AI’s Cheap Student Meal Plan

I asked AI to make a student meal plan for £20 a week, here’s what it came up with

Trying to eat well on a budget is a struggle for every undergraduate. To solve this problem, UNiDAYS Student Ambassador Rhys-Rooke Williams (@rhys.rooke) asked AI for a healthy, week-long meal plan that costs just £20. Then he tried it himself. Here, he shares the recipes and his verdict on them.

Between playing rugby, going out and studying at Bristol Uni, there’s not a lot of time left for me to plan and cook meals. I’ve got a tight budget, usually about £20 a week, so figuring out how to use this to make five healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus snacks, is hard.

So, like with many problems, I turned to AI for the answer. I asked AI for:

"A comprehensive weekly meal plan within a £20.00 budget for a student, emphasising high-protein, low-carb recipes that avoid avocados and eggplants.

“The plan should include varied keto-friendly dinners and one breakfast recipe, all adaptable for preparation with standard kitchen appliances and aligned with meal timings (breakfast before 10:00 am, dinner after 4:30 pm).

“Additionally, integrate snack options that adhere to the dietary requirements, with each snack ranging from 80-200 calories and meals between 500-1000 calories, ensuring a minimum of 10g of protein per 100 calories."

Here’s the plan AI came up with:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Greek yoghurt with seeds
Dinner Chicken and broccoli stir-fry Lentil soup Egg and vegetable scramble Chicken and broccoli stir-fry Tuna salad
Two boiled eggs and cucumber slices

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To save extra food costs and time, I planned to use any dinner leftovers as my lunch the next day. The shopping list for this plan worked out as follows:


  • Chicken breast (300g) - £1.75
  • Canned tuna (2 x 160g cans) - £1.60
  • Eggs (12) - £1.50
  • Bacon (pack) - £2.70


  • Broccoli (1 head) - £0.60
  • Bell peppers (3) - £1.20
  • Lettuce (1 head) - £0.60
  • Cauliflower (1 head) - £0.85
  • Cucumber (1) - £0.50
  • Turnip (1) - £0.58
  • Carrots (2) - £0.20
  • Onion (1) - £0.12
  • Celery (1) - £0.69


  • Greek yoghurt (500g) - £1.50

Pantry items:

  • Chia seeds (50g) - £0.25
  • Bread (800g) - £0.75
  • Vegetable stock cube (1) - £1.00

Total estimated cost: £16.39

So, after making a few adjustments to the recipes and sorting out my weekly shop, it was time to put these recipes to the taste test.

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Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with seeds

Original recipe: A serving of Greek yoghurt topped with a teaspoon of chia seeds.

AI told me to have Greek yoghurt by itself with seeds. It then suggested having an apple and banana with a handful of nuts on the side. Having these separately seemed silly. So I diced up half of each fruit, added them to the yoghurt and topped it all with a bit of runny honey.

Even though 500g of low-fat yoghurt is half the price of regular Greek, I wanted to include more fat in my diet. I was very happy with my decision to buy a higher-fat yoghurt, as it was much more filling and tasty.

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Monday and Thursday: Chicken and cauliflower rice dish

Original recipe: Half a chicken breast with sautéed broccoli, seasoned with garlic and a low-carb sauce.

Initially, AI suggested I make a ‘Chicken and Broccoli’ dish. As a student, I’m a simple cook but not as simple as a two-ingredient dish that would be dry and leave me far from satisfied. It also recommended that I use chicken breasts rather than thighs, but as I’m following a low-carb diet, having more fats is extremely important.

I pointed all of this out to AI and together we refined a cheap recipe with a combination of cauliflower rice, chicken thighs, air-fried carrots and a tasty, high-fat sauce.

