The average student spends around £20-28 a week on food. It is likely that this will make up a large part of your weekly budget. Therefore, it is important that you spend this money wisely, to get the most out of it. Follow our top tips to make your food budget go further:
- Do not use corner shops. They may be closer to your halls or flat but they are very expensive.
- Check to see if supermarkets offer a student discount. Many shops don’t advertise the fact that they offer it so it is worth asking a member of staff, the worst they can say is no. Right now, there's just the Co-op that we know of who are offering an NUS discount (see below).
- Don’t buy branded food. If you swap to own brand food, you will save a lot of money. Most people cannot taste the difference and you obviously do not have to make this change on all food if you can’t live without Heinz baked beans.
- Shop later and you will be amazed at the discounts that are available. After around 8pm in most of the major supermarkets there are huge reductions on food that is near its sell by date. Buy these and put them in the freezer for when you need them.
- Meat is usually the most expensive thing you will buy in the supermarket. Look for alternatives, turkey is usually cheaper than chicken and healthier. When cooked in a meal, you can’t taste the difference.
- Buy with your housemates. You will be able to buy a lot more food with £20 than £10.
- Make sure your cupboards are stocked with essentials like pasta and rice. These make quick and cheap meals without you having to add too much to them.
- Planning meals is also a great way of saving money. If you buy pasta and then mince, you can often make many meals, using different ingredients.
- Get to know your local market. Fruit and veg will almost certainly be cheaper there, and often nicer too. Meat on the other hand can be more pricey so know your supermarket prices before you go (MySupermarket.co.uk is a great site for doing this).
- If you shop at a supermarket that has a reward points, make sure you sign up. In some supermarkets you can double your points at certain times of the year and use this against the value of your shopping.
- Look out for special offers but only buy things you would usually buy. There’s no point in buying ten tins of tuna if you don’t like it just because it is on offer. Go shopping with a housemate, then if you see any buy one get one free offers, you can split the cost between you.
- Do not go shopping when you are hungry. You are guaranteed to buy things that you are able to eat rather than food that you can turn into a meal.
- Cook with housemates or cook in bulk and freeze the left overs. You can use this for lunch or another meal.
- Substitute expensive ingredients for cheaper alternatives. For example, bacon or ham works well in place of pancetta and cheddar cheese often works just fine in place of the pricey italian cheeses.
- If you live in a flat or house, one thing to consider is a communal fund for things like milk, bread and toilet rolls. This splits the cost between you all.
- Coupons will be your best friend. Look out for supermarket magazines as they are often at the back.
- Use pound shops for everyday essentials. For example, toiletries and cleaning products, as they are much cheaper than supermarkets.
- Get discount savvy. If you're going to buy the odd takeaway, ask around about the best local places - they will be much cheaper than big brands like Dominos. Save menus that come through the door - they usually have meal deals and discounts on them. Join their Facebook groups and mailing lists as loads send out offers to their regulars. Always ask if they offer a student discount and if you're going to use a big name like Dominos or Pizza Hut, make sure you scan through the discount code websites for the latest decent offers before you place your order.
An NUS card will set you back just £12 and gives you discounts off hundreds of shops, restaurants and outlets. At the moment, the Co-op is the only food shop offering an NUS discount of 10%. Although you don't get loyalty points for shopping at the Co-op, a 10% discount is far more attractive than most of the loyalty schemes (see below), as long as the prices are right, and there's the catch - they aren't on MySupermarket.co.uk so you can't compare their prices with the other shops - you'll have to pop in and look out for the bargains. Aside from the Co-op, there are hundreds of places you can make savings so you'll quickly make back your £12, whether you're snacking in Mc Ds or treating yourself to a tasty meal at Pizza Express. Click here to view all the discounts.
Student Beans is another fantastic discount website for students that offers some great deals if you want to treat yourself to a meal out. Click here to view their food and drink offers.
Loyalty cards – a quick guide to the best
Here’s a quick guide to our favourite loyalty cards. Keep an eye out for regular incentives which allow you to double, triple or quadruple the value of your points or collect extra at certain times of year. Remember, just because a store offers a loyalty card does not make it great value. Some of the cheaper stores - Aldi and Lidl for example - just offer amazing prices all year round with no gimmicks and they are especially good for fruit and veg.
Collect points at: At Sainsbury’s, Homebase, Ford, BP, Vision Express, PruHealth, Expedia and British Gas,
Collect: App. 2 points per pound spent
Value: Each is worth 0.5p
Collect points at: Tesco including Tesco mobile, broadband, kitchens, petrol etc
Collect: App. 1 point per pound, half a point per pound for fuel and 3 points per pound for broadband
Value: Each is worth 1p although club card rewards make these up to 4 times more valuable
Boots Advantage Card
Collect points at: Boots
Collect: App. 4 points per pound
Value: Each point is worth 1p.
Superdrug Beauty Card
Collect points at: Superdrug
Collect: App. 1 point per pound
Value: Each point is worth 1p
Costa Coffee Club
Collect points at: Costa
Collect: App. 5 points per pound
Value: Each point is worth 1p
More on University life
- Starting at university
- Starting uni - three things you should know
- Starting uni - places to be
- Studying hard at university
- Finding time to relax at University
- Finding yourself at University
- Secrets of the University Library
- Top tips for living in the halls of residence
- Working hard while studying at University
- Student jobs which work around your schedule
- Socialising while studying at University
- Planning a budget while studying at University
- Sticking to a budget