics for a fraction of the price, in your student kitchen and without even getting out of your pyjamas.
Eating on a student budget
There’s no greater feeling than tucking into your favourite meal as a reward for meeting that latest deadline. And while a Nando's every now and then isn’t going to break the bank, it does all stack up.
It was a love of good food, but a need to save money, that led Rob to try and recreate his favourite restaurant and takeaway dishes at home using cheap ingredients.
It all starts with finding the ingredients in the first place. There are loads of nifty tricks you can use to save some money on your trip to the supermarket, but here are Rob’s top three to get you started.
- Buy in bulk - the more of anything you buy, the cheaper it will be.
- Look at frozen vegetables - they cost at most a third of their fresh counterparts and the nutritional benefits are still exactly the same.
- Always try to have one thing ready to eat in the fridge - this stops you from popping into Sainsbury’s Local on the way home to spend three quid on a single chicken breast.
Once you've sorted the ingredients you can start rustling up some quality takeaway replicas - because if Rob has proved anything, it's that home-cooked dinners don't have to be boring.
Finding the time to cook
The number one reason most students would give for not cooking proper meals at uni? They don’t have the time.
To be fair, deciding what food you want, buying it and then finding the time to cook it can seem like a drag when you've got deadlines and a stonking hangover.
But going that little bit further to cook a more elaborate meal rather than your usual pesto-pasta combination isn’t even that difficult according to Rob.
Pretty much every student I know does cook every now and again - whether that’s beans on toast or tuna pasta.
Say this takes 10 minutes, start to finish. Most of my recipes take less than 20 minutes, so all you really need to do is build in another 10 minutes and you’ll find yourself with a batch of proper food.
So while we think we don’t have time, for just an extra 10 minutes a day you could be rustling up your very own Wagamama-style creation in that giant wok your mum bought for you.
It’s also likely that cooking the food yourself is way quicker than waiting around for takeaway delivery – plus, it’s impossible to concentrate on anything productive when you’re tracking your Domino's on your phone.
Recreating fast food classics
So now we’ve got the ingredients down, and found time to actually do some cooking, how do we go about making our favourite meals?
Rob has created a whole load of super easy and simple-to-follow recipes inspired by food from his favourite restaurants and takeaways.
Let’s face it, most students aren’t exactly Michelin-star chefs, and Rob admits he's certainly no Gordon Ramsay, so his recipes stick to minimal ingredients and easy instructions.
It’s the ease of a pot noodle or pizza that's the big challenge to overcome. I try to do that by keeping my recipes short and simple!
Of course, these dishes aren’t going to be exact replicas of those you crave. But they will cost you a lot less, contain fewer calories and taste pretty good too.
Rob's recipes have been a huge hit with students, and his blog has garnered such a following that he's now able to make a bit of extra cash from it.
I started it just to share what I was doing with other students and it ballooned from there really. It’s almost unbelievable whenever brands want to work with me nowadays to be honest. But I’m not complaining…
So if you're looking for a way to save money on food without living on baked beans for a month, these five fakeaway recipes are a great way to start.
Wagamama-style speedy Chicken Ramen
Fakeaway: £1.96 per portion
When we asked Rob which of his fakeaways is closest to the real deal, he chose his chicken ramen.
Fresh chicken, veggies and noodles in a flavoured broth, it’s difficult to go wrong here.
It only takes a grand total of 14 MINUTES. When it’s this for £1.99 or Wagamama for £11, I know which one I’d go for…
I like to use rice noodles but egg or even vermicelli would work just fine if you prefer them.
You might not get the thrill of wondering who's meal is going to come out first, but you do get some incredibly healthy fast food that you can whip up in super quick time.
14 minutes cook and prep – Serves four
- 3 chicken breasts – season first, ideally overnight – got mine from Live Lean (£3.49)
- 1 tbsp Very Lazy lemongrass paste (15p)
- 1.5L chicken stock (2 little pots of Knorr) (70p)
- 1 tbsp Very Lazy chopped garlic (10p)
- 1 tbsp garlic granules (5p)
- 2 pak choi (£1.12)
- 150g rice noodles (60p)
- 150g mushrooms (50p)
- 12.5g fresh coriander (30p)
- 1 large fresh chilli (20p)
- 6 spring onions (40p)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (10p)
- 1/2 tbsp hot chilli powder (5p) (leave out if you don’t want it too hot)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (10p)
Try to marinade the chicken for 12 hours if possible.
Marinade: 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 1 tbsp lemongrass paste (or chopped fresh lemongrass), 1 tbsp Soy sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil and a sprinkle of pepper – 2 minutes.
You’ll need a wok for the broth and a baking tray to grill the chicken.
- Boil the kettle with 1.5l of water to start and get the grill on at 250 degrees.
- Pop the marinaded chicken under the grill for 6 and a half minutes on each side.
- Immediately pop the chicken broth on a medium heat in the wok and roughly chop the coriander, finely chop the chilli into horizontal slices and pop them both in, as well as the tbsp garlic granules and 1/2 tbsp hot chilli powder. Leave for 10 minutes to simmer.
