1. Do it yourself
It might be tempting to simply stick a ready meal in the microwave, order a takeaway or pick up a meal deal from YourShop, but it’s a lot cheaper – and usually healthier – to make your own food. For example, you can pick up a loaf of bread for under 60p, whilst a premade sandwich will generally cost you around £3. Just remember that using a pasta sauce from a jar or putting a packaged salad on place does not count as cooking and that resorting to preprepared ingredients is usually more expensive.
2. Tinned tomatoes are your friend
Seriously. At just 31p a tin they’re ridiculously cheap, keep for ages and are also one of your five a day. Tinned tomatoes can be used to form the basis of many classic student dishes – simply add onions and basil to make a pasta sauce, spread onto a dough base and top with cheese for pizza or leave to stew with mince, carrots, celery, herbs and onions for spaghetti bolognese.
3. Don’t be a brand snob
It sounds obvious, but cheaper supermarket brands often taste just as good as their big name counterparts, so there’s really no reason to shell out more.
4. Plan in advance
Make sure you make a list of what you need to avoid impulse buying – and don’t shop when you’re hungry. A scattergun approach to shopping will leave you with several items you can’t make a proper meal out of, meaning you’ll end up returning to the supermarket to fill in the gaps and end up spending more money. If you shop at the right time, you can pick up some bargains in the reduced sections, although this strategy can be a bit hit and miss.
5. Avoid the on campus shops
Popping to Nisa for your weekly shop may seem like a lot less effort than trekking to Morrisons, but it’s much more expensive, so it’s best just to keep an eye out for their special offers. If you still can’t bothered be to walk further afield, team up with your housemates to get your groceries delivered to reduce any delivery charges. The market stalls in the city centre provide a cheap alternative to supermarkets when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables.
6. Cook in batches and use your leftovers
Buying food in larger quantities often ends up being cheaper, but what if your recipe only calls for half an onion and you find yourself with a whole bag of them? Either make extra portions and freeze them (leftovers are great for lazy days!) or share with your housemates – cooking and eating together can be a great way of trying something new and getting to know each other. Any leftover meat and vegetables can be chopped up and added to soups, curries, stir fries and pasta dishes.
7. Take your own food to campus
This is perhaps a more useful tip for off campus students, but if you’re going to be on campus for a long period of time, always come prepared. Opting to quickly grab lunch from the library cafe or get a snack from the vending machine may seem like a good idea if you’re forced to spend all day in the library to get an essay finished, but you’ll soon learn that the prices are extortionate, so bring a packed lunch and a drink for when your concentration starts to wane.
8. Don’t be afraid to take advantage
Most parents are only to happy to pay for a food shop when they help you settle in during ‘Moving In Weekend’ or visit later on in the term. Accept their offer graciously. You may feel a fleeting sense of moral superiority when you prove your new found independence by humbly refusing to let them let them foot the bill, but you’ll soon be kicking yourself when you realise that cheese and meat have become luxuries that you can no longer afford. When you return home during the holidays, don’t forget to stock up on non-perishables like pasta.
It’s a well-known fact that nothing attracts students like free food, and employers and societies know this. The Christian Union is notorious for handing out free toasties whilst many other societies will try to entice you with sweets and baked goods. Careers events can also be a great way to score a free “dinner” – law firms tend to be one of the most generous when it comes to complimentary buffets. I’ve even spotted people handing out Ben and Jerry’s for no reason at all. (Needless to say, several return trips were made.) Several colleges also regularly host events where they give out free food.
If you’re catered, smuggle as much food as you can back to halls to save for later. Whilst not exactly free, you’ll be making sure you get your money’s worth – just make sure you avoid the eyes of the vigilant catering staff!