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The student guide to budgeting for food

Posted in Student Life by on July 16, 2014

Everything was so much easier living at home. All you had to do was turn up at mealtimes and you’d find a plate of grub waiting for you. While moving away means more freedom, it also means more responsibility – especially when it comes to food. If you want to eat right during your time at uni, rather than relying on the temptations of the takeaway, then that means sticking to a strict budget.

But with books, supplies and other living costs to factor in, keeping an eye on your food funds can be easier said than done. Luckily, we’ve got some top tips to keep your cooking habits on point without breaking the bank before the semester is over.

Buy in bulk

With their long shelf life and robust versatility, rice and pasta should always have a place in your cupboard. The perfect base for so many meals, it’s a good idea to buy a huge pack of each at the start of the year so you’ll never be short of something to eat. Add a dollop of pesto to your pasta or throw some stir-fried veg into a bowl of rice and you’ll be chowing down in no time.

Share the load

Cooking for one can be so much more costly than making a meal for more. Why not take it in turns with friends or flatmates to cook a big meal for everyone? This spreads the work around, is a great way to learn new recipes, and turns dining into a social experience.

students cooking

Freezers are your friend

Even if you’re just preparing a meal for yourself it can pay to make a large serving. A big stew can be cooked up and then split into portions; make sure to cool food down before you put it in the freezer and you’ll have plenty for an extra week or two. No one wants a mystery meal, so make sure to add labels for you to know what’s inside of each food container.

And with a well-stocked freezer full of pre-prepared meals, it means you can focus on your studies without having to think about what you’ll eat in the evening. Essential in the run-up to exams.

Avoid big brands

It might be tempting to splash out on the big brand names, but it’s worth noting that you can find near-identical items far cheaper in other supermarkets. There’s often very little difference in terms of quality, but you can make some serious savings going for the cheaper alternatives. And you never know, with a little bit of experimentation, you might find new favourites, whether they’re lesser-known or supermarket-own brands.

student recipe

Shop around

It might be easy and convenient to head to the nearest supermarket, but big savings can be made if you opt for local shops to find the best prices. Visit smaller specialist retailers for your fruit and veg and you might find some brilliant bargains. Before you know it, you’ll have a great idea of where to buy everything you want at the best possible prices.

Shop in season

You might have your favourite fruits and vegetables, but their prices will change with the seasons. Do a little digging and you’ll find the perfect produce to suit the season at a price that’s right depending on the time of year.

ingredients for student cooking

Timing is everything

Some supermarkets will discount their fresh produce at the end of the day. Look out for the yellow labels and you’ll find you can buy top quality products at knock-down prices, from fresh bread to ready-cooked chickens. Don’t forget to freeze them if you’re looking to make your bargains last a little longer too!

Make lists

Shops are designed with temptation in mind. Arranged to maximise impulse buys, walking into a supermarket without an idea of what you want to buy is a sure-fire way of going over budget. It’s a good idea to make a list of what you need to make your meals, that way you only buy what you need. By all means, have a degree of flexibility so you can take advantage of deals and offers, but it’s wise to stick to your list as much as possible.

Avoid takeaways

It’s easy to fall into the habit of relying on takeaways for your meals, especially after a night out or when you’re feeling a bit lazy after your lectures. But as tempting as they can be, they don’t offer any real value for money, and probably even less in terms of nutrition. Try to stay away from them wherever possible.

Do you have any top tips for buying on a budget? We’d love to hear them so be sure to leave a comment below!

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