- In the meantime, cut the pak choi’s in half, chop up the spring onions and slice the mushrooms up thinly.
- Pop the mushrooms, noodles and Pak choi into the broth with the other tbsp Soy sauce and a sprinkle of pepper once the broth has been on for 10 minutes.
- Then take the chicken out of the oven after it’s been on for 13 minutes. Slice into even thin pieces and pop them in with the spring onion for 1 more minute.
Serve it up and ENJOY.
Pizza Express-style Calibrese Tortilla Pizza
Fakeaway: £1.15 per portion
Calibrese pizza is quickly rising in popularity to be up there with some of the classics – but mainstream pizza restaurants can be pretty expensive.
This recipe is definitely a more budget version of the real deal – a fried tortilla wrap isn’t the same as a proper pizza base after all.
But it’s a great snack and really quick to rustle up with some leftovers.
The immediate heat of fresh chilli is dissipated in the oven and you’re left with little smokey bites of chilli deliciousness.
When they’re combined with the oily and salty deliciousness of chorizo (I didn’t actually have any calibrese sausage I’ll be honest) and the sweetness of good old Tommy K we’re on to a winner!
5 mins prep and cook – Serves 1
- 1 wholemeal wrap (15p)
- 1 large egg (15p)
- 1/2 Tbsp chilli flakes (5p)
- 1/2 Tbsp paprika (5p)
- 20g chorizo (25p)
- 25g rocket (30p)
- 1 Tbsp tomato ketchup (5p)
- 1/2 fresh chilli (10p)
- 1/2 Tbsp oregano (5p)
You’ll need a grill oven, a small frying pan and a tray to place the pizza on.
- Pre-heat grill to 250 degrees Celsius.
- Finely dice the chorizo and chop the fresh chilli into strips.
- Evenly spread a tbsp ketchup on the tortilla wrap. Then evenly spread the chorizo and chilli.
- Pop the pizza under the grill for 4 minutes.
- With one minute to go, pop the egg in a frying pan on a high heat.
- Take the pizza out, pop the egg in the middle and sprinkle the rocket, followed by the chilli flakes and the oregano.
KFC-style Chicken Breasts with Sweet Potato Chips
Takeaway: £6.19 (for a Boneless Banquet)
Fakeaway: £1.87 per portion
Keep this one handy for the next KFC chicken shortage – Southern fried goodness straight from your own kitchen.
KFC is the ultimate guilty pleasure food, but for Rob it’s too unhealthy to eat on a regular basis.
I won’t lie, I absolutely love KFC, but I can’t bring myself to eat so much fat and oil unless I’m otherwise incurably hungover.
Rob’s fakeaway is a great alternative, and although it might not taste exactly like the real deal – he’s no magician after all – you’ll be paying roughly a third of the price.
Plus, Rob argues that this recipe is in some respects, even better.
The salty and smoky paprika sweet potato chips are incomparable to the standard greasy but dry chips you’d get at a KFC (admittedly chips are their weakest point).
30 mins prep and cook – Serves four
This is all from Asda, apart from the ones marked as Lidl.
- 8 mini frozen corn on the cob (£1.30)
- 4 chicken breasts (£4.50)
- 500g sweet potato (50p)
- 300g wholemeal bread flour (15p)
- 2 Tbsp paprika (10p) (Lidl)
- 1 Tbsp Salt Fry Light butter
- 1 Tbsp garlic granules (5p) (Lidl)
- 1/2 Tbsp all spice (5p)
- 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano (5p)
- 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley (5p) (Lidl)
- 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary (5p)
- 1 Tbsp onion granules (10p)
- 1 Tbsp chilli powder (10p)
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence (10p)
- 3 free range eggs (36p)
You’ll need two baking trays (one for the chips and one for the chicken), a large saucepan and a microwave.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Chop the sweet potato into chips and pop on a baking try, evenly spray with low cal butter and then sprinkle with salt, pepper and a Tbsp Paprika. Pop in the oven for 30 mins – flip halfway.
- Combine the flower, a Tbsp salt, a Tbsp pepper and the rest of the dried herbs in a bowl for one minute.
- In a separate bowl, beat the 3 eggs together for one minute.
- Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthways and dip each in the egg before coating with the batter mixture and leaving for a couple of minutes to dry before spraying lightly with some low cal butter (I use fry light).
- Pop the chicken in the oven too for 22 minutes, flip half way.
- Boil the kettle in the meantime with enough water for the corn. Pop the corn on a medium heat for 5 minutes to defrost and slightly cook then drain and leave to dry for a few minutes.
- With 4 minutes to go, a spray of fry light on each corn and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then pop the corn cobs in the microwave for 4 minutes.
Take the chicken off the heat, the corn out of the microwave and the chips out of the oven, and serve it up!
Fish, Chips & Fresh Mint Mushy Peas
Takeaway: Around £5
Fakeaway: £1.48 per portion
Fish and chips are a British classic, and admittedly, probably one of the cheapest fast food options out there.
But depending on where in the country you are, they’ll still set you back around a fiver, and all that batter and grease is far from healthy.