The extra ingredients were:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (for some heat)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (for a creamy, nutty flavour)
  • A splash of lemon juice or vinegar (for some tang)
  • A teaspoon of sweetener (like stevia or a low-carb equivalent, if desired)
  • A small handful of unsalted peanuts or cashews (for crunch)
  • Fresh coriander or parsley, chopped (for freshness and colour)

I made the cauliflower rice by blending florets until they were a rice-like texture. I then cooked this in a pan for around five minutes with some bacon and onions. Then I used the same pan to start cooking the chicken thighs before crisping up the skin in the oven.

To make the sauce, I whisked together the peanut butter, a low-carb soy sauce alternative, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon juice (or vinegar), and sweetener with a little bit of water to create a smooth sauce.

Overall, this was an extremely cheap dish, nutritious and fun to make. As an 89kg, 6’1 individual who goes to the gym and plays rugby, I don’t often have leftovers. But I was shocked when, after plating, I was left with a good amount of cauliflower rice.

Tuesday: Lentil Soup

Original recipe: Dried lentils, bacon and vegetables in a vegetable broth, with simple seasoning including cumin and salt and pepper.

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As a self-proclaimed ‘lazy chef’, when AI put soup on the plan I immediately thought “he must be fun at parties.” My word, did I stand corrected! To my knowledge, soup always involved my mum having the blender on max for half a day,but this recipe asked me to “grate the veg for time efficiency.” Credit to the AI, it took my request for easy and quick recipes to heart.

I added the bacon and onions I already had from the previous recipe, then added celery into the mix and fried it in a large pot until soft. Whilst they cooked, I grated 3 large carrots and half a turnip. It’s safe to say I didn’t need to train my forearms in the gym that week!

I added the grated goods to the pot with around 200g of cheap-as-chips lentils, giving everything a stir. Finally, I added around a litre of water with a stock cube, leaving this to simmer for around 30 minutes.

I was shocked by how good this tasted, and it only took around 20 minutes of cooking. The AI recommended I have this by itself, but I added a slice of bread. AI undershot the budget so this allowed me to make these additions.

Tempting as it was, eating 1.2 litres of soup wasn’t feasible. This left me with around 2-3 additional servings of this easy, high-protein dish for a rainy or cold day.

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Wednesday: Egg & vegetable scramble

Original recipe: Two eggs scrambled with bell peppers and spinach, seasoned with herbs.

In terms of price, this dish was even cheaper than the AI knew. 15 eggs for the price of £2.00 at Tesco is a bargain, especially considering how brilliant a protein and fat source they are. I usually chuck everything onto a pan for omelettes. Instead, I was instructed to cook the veg first and add all the seasoning before the eggs.

After adding the eggs, I left it for about 2 minutes on medium heat, then whacked it under the grill with some cheese on top. This was hands down the fluffiest omelette I’ve ever had. The pictures even impressed my mum. The taste was phenomenal. This was a good recommendation from the AI.

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Friday: Tuna salad

Original recipe: Half a can of tuna mixed with mayonnaise and diced cucumber, served over lettuce.

Tuna “atrocity” salad is what I’d label this. Based on this recipe I’d have to use two large lettuces’ to even come close to feeling full. I also don’t like cucumbers. After asking AI to “bulk up the meal” it came back with “add a red onion”. I sighed.

I added the red onion, made the original dish and topped it all off with some chilli con carne. Tuna is a brilliant source of protein and omega 3, so adding this ingredient saved the dish for me.

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The final verdict

On reflection, the ingredient recommendations from AI are far better than its recipes.

In the future, I think I’d use it to find uncommon sources of nutrients. I’d probably let it figure out what fits my macronutrient split best. It’s very good at working out my daily protein intake and if my diet is “healthy”, but its lack of pricing knowledge makes it an extremely poor budgeting tool.

From what I experienced, the AI overestimates the majority of ingredient costs especially if you have a budget-friendly supermarket nearby. Overall though this was a good experience. I learnt some new healthy, cheap dishes with some help from AI.

Rhys-Rooke Williams Bio
Rhys is a university student aspiring to become a lawyer, with a passion for all forms of physical exercise and creating entertaining online content for a wide audience, including TikTok @rhys.rooke.

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