Spend less, treat yourself more – my experience of food shopping on a student budget

Making enchiladas for the first time.

Living as a student has taught me a lot about how to make the most out of your weekly shop. I love eating well and wasn’t prepared to give up tasty food on my student budget. By being savvy when you shop for food and getting more for less money, this can give you more freedom (and less guilt!) to treat yourself occasionally.

Here are a few useful, common-sense tips that have come from my student shopping experiences:

1. Set a budget and stick to it – ish

Having an allotted amount of money for food per week can really help keep you focused when in store and avoid too many impulse buys.

2. Shop around

Don’t just buy what you know and have at home, shop around. Sometimes deals are on or shops have ‘discount sections’.

An odd student creation of mine in my first year of fish fingers, rice and cream cheese. Cant say I ever made this again…

3. Sell by dates are just an estimate

If something is a few days out of date, use your own knowledge of the difference between fresh and gone-off food (or do a quick internet search on what the mould looks like), rather than just wasting food. (But it’s better to be safe than sorry!)

4. Avoid eating out and ready meals

This includes chips on the way home from a night out! Three pounds a night twice a week quickly adds up, just as it does to buy takeaway coffee between lectures.

bag of chips and pot of tomato ketchup

Your oven is closer than the local chippy…

5. DIY

Be savvy and keep some frozen chips in your freezer for those nights where you need the carbohydrate, and your hot beverage of choice in your flat so you can make up a flask before lectures. A cup of coffee from a café costs on average £3, whereas making your own name brand instant coffee costs an average of  just 30p, excluding the tuppence for milk.

Revision snacks = Coffee in a flask, strawberries and chocolate!

Revision snacks = Coffee in a flask, strawberries and chocolate!

6. Look at value ranges

Some supermarket value products are just as good as their twice as expensive counterpart. Don’t be afraid to test value range products at the start of the year. Then you’ll know if you’re happy with the quality, and if it is nice enough to keep buying, you’ll probably be saving 30p every time you shop!

7. Avoid brands

Brands are generally not student friendly. Similarly to the value range, by choosing non-name brand crisps instead of the branded alternative, you might be surprised how much better off your wallet will be.

8. Use loyalty schemes

Use your local supermarkets reward schemes. Many of my flatmates in first year didn’t because it would be ‘too much effort’. In reality, all it takes is to go online, give the company your name, age, gender, and number of children, and they send you a card for free in the post.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Although some may seem obvious, it is always worth keeping an eye on your weekly shop to make those pennies stretch to other activities. I love finding new ways to make my budget stretch further and to enjoy the finer things in life. Happy shopping!