Rob’s gourmet alternative is super easy to make too – who knew you could make breadcrumbs with a slice of toast and a blender?
One of the great things about doing fish and chips yourself is that (so long as it’s white) it really doesn’t matter which fish you’re lucky enough to get your hands on.
You can use whatever you can find going cheap, be that at the supermarket or (often even better if you go at the right time) your local fish monger.
The same method of cooking works across the board, obviously give or take a little bit of time when you’re frying the fish itself depending on its thickness.
35 mins prep and cook – Serves 3
- 400g sweet potatoes (40p)
- 500g frozen peas (65p)
- 3 plaice fillets (£2.55 reduced at @Asda)
- 15g fresh mint (30p)
- 1 tbsp paprika (10p)
- 1 slice brown bread (5p)
- 1 tbsp dried parsley (10p)
You’ll need a baking tray for the sweet potatoes, a frying pan for the fish and a boiling pot for the peas.
- Pop the oven on at 220 degrees.
- Chop the sweet potatoes into wedges and pop on a baking tray. Evenly spread the paprika, a splash of oil and plenty of salt and pepper over them before throwing in the oven for 30 mins, shake around halfway to stop them sticking.
- In the meantime, for the breadcrumbs – Pop a piece of toast in the toaster for 3 minutes and then blend with a tbsp parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Crack an egg into a bowl and whisk thoroughly as if you’re going to make scrambled eggs. Lightly brush each piece of fish with egg to make the breadcrumbs stick and then evenly cover all of the fish with breadcrumbs.
- With 10 minutes to go on the sweet potatoes, pop the kettle on with enough water for the peas. Then a few sprays of oil into a frying pan on medium to high heat and pop all of the fish in, skin-side down. Cook for 5 minutes and then flip for a further minute. Take off the heat with 1 minute left on the sweet potatoes.
- Once the fish is on, pop the peas on too for 3 minutes. Chop the fresh mint up. Drain the peas and mash together with the mint and plenty of salt and pepper.
- Take the sweet potatoes out.
Serve it up however you like!
Nando’s-style Peri Peri Quarter Chicken & Rosemary Wedges
Fakeaway: £1.62 per portion
Last but certainly not least we have the mighty Nando’s. The great thing about your favourite Nando’s meal is that, while it’s super delicious, it’s probably also super easy to make at home.
It’s all about the meat and the flavourings here and, as Rob says, chicken doesn’t have to be expensive as you think.
The wonderful thing about chicken on the bone of course is that it’s so very cheap – you can get a whole kg of chicken legs for £2.50! Breast is more like £6 to put that in proportion.
You might have to raid your communal spice rack to get your hands on all the different flavourings you need, but once you’ve got it down, you can make large batches to use in future meals too.
Another tip with the peri peri sauce – make too much and mix some with light mayonnaise to make your own perinaise.
40 mins prep and cook – Serves 4
For the Peri Peri Sauce & Perinaise:
- 4 Tbsp olive oil (20p)
- 8 Tbsp lemon juice (15p)
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic (10p)
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder (5p)
- 1.5 Tbsp paprika (15p)
- 1.5 Tbsp cayenne pepper (15p)
- 8 Tbsp malt vinegar (10p)
- 2 Tbsp honey (10p)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 100g light mayonnaise (25p)
For the Quarter Chicken & Wedges:
- 1kg chicken supremes (£2.50 for 4 Legs)
- 800g potatoes (50p)
- 500g frozen peas (70p)
- Handful fresh mint (30p)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (5p)
- 1 Tbsp rosemary (10p)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (5p)
- 1 tsp chilli flakes (Optional)
You’ll need a baking tray and mixing bowl for the rosemary chips, another baking tray for the chicken & a saucepan for the peas. Pre Heat the oven to 200 Degrees.
- Throw together all of the peri peri ingredients and lather 2/3 of it on the chicken. Ideally, leave to marinade for a couple of hours at least. Then chop the potato into chips and pop them in a bowl, evenly cover with a Tbsp olive oil, a Tbsp dried rosemary and plenty of salt and pepper. Spread evenly across a baking tray, pop the chicken and wedges in the oven for 35 minutes.
- While they cook, make the peri peri mayo by mixing together 100g light mayonnaise and 1/4 of the peri peri sauce.
- With 10 minutes left on the chicken and chips, boil the kettle with enough water for 500g frozen peas. Boil for 4 minutes before draining. Whilst they boil, chop up the mint.
- Once the peas go on, pop the oven on 250 degrees and get the chicken under the grill to crispen up the skin for 4 minutes.
- Take everything off the heat. When drained, pour the peas back into the saucepan and add the mint, a tbsp lemon juice, tsp chilli flakes (If you like the spice) sprinkle of salt and pepper, stir thoroughly.
Serve it all up and drizzle the rest of the Peri-Peri sauce over the chicken. Enjoy!
Of course, we’re not saying these recipes will be the spitting double of their restaurant equivalents, but they will save you a LOT of money.
And the next time you’re tempted to wander into your nearest KFC, think about whether you could make a pretty decent imitation at home first.
If you try any of Rob’s recipes, take some pictures and let us know what you think!