Save money on food

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By in Food & Drink. Updated .

food in bagYour student loan is very unlikely to cover the cost of everyday living. And to make you even more depressed, general prices are rising like mad at the moment – especially for food! This either leads to students spending far out of their means, or cutting back on spending. Of course, as money saving students, we like the second option. After all, money borrowed is money owed.

As a Joe Blogg student, you’re probably spending around £20 – £28 a week on food. Take some time and this can be slashed by as much as £10. A few quid is more likely, but it really all does add up! You could be looking at saving close to £800 a year by changing your food shopping habits.

But being a student doesn’t have to be about empty cupboards and living of takeaways, ready meals and pot noodles. In fact this can be more expensive (not to mention pot noodles and ready meals don’t taste great!) With the right tactics and knowledge you’ll have cupboards full of tasty treats in no time.

Compare food prices

The easiest way to save money on food shopping is getting a free account with mySupermarket.co.uk. They compare the prices of different products on the shelves across all 4 of the major supermarkets, as well as keep you informed on the latest and best offers. You can also save your “shopping trolley” making it easier to remember the things you need when you go food shopping. It’s free to sign up, so this is definitely the best place to start saving money on food!

Time equals money!

time is moneyThe most important way to save on food is to first plan and then spend. I don’t know many students who relish the planning past-time, but if it saves you money that’s just like getting paid for your time! Sounds a little better doesn’t it? A good start is to get an idea of which shops have the lowest prices for the same thing.

Generally, supermarkets offer the cheapest prices, but local markets can also yield some tasty savings.. so shop around. Once you know, you know – so do a shop at several local supermarkets and see how the total costs compare. Or to save time and the most money when food shopping get an account with mySupermarket.co.uk.

Know your limit

Figure out how much you can afford to spend before you head out. This should help you think twice about buying more than you need. But use it as a limit, not a target. When you are food shopping, remember that value lines and own brands are usually similar to the big names, but significantly cheaper – often well over 60%. In the end, you get a lot more for your money! You’ll also find your kitchen also develops a subtle colour scheme – ours is currently green and white thanks to Asda SmartPrice. Gotta love it.

Another good idea is to set a monthly food budget and try to stick to it. On the first of every month take your budgeted food money out of the bank and put it somewhere safe, that way when you want to go shopping you’ll have the money to hand rather than been tempted to pay on your card. When you pay on your card it’s really easy to ignore how much you’re actually spending but if you pay in cash it’s easy to monitor and puts your spending into perspective.

Share the cost

Food shop with your flatmates. I’m sure you use a lot of the same essentials – coffee, spices, sauces, washing-up liquid… so split the cost and only buy them once. You may also find you can pick up a few more money saving discounts by buying in higher volume (eg. multi-pack crisps). Whilst special offers may look, well, special and appealing, be careful. Just because something is cheaper than normal, doesn’t increase the value by the same degree. You may never eat or use it. Supermarket offers are clever and are designed to make you spend more.

“Try something new today”

The cost of food for students is affected greatly by taste. If you’re a picky or fussy eater, you’re probably paying for the privilege! Just try something different, that’s a little cheaper than your ‘usual’. You’ll probably like it and anyway, new experiences is what life is all about!

Even if you don’t consider yourself picky, meal changing can still lead to more tasty savings. Meat is much more expensive than vegetables and pasta, for example. Turkey is often cheaper than chicken, and pork less than beef. Mince is the cheapest beef. Don’t forget to keep a balanced diet, ie. get your 5-a-day and all that.

Don’t be a ‘supermarket snob’

Food SnobFirst off don’t be a label snob, secondly don’t be a shop snob. There’s nothing wrong with own brand products, often supermarkets own brands taste a lot nicer than branded products. Also there’s nothing wrong with shopping in places like Aldi orIceland.

Aldi has some really great stuff and very cheap prices and Iceland isn’t just about frozen ready meals and cheap pizzas – they also have some great bargains when it comes to buying proper food. For example meat products are much cheaper there than in other shops.

The same tips go for drink as well, it’s cheaper to buy own brands rather than Smirnoff vodka or Malibu rum for example.Icelanddoes really good alternatives to a lot of things such as Smirnoff, Malibu, Baileys and Sourz and at a fraction of the price.

Don’t go for the nearest shop

Shopping in the most convenient places almost never works out, I have a Tesco express at the end of my street and it’s really overpriced on the vast majority of things because they know they’ll attract customers because of the convenience so can charge more. You can often pick up the stuff much cheaper in other places that are just a small walk away.

Timing matters

Timing when you go out food shopping can also save you money. Go for late evenings when fresh food is ready for the supermarket waste bin the next day. These items are reduced heavily (by up to 90%) and are often good to eat for a few days – or freeze it!

Also on the matter of time, do not go food shopping when you’re hungry! This is when you feel like you could eat a horse, and you buy everything you ever liked the taste of. It is a financial disaster. So remember to eat something first!

Learn to cook!

Masterchef StudentGetting hold of a good cook book could prove be a valuable investment. Next time you’re back with the parents, try sneaking one back with you. Or just check out the free Student Recipes section on the site! Knowing how to cook is a skill that can save a lot of money.

Cooking your own food from raw ingredients rather than ready-made meals is substantially cheaper, not to mention tastier and more rewarding. As an example, imagine a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich. You get two slices of bread, a splash of mayonnaise, sweet corn and a some tuna. Cost to make yourself? Less than 50p. From a shop or supermarket, you’re looking at 4x the price – more like £2.00!

Good and simple student-y meals to cook are pasta, soup, Bolognese, and curries. Cook for your flatmates or freeze the leftovers for another day and immediate meal.

Freeze it!

Use your freezer to the max, it can be a real money saving machine! It allows you to buy food when it’s cheap and use it when you want/need it. Works great with bread, as you can toast it from frozen. Just don’t over-do it. On top of that, frozen food tends to be cheaper than fresh food anyway.. it simply lasts longer.

However, don’t buy more than what you need, I know this sounds obvious but it’s really easy to just pick up 4 pints of milk or a full loaf of bread then discover you’ve only used half of it by the use by date. So just take a minute to think about what you’re buying and pick up a smaller loaf or less milk, that way you’re not essentially throwing your money in the bin. You can freeze it but you may not have room and you don’t want a freezer full of bread!

Student perks

Being a student in itself can have its benefits on the food you get, too. Be a little wild (slash cheeky) and find out when the big business careers seminars are on and kindly help clear up their attractive buffet food (after enjoying the talks of course!). Further to that, you may be able to get student discounts at some food outlets. Somerfield have a 5% student discount card (although they can be over 5% more expensive!). McDonald’s currently give you a free Cheeseburger or McFlurry with a meal.

Taking on just a few of these tips will be incredibly rewarding and definitely reduce your spending as a student, leaving you more money for throwing it away on a night out! (At this point, I would advise you to check our money saving tips on going out).

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One Response to “Save money on food”

  1. pete jones

    16. Aug, 2011

    One of the best ways to cut waste and save money is to buy food from one of those sites which sell food approaching or past its best before date (ie totally safe and perfectly good to eat).

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