Every new university student worries about how they’ll stick to a budget and share cupboard and fridge space with their flatmates. Everyone has heard horror stories about fights breaking out over people eating each other’s food, but that happens way less than you’d think, and it’s easily avoidable. This guide will give you a few tips and tricks on how to food shop on a budget at uni.
Write a list
Write a list, either on paper or on your phone. Reminders apps are great for lists because you can quickly type in what you need as soon as you notice it’s running out, and then you’ll never be in a situation where you have no milk or toilet roll. On a similar note, try to plan your meals for the week. That way, you can ensure you’re buying enough food to make proper meals out of, which means you’ll be less likely to start snacking.
Never shop when you’re hungry
If you shop when you’re hungry, you might notice that you’re putting a lot more into the basket than you normally would. Shopping when hungry means overspending and buying food that might go to waste. Resist the urge to impulse buy and stick to the list that you’ve made. If you do end up with too much food – we all know it happens – you can freeze it instead of throwing it away. For example, bread can be frozen and put straight from the freezer into the toaster.
Track your spending
Set a budget for each week and try to stick to it. You can use apps like Notion, which is free for students and has a built-in finance tracker template. All you have to do is input the numbers! Sometimes it helps to see exactly where you’re spending, and where you’re saving.
Buy cheap food in bulk
Foods like pasta, rice and tinned tomatoes can be bought relatively cheaply in bulk, and they last for much longer than you’d think. Plus, pasta and rice make an incredibly quick and easy staple for any meal, all you need to do is experiment with different sauces. You can also cook in bulk, freeze the leftovers, and make an easy meal the next day, which is especially helpful after a long day of lectures and seminars.
Learn to cook
Making food yourself is much cheaper than buying microwave/oven meals or getting a takeaway. Watch YouTube tutorials or find easy recipes on the internet. You might find that cooking is a great way to unwind, or you might find it boring – either way, try it out!
Shop in cheaper stores like Lidl and Aldi and try to opt for off-brand items rather than the expensive branded ones. You never know, you might like the off-brand version just as much as the original! With foods like cereal and pasta, it’s hard to tell the difference. You can also check the discounted section of shops, especially later in the day. Sometimes you’ll find bread going for cheaper than 50p! Meat and fish are also much cheaper in Aldi and Lidl than they are in Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys. Try to shop in bigger supermarkets rather than local stores like Tesco Express or the Co-Op, because smaller stores tend to be much more expensive, despite being closer and easier to get to.
Split with flatmates
It makes no sense for everyone in your flat to buy a huge bottle of milk each – you won’t have the fridge space for it. Take it in turns to buy the basics, but don’t eat food that doesn’t belong to you. Depending on how you and your flatmates work, it can sometimes be cheaper to group together and cook, splitting the costs for the ingredients, but sometimes this doesn’t work out, especially if you or your flatmates tend to go out for dinner some days.
Remember that grocery shopping on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to live off Baked Beans. With a little planning, it’s possible to survive and thrive when eating at uni. If you are struggling with the rise in the cost of living, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Your university Student Support Services should be able to point you in the right direction. Do you have any more tips on how to food shop on a budget at uni? Share your tips in the comments section.