Student Sunday: Saving Money On Food

Sunday, 23 August 2015
When I was in my last year of high school we had a financial advisor come round to talk to us about budgeting at uni. She told us that we would spend on average £7 a day on food or £49 a week. This absolutely terrified me. There was no way that I was going to be able to spend £50 a week on food. I remember thinking it was ridiculous at the time. Now a year later, I'm still adamant that she was wrong. I'm sure it's quite easy to get carried away food shopping and before you know it, spend a ton, but if you're careful then it's also really easy to eat cheaply without compromising on things you like! I spend on average between £10-£20 on food every week. It really depends on what I'm buying/how much I've got left over in the cupboard/freezer. I could probably spend less and I could probably spend more but I like what I'm eating and that fits in well with my budget so it's the way I'm going to carry on. These are my tips on how to save money on food. I'd rather spend a bit less on food every week so that I can afford to do other fun things or treat myself to something I really want to buy!

Shop at places like Lidl and Aldi over 'the big four' supermarkets - This is probably the most obvious thing that I will say in this post but seriously. You'll dramatically decrease your food cost if you shop at budget supermarkets and I'm sure there will be at least one near your campus. Things like fruit, veg, milk, cheese and meats taste absolutely no different from places like these so what's the point in spending extra. There are some things I don't like to buy out of these shops because I don't think they're as good but if I save money shopping in Lidl that means I can also afford to go to Tesco and pick up some things there too. 

Learn when the shops put out their reduced stock - Supermarkets will mark down stock on the day it goes out of date or the day before. But as you will learn as a student, most things are ok for a while after they go out of date. So learn when your local supermarkets put out their reduced stock(or ask the staff) to pick yourself up some bargains. I would recommend using meats that day or freezing them though! I've saved myself so much money buying reduced bread/bagels and seeing as I put them straight in the freezer when I get home they're still fresh when I actually get round to using them. 

Utilise your first shop - If your parents are dropping you off at uni then they will likely take you for a big food shop before they leave. Take advantage of this! This is the perfect opportunity to stock up on any branded food you want and things that have long shelf lifes. For your cupboard pick up things like pasta, noodles, spices, canned food, stock cubes, dried fruit, jam, cereal, snack foods and bread. In terms of fresh food I would also recommend buying things like fresh fruit and veg, meats, cheese, milk, fruit juice and butter. If you have your own drawer in the freezer then buy some things to put in there too before someone else fills it with their stuff!

Cook in large amounts and freeze extra - A lot of foods freeze really well so you can save yourself a lot of time and money by making a few portions at a time and freezing the extras. I'll make a big pot of soup that does like 7 portions, freeze them and then whenever I want some all I have to do is take it out the freezer and heat it up. This was so handy as when you don't get home from uni until half six the last thing you want to do is spend ages cooking your dinner!

Use more vegetables to bulk out meat dishes - I'm not a vegetarian and I don't plan on swapping over anytime soon. I love my meat but the reality is that a veggie diet is much cheaper. I bulk out meals like stir frys, curries, pastas etc with veggies as this means you can use less mean and save yourself some money. Eating less meat does not necessarily mean eating no meat. Although I do like to have a few meat free dinners every week as I find that they force me to be more creative with my cooking. You can buy frozen veggies and I've found that these taste pretty much the same and reduce wate as you only have to use as much as you need. 

Plan out your meals for a week and take a list with you when you go shopping - Just before I go for my weekly shop I take a look through my cupboards, fridge and freezer and work out what meals I can make with what's there. Then I write these meals down. Then I work out what meals I have some of the food for but not all of it. For example if I had chicken, veg and noodles then if I bought a sauce I could make a stirfry. Then I'll add these items to my shopping list. So after adding things like fruit, snacks and breakfast foods I have a final shopping list.

When I go shopping I try to stick to this list as much as I can. Although if anything's on a really good offer or marked as reduced then I'll buy it! It's also handy to double check before you leave to see how much butter/bread/pasta you have left. That way you don't see it in the shops and think 'oh do I need any of that?' and buy it just in case. Only to come home are realise you've got more than enough already.

Buy things in bulk if you can - Staples like pasta and rice can be bought in really big bags and because they have really long shelf lives you'll probably eat it all before it goes off anyway. If things are on a really good offer then you can always buy extra and freeze. For example I make puff pastry tarts(recipe here) and I'll admit I buy prepacked pastry! But it's often on offer so I'll buy two and put one in the freezer, it's just as good once it's been defrosted and I know it's going to get used.

Take your own bag - Just a wee tip for the end. Plastic bags cost 5p in Scotland so if you buy some every time you go shopping that will add up. Take one with you and spend the extra pennies on some chocolate!

What are your tips for saving money on food?

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