It’s no secret that we often go overboard when food shopping and end up buying more than we actually need, but as a student you may be struggling for funds and looking for a cheaper way to shop. It can sometimes be difficult to stick to a healthy, balanced diet without breaking the bank, but you don’t need to compromise on health by buying cheaper meal alternatives. You may consider food as an unavoidable expense and dread your trips to the supermarket, but don’t worry, we’ve got some great tips for you to try out!
1. Write a Shopping List and Stick to it
This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but we all know how tempting it is to pick up treats and extra items you see displayed whilst shopping. You may not think that a few pounds here and there will make much difference, but it all adds up and can quickly take you over your weekly budget.
Before you go food shopping, create a list of different items you need for the week and research the cheapest version of the ingredient that is available. If you ensure that your list will keep you within budget for the week, then this will prevent you from simply picking up random items at the shop and coming up with meal ideas on the spot whilst you’re there. The worst thing you can do budget-wise is turn up at your supermarket without a meal plan, so always decide exactly what you’re going to eat that week beforehand and include all necessary ingredients on your list.
2. Compare Prices with Different Stores
We know that you may become comfortable visiting a certain store, or that you just visit the closest supermarket to you for convenience, but you’d be surprised at the price differences if you branch out. One study shows that an average shopping basket consisting of 20 commonly bought items in the weekly food shop was £22.48 at Lidl, and a basket with the same items was £26.10 at Tesco. Although this may not seem like a huge difference, throughout the year this would all start to add up. If you notice that only specific items like meat or certain toiletries are significantly cheaper at one supermarket, why not buy items in bulk from those places and continue your regular shop at your usual spot?
If the distance to the cheaper supermarkets is a problem for you, you can always try out online shopping. Although there is usually a minimum spend of about £30 for free delivery, you could suggest placing an order with one of your flat mates so that you can both benefit and save money together!
3. Make Less Frequent Shopping Trips
It’s a no-brainer – the more often you go grocery shopping, the more money you’re likely to spend. We’re all guilty of walking past the supermarket and popping in for a few treats, but more often than not this is going to result in you cutting into your weekly food budget. If you plan out exactly what you’re going to buy every food shop then this should prevent you from having to go multiple times a week and spending more money. A good plan to stick to is to have a big spend once a month and only buy fresh produce weekly. Top tip: when going for your weekly stock-up, always pick up a small basket rather than a trolley so you’re not tempted to go overboard.
4. Buy Certain Items in Bulk
Although buying in bulk may be a bigger expense upfront, it can save you a noticeable sum of money in the long run so is definitely worth looking into if you have the funds. You could even buy large quantities of items such as toilet roll, pasta and tinned food with your flat mates and split the cost between you – that way, you won’t have to bother buying these things throughout the year. Offering large quantities at a lower price guarantees that the supermarket can move a larger quantity of product at a time, and the lower unit price encourages customers to buy, so it’s a win-win situation!
Places like Costco and Amazon often have amazing deals on bulk items, so it may be worth a trip before the new term starts to stock up on the essentials. However, you should always make sure to check that the deal is actually worthwhile, as some supermarkets will sell at a bulk cost that is barely any cheaper than getting the items individually when they are needed.
5. Consider Cheaper Alternatives
You may be wary of buying the supermarket’s own brand of something you love due to the fear of it not tasting the same and ruining the meal you have planned. Trust us, whilst there are a few dodgy alternatives, the majority of the time the own brand food tastes exactly the same as the better known version – they often just amp the price up due to it being a well-known name.
If you are wary of completely switching out your usual shopping basket for cheaper alternatives, why not try a new item each week and to slowly start saving money? That way, if you dislike one of your new items then you can simply pick up a different version at your next food shop until you find something that works well for you.
We know that student-life can be expensive and a lot of the time, your loan may not be large enough to allow you to simply buy whatever you want. It’s always a good idea to create a weekly budget plan for your food shop that will allow you to have the funds to partake in any activities or go on any nights out with friends, whilst also sticking to a fairly healthy meal plan. Hopefully these ideas have put your mind at ease and shown that a budget-friendly weekly shop is possible.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any top money saving tips!