When you fly the nest for the first time it’s safe to say going food shopping is kinda great but also a bit daunting. I remember the first time I went shopping by myself and thinking, right were do I start? Obviously it gets easier and it becomes less of a trip out and more of a task. Shopping for one person can be expensive and on a student budget it isn’t exactly ideal. As I’m in my last year now I feel like I’ve mastered the art of saving when it comes to food shopping so here are my top 10 ways of saving the pennies.
1. Price Compare!
There are so many shops nowadays it’s sometimes difficult to know where the best deals are. Now I’m not gonna lie, I love Aldi. It’s by far the cheapest for fruit, veg and meat and the quality is just as good. But if you don’t agree, well get over it. You still need to shop around. Go to the little guys like Iceland, Heron and Farmfoods, they do branded goods but usually have some really good offers on. Give yourself and extra hour when your shopping and take a walk, you’ll soon get the hang of were the good offers are.
2. Share Your bill
If you don’t live on your own sharing your food bill is a great idea when it comes to saving money. If you make a meal plan (which I will get onto later) you can all go shopping together and just split the bill. The other great thing about this is that you’ll have all different abilities and recipes to swap with your fellow housemates. It’s a good excuse to try new foods and save a bit of money.
3. Know when to go shopping
I work at a supermarket so I kind of have insider knowledge here… Supermarkets will start reducing their ‘fresh’ goods around 7pm (give or take.) Fresh being the important word here, if something goes out of date on that day it doesn’t mean it’s going to go bad immediately. It’s just that the supermarket have to sell it by then or it’s classes as waste so they may as well reduce it to not make a complete loss. Make the most of this and buy things you are actually going to use, but don’t fall in to the trap of ‘ooh! Blue cheese is 29p I have to get that’ when really you hate blue cheese. It may be cheap but your still wasting it.
4. Freeze it!
From the previous point… if you have found some meat that is soon to be out of date you can freeze it and it will last forever (well a long time.) Freezing food means you can make the most of the deals in the supermarkets and not have as much wastage. When your eating for one waste is a massive factor in saving money, if your throwing things out all the time your pretty much throwing away your money. It took me ages to get used to this as you really do have to plan efficiently to make the most of your food, but you do get better with time…
5. Cook for a family
If you don’t have housemates to share meals with (or just don’t want to) cook a whole lasagne or a few more burgers and keep them in the fridge or freezer for next time. You may not want Spaghetti Bolognese 3 times in a week but you could use the mixture in enchiladas or add some more ingredients to make a chilli. If you think in advance all of these meals can be achievable out of one packet of meat.
6. Long lasting
When your shopping for fresh food look for the items with the longest expiry date. Dry food or food in tins are your best bet as they’ll have years on them. Beans and pasta are a students best friend, a big bag of pasta (I’m talking catering size) is about £3, you will get at least 30 meals out of that… the myth that students eat pot noodles and frozen pizza is exactly that, a myth. In my experience once you’ve got the basic knowledge of being in a kitchen you can scrape up a half decent meal in no time and pasta is so versatile and cheap it genuinely is a staple for every student.
Look around for your local farmers market and see if their prices compete with the supermarkets. In most cases they will be pretty close but you need to shop in season. Don’t expect to find cheap blueberries in December and don’t go buying Asparagus at the beginning of February. If you buy produce out of season you will pay more for it, check out this calendar to see what fruit and veggies are in season throughout the different months, this slight altercation to your meals can save you a lot in the long run.
8. Plan Ahead
I’ve touched on this throughout but this is genuinely my biggest tip for saving money. Make a meal plan for breakfast lunch and dinner and do your best to stick to it. Even if you ring your mum for some inspiration on a Sunday night it’s better to plan in advance so you know exactly what your going to buy when you hit the shops the next day. There is nothing worse than going into a massive supermarket and having all of that choice but not having a clue what to put together. A meal plan stops you from buying a random mixture of items that in hindsight will not taste too great.
I’ve watched that programme with them crazy women who save every coupon under the sun. No I’m not saying you should go that extreme but if you see a certain place is offering a voucher for a product you need then get it from there, keep your eyes peeled in newspapers as they will occasionally have 5 pounds off in *insert choice of shop here.* It’s not a long term help but it’s always nice to have a spare fiver for a couple of extra drinks in the Students Union.
10. Stick to your budget
Finally you need to live within your means. If you’ve got mum and dad helping you out with your food bill then by all means shop in Marks and Spencers and buy fancy kettle crisps but if you don’t have this luxury then draw out a budget and stick to it. More than likely you’ll go over one week and under the next, this is fine as it evens out in the long run but if your over spending every week you’ll soon dread logging onto your online banking and seeing that you’ve got 30 quid to last you 4 months (I’ve been there.)
What are your best tips to save money at university? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!