Doing your uni food shop on a budget

Wondering how to keep costs down when it comes to your uni food shop? Follow these 10 simple tips
A female student in a supermarket reading the label on a jar

Starting uni comes with plenty of new challenges – many fun, others maybe a little daunting. One task will be doing your own weekly food shop, but don’t worry – you won’t have to resort to eating cold beans straight from the tin. With these 10 tips, you'll be all set.

1. Plan your meals

Once you have a sense of your weekly routine, and how many meals you’ll be making, spend some time planning what you’re going to cook. It might sound dull, but it’ll mean you don’t buy stuff you don’t need, and that you’re not left with food waste. You could even use a  free printable meal planner template  so that you have a plan to refer to.

2. Check the price!

Make sure you don’t pay more than you have to by using a price comparison app like Latest Deals – it’ll help you suss out which of the big six (Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Iceland, Ocado and Waitrose) will offer the best price for your shop. Remember that other, low-cost supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi aren’t on the site because they don’t offer online delivery, so it’s worth checking those, too.

3. Buy in bulk and opt for own brands

There will be some household essentials that you and your flatmates will also need routinely, so it makes sense to team up and buy those in bulk, which usually drives the cost per item down. Likewise, be smart when you’re choosing individual products – often there’s an own-brand version (made in the same factory) which costs less than the well-known brand.

4. Keep an eye out for discounts!

Watch out for student discount offers and codes on websites like SaveTheStudent  and  Totum. If you’re going to the supermarket in person, it’s also worth timing your shop for an hour or so before the store closes (or around 7pm at a 24-hour shop) when products close to their sell-by date will be reduced. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale yellow stickers and ask staff where reduced items are placed – but be sure to freeze them when you get home if you’re not going to use them straight away. Bargain!

5. Be deal savvy – but don’t shop hungry

While 2-4-1 deals and money-off stickers might make products look too good to miss, be savvy and ask yourself: do I definitely need it? Work out the price per pack – is there an alternative that is better value? Likewise, don’t shop when you’re hungry: you’ll end up being tempted into buying things you don’t need.

6. Use loyalty cards

Supermarket loyalty cards can offer decent savings, so make sure you get one for each shop in your area. That way you can go wherever has the best deals for your shopping list that week, rather than staying loyal to one because you’re signed up to their scheme. Simple!

7. Get a cashback app

Want to get paid to shop? Well, you can – sort of – by using supermarket cashback apps which give you a proportion of money back each time you shop. Just download the app, see which items are on offer (making sure you only buy what you really need) and buy them at a participating store. Then, scan the barcodes or receipt when you get home and wait for the cashback. Find out more with  Save The Student’s thorough guide to cashback apps.

8. Go veggie (at least some of the time)

One pretty universal truth is that meat and seafood can be among the most expensive groceries, so challenge yourself to have a certain number of vegetarian meals each week. You’ll also be doing your bit for the environment. And on that note, make sure you also…

9. Buy seasonal – and local

Do your wallet – and the planet – a favour by trying to buy seasonally and locally wherever possible. Fruit and veg imported out of season will often have travelled thousands of air miles, driving up both the price and the environmental impact. The planet will thank you later.

10. Cook in batches

As with buying in bulk, cooking in batches can save you valuable pennies AND time that could be spent studying or hanging out with your mates. Not to mention lessen your weekly washing-up pile! So: find a few favourite recipes for dishes that store well and pack your freezer drawer. Your future self will be grateful.


Image credits: Stocksy