Being a student is hard. You leave home for the first time and find yourself flung into a new world of not only having to cook your own food but having to buy your own food in the first place, too.
The world of food and food budgets is a bewildering one, so it’s no wonder students are tempted to live on ready meals, takeaways and Wetherspoons’ burgers. But even if Wetherspoons’ burgers are a bargain – especially when there’s a drink included in the price – this isn’t the cheapest way to eat, never mind how nutritionally bereft a diet of fast food is.
With that in mind, here’s how to eat cheaply as a student.
Do your own cooking
The number one tip on how to eat cheaply as a student is to cook everything yourself. That’s right, no ready meals, no takeaways and no Wetherspoons’ burgers. You’re going to have to go into the kitchen, assemble your ingredients and get the pots and pans out.
It’s actually easier and cheaper to batch cook, so make a massive curry, chilli or pasta dish and you’ll have your own nutritionally sound ready meals in the freezer just waiting to be heated up.
To make cooking a social occasion and to save even more money, ask your housemates in your student accommodation to chip in so you can all enjoy a home-cooked slap-up meal, created by your own fair hands.
Shop at budget supermarkets
That little Tesco on the corner may be handy but it’ll also be more expensive than their bigger stores. This is because the prices in the smaller stores are marked up to reflect the convenience (the more cynical amongst you may feel the prices are marked up because of greed and there’s no real reason why they couldn’t keep the prices the same as in their bigger stores, but that’s a debate for another post).
So, stop doing all your shopping at the little Tesco on the corner. In fact, stop doing your shopping at any of the big name supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and go into the budget supermarkets such as Lidl or Aldi instead. Waitrose is no place for a student on a budget.
Budget supermarkets aren’t the jumble sales with the piled high produce they used to be. Budget supermarkets now compete with the big boys with gleaming aisles full of fresh, frozen and ambient produce. You just need to resist the pull of the middle aisle, otherwise you’ll be going home with a ski suit, a canoe and an object so mysterious you couldn’t say what it actually is but you wanted it anyway.
Buy reduced items in the supermarket
Look out for those famous yellow stickers in the supermarkets to get grub at reduced prices. The savviest shoppers even know the exact times their local stores start brandishing the sticker guns so, depending on how brave you are, you might want to join the scrum then to pick up a real bargain or two.
Stock up on store cupboard basics
If you have a full store cupboard packed with the basics, you’ll never go hungry again. Stock up on pasta, lentils, noodles, tinned tomatoes, spices, herbs, stock and oil and you’ll be able to whip up a feast anytime you like, on next to nothing, in next to no time.
Use money-saving apps
There are also other apps such as Olio, where you’ll find people giving away food for free or Too Good to Go, where businesses sell their food at a fraction of its usual price to anyone available to collect it.
Before you head off to the supermarket, have a look on apps such as Shopmium to see which products they’re offering savings on. The offers range from completely free to discounts but remember, it’s only a bargain if you were going to buy it in the first place. There’s no point saving 50% on something you weren’t going to buy anyway.
How to eat cheaply as a student
Use the tips above and you’ll spend far less money on food, which means you can spend your money on other student stuff such as books, gigs and going out (but not eating out, of course!)