As a Fresher, one thing I couldn’t hack was cheap grocery shops. The newfound freedom of living alone and being responsible for my own meals meant buying literally anything and everything I desired – which would very quickly rack up the receipt. With no plans or prep I would walk into Green Park Sainsbury’s head held high and literally fill up my trolley with a very random assortment of items which were usually expensive and definitely wouldn’t see me through the week. Over the year I managed to refine my skills at the art that is a cheap food shop, and now as a second year I am frequently able to complete them for around £10 pounds give or take. So, in a very Martin Lewis money saving expert esque column, here are my top tips!
This is SO important. By shopping with no consideration for what your week looks like it means that often you won’t have meals to get through the week, and on busy nights you will end up buying food. What I like to do is sit down before each shop and look at my plans for the week and depending on that, write up what meals I will cook. Doing this and then making a list of what you ACTUALLY need means that the shop will last longer and you will get proper meals for your money. Through the year as you cook you will slowly find the recipes you find easy to make and taste good to you. As a fresher I would cook a wide range of meals, often to the despair of my flatmates, but now I know what recipes I like and are really easy.
Bring lunch to Uni.
Bringing lunch to uni changes the game. Again, when planning it is so important to think about lunch. Whether you are bringing last nights leftovers or simply making a sandwich, it stops the temptation to buy lunch on campus, which although yummy can be quite expensive. The microwaves in the SU and Claverton Rooms also mean that you can bring pretty much anything as there are good facilities to heat them up. I also invested in a thermal flask which has proven to be more than worth its value as food like soup stays piping hot and there is not risk of leakage.
Freezing leftovers means that you always have meals ready to go after a quick microwave. After messy nights out or late nights on campus, dinner is sorted and basically waiting for you. Pretty much every time I cook I do it in batch and then freeze everything I have leftover. Although I usually have to beg my housemates for some extra freezer space, it means that I have a ready stock of meals and if you are quite efficient with it, slowly you will build up a bank of different meals which can then be included in you meal plan for the week – saving you more money in the long run.
Buy food fresh and in bulk.
As difficult as it may be, cooking fresh healthy meals is so much better for you than the typical student diet of pot noodles and pesto pasta. Buying fresh vegetables is SO cheap, particularly when you buy them loose instead of the packaged versions. Buying in bulk is also so much cheaper than pre packaged portioned goods. For examples, a bag of rice over microwave minute rice lasts so much longer, and although perhaps a bit more hard work you can still make the rice in bulk and then freeze it portioned out in bags!
Alongside these tips I would say that maybe trying online shopping can help you build good habits. In my flat by Christmas time we started doing online Asda orders and this means you really only buy what you need. You can also see the cost as you go along which helps you learn more about cost breakdowns and what items are more expensive, before you get to the till.
As students anything we can do to save money is helpful. These tips are just some of the things that worked for me. Don’t get overwhelmed ! I used to spend an extortionate amount of money but slowly implementing these few tricks has meant that I am now eating much healthier and for a cheaper price. Although you may not see immediate changes, just trust the process and keep going cause eventually the costs will go down and Martin Lewis will be begging you to tell him how you did it.