One Question Quiz

KaiApril 15, 2024

What does a uni student with two part-time jobs eat?


An interview with a student and food Instagrammer about eating as a first-time flatter and the importance of Auckland University mainstay Munchy Mart.

This is an excerpt from our weekly food newsletter, The Boil Up.

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life – where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.”

I always come back to this quote from artist and author Miranda July because I feel the same, except I also want to know what they are eating and what the inside of their fridges and pantries look like. With this thought knocking around my skull, I reached out to a few people and asked if we could sit down, share some food and talk about their eating life, whatever that might mean for them.

And so on a windy Wednesday morning, I met up with Caitlin at her local, One Sip Coffee in Te Atatu. Caitlin is a 20-year-old student studying Health Science and Chinese at the University of Auckland while also working two part-time jobs, at Briscoes and doing document digitisation at an office. Just this week she has moved out of home for the first time and is living with her brother and a friend in a house about 10 minutes away from her parents.

She also used to be in my whānau class, in one of my previous lives as a secondary teacher, during which time she discovered my anonymous food Instagram (teenagers are true detectives) and showed me hers – @caitsfoodbank – which remains one of my favourites. Below is something like a highlights reel from a very long conversation over hot coffees and warm cheese scones with lashings of salted butter.

Your Instagram makes it look like you buy lunch from Munchy Mart every day. Is this true?

Not every day! I used to not eat enough because I was too stressed and busy with uni and two jobs. But I’ve been eating more fruit and vegetables lately – I bought frozen fruit and I’ve been making smoothies! And now I bulk buy energy drinks and ramen at the supermarket which saves me money. Did you see that picture of me holding the noodles in my hands? I forgot a bowl so my boyfriend bought a bowl of noodles and took them out so I could cook mine in the bowl, then I ate them from the wrapper and he cooked his.

Aww that’s sort of romantic! But wild of you. So how much are you usually spending at Munchy now – and what do you buy?

I try to limit it to under $20 a day, maybe $10 or $15. I usually get a steak and cheese pie or a sausage roll and an Assam milk tea – usually strawberry, green tea or original, and I’ll often shout one for my friends then they’ll shout me back another time. I also started making coffee at home which saves me money, so now I only have it out as a treat, that or a hot matcha.

How are you feeling now that you’ve moved out and have to pay for all your own food?

I haven’t cooked properly since I was 10 – I was a superstar child chef from watching MasterChef Junior. I recently found all my old cookbooks in the garage! Women’s Weekly baking ones, Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian… but I just got too busy. In high school I tried to meal prep because I was going to the gym a lot but I couldn’t keep it up, I was too busy and tired and I felt bad using all of Mum’s groceries but I didn’t have any money. We did our first flat supermarket shop the other day and I think I spent about $30 on my own stuff – noodles, oat milk, Yakult, muesli bars. I saw my brother buying all this meat though and I was like, how do you know which meat to get? I bought some the other day and it was like $15 but I’m not sure how to cook it.

Sunday brekky including Brazilian cheese bread, hash browns, cheese kransky, eggs and bacon; homemade lunch at uni; tacos from Cielito Lindo; Eden Noodles birthday feast. (Photos: @caitsfoodbank)

You eat a lot of meals out because you’re always at work or uni – what are your go-to spots?

BannSang, The Don, Eden Noodles, Xi’an Food Bar – which you recommended! And I love Go-Go Music café. I have morning friends now so I’ve been going to cafes, like here (at One Sip), Beekeepers WifeBlack CottageLittle Sister. I hate franchise cafes, but sometimes my friends make me go to Coffee Club or Columbus. Do you know The Concourse? There’s this great place there called Cielito, they do the best tacos – my friends will come from the other side of Auckland for tacos there.

What would you say is your approach to food, or your philosophy of eating?

I used to be kind of an “almond mom” – I was such a skinny kid that I was always encouraged to eat more, and then puberty hit and I was eating more so I gained weight, and suddenly it was the opposite. I’d see relatives and they’d be like, you’ve put on weight! So from about Year 10 to Year 11 I was calorie tracking, it wasn’t sustainable. Then in Year 12 it was lockdown and I was rotting at home, staying away from social media and disconnecting from the real people I knew. I thought, if I stopped looking at these people, maybe it would help… but it wasn’t until uni when I made all these new friends that I realised I’m a person, I deserve to feel good.

Keep going!