Getting cost-effective with food at university

Vicky, Human Biology BSc

The main tips in this blog surround food (my favourite thing!), as this is where I feel like you can be the most cost-effective. However, my disclaimer again is that I am no Martin Lewis, these are just some personal tips that I have found to help me and my friends when it comes to saving some all-important money at university!

 Photo of Vicky and her three friends.

1) Be a smart food shopper.

When you move to university you will learn how much you spend on food a week, that’s if you’re self-catered. Now, this is definitely dependent on personal eating habits, but the best way to save money when it comes to food shopping is by picking your supermarket wisely (if you have the choice, of course). By this I mean, if you have the option between Aldi and Sainsbury’s, on average Aldi is cheaper so shop there!

In the first year I did my food shop at Tesco because it was the closest supermarket to me, however now in second year, I find myself walking that extra 5 minutes to Aldi, which in turn has saved me about £10 a week on food shopping (a lot of dough in a student’s eyes!).

2) Weigh up convenience and expense 

This tip follows on nicely from tip number 1 as although Tesco is my more convenient shop to get too; Aldi saves me money. This is something you need to look at in all aspects of spending at university, because it’s easy to become lazy and choose the convenient options (which tend to be more expensive) when you don’t have your mum in your ear telling you to save money!

So, when you think about getting that take away instead of just cooking something up in your kitchen, think about this tip! Cooking will save you money. Walking that extra 5 minutes to the cheaper shop could save you money. The list goes on.

Photo of some ingredients to make a meal. There is chicken, peppers, rice, broccoli and cauliflower alongside herbs and spices.

3) Try and meal plan 

Now, this tip may seem like a fitness tip for a gym junkie, but in all seriousness, all university students could use this tip! Batch cooking and meal prepping can actually save a lot of money as if the meal is pretty much cooked already for you, it’s more convenient to eat it than having to cook and run the risk of ordering a takeaway!

Some foods I think are good for meal prepping are things like chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese, and chicken with sweet potatoes! However, I understand not everyone likes to reheat food in the microwave/have cold dinners so this is where a simple meal plan can help.

Meal planning will mean you’re more cost-effective when doing your food shop as you will only buy the lunch/dinners that you need for the week rather than overspending on freezer food you will most probably just forget you have!

To help you with this tip, maybe speak to your parents, because after all, they had to come up with at least 5 dinners a week for 18 years of your life (if you were lucky enough to have a cooked dinner every night!).

Two students standing next to a meal they have just made.

4) Don’t waste food- freeze it!

My final tip comes in handy for those weeks where things maybe don’t go quite to plan, and you end up having a lot of food that will go out of date soonish.

DO NOT WASTE ANY FOOD! Freeze it; cook something up with it and save it for tomorrow or again, freeze it; give it to a friend; anything but waste it! You wouldn’t throw away money, so why throw away food which you have spent money on…

The majority of my food which I find goes out of date the quickest is fruit and veg, so prioritise this. Don’t forget – meat can be frozen and then defrosted to eat later on!