Saving Money as a Student: Food
If you’re a student, you can only afford to eat beans on toast, right? Wrong. Whilst it’s true that – after rent - groceries are the biggest expenditure for students, becoming a savvy shopper is one of the best ways to make your student cash stretch further. In fact, by being just a little bit smarter with your grocery shopping, planning, and food-related behaviours, you can eat like a king without breaking the bank.
A recent survey showed that the average student spends over £20 a week on groceries. However, with just a few tweaks, this number can be slashed, saving you hundreds of pounds per year. Here are some top tips to help you keep the food spending down and the fun levels up!
One of the coolest things about living away from home is controlling when you shop – and what goes in your basket! And, moreover, if you use this newfound freedom in a careful way, you can really save the pennies.
When to shop.
Sorry, early birds, but if you’re looking for the best deals, hit the aisles later in the day – because that’s when all the items that go out of date the following day will be on sale for a reduced price. Keep an eye out for those yellow ‘reduced’ stickers and bag yourself a bargain (and, don’t forget, even if you don’t want to eat your reduced items right away, you can still pop them in the freezer for use at a later date).
What to put in your basket.
We’re not here to dictate what you eat, but we do have a couple of important suggestions. First of all, if you’re into spicy food, head straight to the world foods aisle. Here, you’ll find rice, sauces, herbs, spices and loads of other fantastic food items on sale for up to 75% cheaper than the same items sold by more well-known brands. And, speaking of brands, try to shop own-brand as much as possible (whatever aisle you’re in). Own-brand products tend to be a fraction of the price and the difference in taste is minimal (in fact, many branded items are manufactured by the same companies that make the own-brand ones). Think seasonal, too: fruit and vegetables that are in season are cheaper, because they’re readily available – and they don’t come with a huge carbon footprint.
Buy in bulk
Most students live in shared accommodation or halls. If this is the case for you, why not band together with your flat or corridor mates and stock up on shared staples like 5 kg bags of pasta or bulk-packs of loo rolls? Buying in bulk is often cheaper, so if you pool your resources you could slash your shopping bills considerably.
Plan your meals – and cook up a storm
Buying ingredients impulsively – or only buying ingredients for just one meal at a time – is a surefire way to spend more than you need to. In this instance, planning ahead is not only kinder to your wallet but will also save you time in the long run – and it’ll help you stick to healthier, more nutritious meals, too. What’s not to love?
Create a meal plan every week and go on one big, purposeful shop. Try to think of meals that you can batch cook and then repurpose: a bolognese sauce, for example, that you could divide into six or eight portions. Portion it up once cooked and you’ve got yourself a couple of dinners, lunches, and even some meals for the freezer (perfect for when time is tight or you don’t feel like cooking). Best of all, buying the ingredients for a big batch recipe is much cheaper than buying items for lots of different meals.
Don’t forget to create a list before you go shopping to prevent you from making on-the-spot (and often costly) food decisions – and never shop on an empty stomach!
Being a thrifty shopper doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with food. Platforms like BigOven will keep you on your toes when it comes to menu planning: it’ll give you recipe ideas to incorporate your leftover food items (perfect for the end of the week when the cupboards are looking a bit bare!) whilst minimising food waste. Or, if you want to treat yourself (and friends), you can use the browser extension Pouch and make the most of some excellent coupon codes. 50% off Dominos, anyone?
Finally, why not put your budgeting and “cheffing”skills to the test and host a dinner party/competition for your friends? Set a low budget and have each person cook a dish, within the budget, before you all take turns to judge and crown a winner. Don’t forget to take some pictures and share them with us on Facebook or Twitter if you do!