Best tips to save money on your student shop.
With the inflation and costs of living increasing, more and more students try to be cash-savvy and save as much as they can on their weekly shop. AFS comes to you with a couple of tips and tricks how to shave off those precious £££ off your bill and improve the home budget as a student.
I’m an avid enjoyer of popping to the shop to get the ingredients for whatever I fancy cooking on the day—but that’s not the most budget-friendly option you can imagine. Planning your shop in advance and doing one big one at the beginning of the week is a very simple yet crucial way of saving money. Ensuring that the dishes you will be preparing across the week share some ingredients will save you money: a bigger pack of mushrooms always costs less per lbs than a small one. Sharing ingredients also ensures you will not be wasting any food: some leftover carrot and leek with some scraps of meat or mushrooms can make a great soup base.
Asda, Lidl, and Tesco are student favourites—and for a good reason—their prices are fantastic. However, make sure to do your research and compare which shop offers the lowest price for a particular ingredient—if you plan well in advance, you can have two or three lists for individual shops, getting the best bargains at each. Tesco’s Clubcard and Nectar cards are a must. If you buy at Sainsbury’s, make sure to look out for those special deals that give you hundreds extra nectar points (normally £1 = 1point); the points can be later used to pay for your shopping (1point = £0.005 = 0.5 pence). People shopping with Smart Shop at Sainsbury’s also get special ‘Nectar’ Prices.
3. Time of Shopping
It may seem a wholly irrelevant factor in saving money—but indeed it is not! Shopping near to the closing time ensures that you can bag some fantastically discounted goods. My local Sainsbury always has some leftover sourdough bread (normally £1.80 for 400g loaf) which they discount at the end of the day to £0.90! Some Lidls have special boxes where such food is put—you can sometimes get yourself a whole crate of vegetables very cheaply (granted they’ll be close to sell-by date)
Pool your resources with your flatmates or opt for eating the same dish for 2-3 days and cook in larger batches—this goes well with my no.1 tip of planning your shop ahead! By cooking big portions, you not only save on ingredients (remember economies of scale and larger packets costing less £ per lbs.) but also on energy. Each new meal requires quite a lot of on-time for the hobs, whereas a large pot of hearty stew once cooked requires only a bit of heating up in a smaller pot, and can survive in your fridge for a couple of days. Avoid re-heating the whole big pot, especially if it contains meat! If you know you won’t eat it soon enough, put the rest into sealable Ziplock bags and freeze!
If you save on your veggies and/or meat, having a good selection of spices in your cupboard is a lifesaver—they make even the blandest sort of carrot and swede slobby stew palatable, and can even elevate it to a perfectly decent level. Fresh garlic if properly utilised can make you a whole dinner with an addition of some olive oil and fresh chilli / chilli flakes. Just fry it with chilli in the oil, mix on the pan with some pasta cooking water (highly salted!) to make a luxurious, emulsified sauce, toss the spaghetti in et voila! Fresh basil, thyme and rosemary are worth keeping (either get them in a pot from Waitrose—they last MUCH longer than Sainsbury ones—or invest in some proper pots from a gardening shop), as they make a great garnish for pasta with fresh tomatoes and olive oil (yes that very much can be a whole delicious meal in and of itself).
Gordon Ramsey would probably call me an idiot sandwich for saying this, but not all your ingredients need to be top notch when you’re cooking. It may be a great idea to downgrade on the majority of the ingredients, and then pay a little more for one that brings in tonnes of flavour: that way you’ll end up with something that tastes great, even for very cheap!