Five years ago, when I started university, I received my first student loan payment of somewhere between £600-£1000 and I was over the moon. I budgeted for my rent, essentials and an expensive week of parties during Welcome Week but I got a real shock when I realised that academic textbooks are very expensive. Tips on saving money in that region warrants a whole other blog post but I had to learn to budget. Fast. I found that one of the best ways to do that was through my food shop.Be aware of when you shop
After a quick search online you will be able to find at what time your favourite supermarket reduces the price of its stock that is close to its best before date. Often this includes vegetables or bakery products that are really easy to freeze and use later.
On that note, if you are lucky enough to have a big freezer, using it can help you reduce food costs hugely. Cook up a big chilli or curry, portion it, freeze some, and you can have dinners prepared for a week. Equally, frozen vegetables are much cheaper than fresh ones and are just as healthy!
Make a shopping list
Prepare a shopping list for the next week or two before you go shopping to avoid picking up a whole load of random ingredients or snacks that don’t equate to a full meal. This can often lead to forgotten food at the back of the fridge or cupboard. Plan your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks ahead of time.Shop around
Pop into the budget shops like Savers, B&M and Poundland while you are passing to see if they stock any foodstuffs that you regularly use. Few people have the time to go to multiple shops every time they do a food shop but it’s easy to pick up a few things you know you will use in the future. For example, if I’m near B&M, I know I’ll pick up some packs of Uncle Ben’s vegetable rice and a couple of bottles of wine, from Poundland I’ll get a bottle of balsamic vinegar (that stuff is so expensive everywhere else!) and from Savers I’ll get some washing up liquid and shampoo.
Buy on bulk
This can be hard because, although it’s cheaper in the long run, to buy on bulk on your own, you have to have a significant amount of money in the first place. However, is there something you can buy with your flatmates in a large quantity or on a 2 for 1 offer? Washing up liquid, vegetable oil, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and/or milk are often shared.
Make the most of discounts
If you have a supermarket that you visit regularly, it may well be worth it to sign up for their reward scheme which will allow you to save money on your shopping in the future. Sainsburys (Nectar Card), Tesco (Clubcard), Morrisons (More Card) and the Coop all offer reward schemes.
If you have an NUS Extra card, you can also get 10% off your shop at the Coop and money off your meal at loads of restaurants. You have to pay around £10 to buy your NUS card but if you shop at the Coop or regularly eat out, you will quickly make your money back.
Cooking for yourself is so much cheaper than buying ready meals or buying takeaways and, once you become comfortable cooking, it can be quite therapeutic. There are some great, cheap recipes online which will allow you to make meals for as little as £1 or less per serving. On that note, swapping out your £3+ meal deals for your own sandwiches is a huuuge money saver.
BBC Good Food have an archive of recipes aimed at students (thanks to their low cost and lack of fancy equipment needed) and the Independent featured an article on cheap and easy recipes that cost less than a pint!