How to keep grocery costs down as a student

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Madonna and I differ in many ways, but perhaps the biggest differences lie in our levels of wealth! While it is a “material world” like her song says, I’m not particularly a “material girl”, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I’m just as happy with Primark as I am with proper labels, I’ll always go for the house wine at a bar, and when I travel, I’m content with hostel living instead of hotels.

However, when it comes to food, I’m admittedly prepared to part with my cash! It’s not always possible, though, and so sometimes it’s about doing the best you can, with what you have. As a student, you don’t need to eat poorly.

I know I roll my eyes to the back of my head when people make tired jokes about student eating, because when I was at university, I managed to eat very well! Long before the days of actually having the money to splurge, I still managed to eat like royalty, with a less-than-royal-budget.

So, how do you do it? It’s all about finding the little hacks which make grocery shopping on the cheap that little bit more accessible.

Behold, the reduced section

I personally am a huge fan of the “reduced aisle”, a section of the shop where you can find expensive food marked down with (usually) yellow or orange stickers. Sure, you sometimes end up buying things you don’t need.

But I’ve often planned entire meals based around some amazing discounts. Once as a first year, I got a £6 fillet steak for 25p. There’s no way I’d have paid full price on my part-time job wage, but I was happily able to part with a few pennies!

Ask in your local store when they usually start to reduce items, usually toward the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with the food, it’s just that they can’t sell it past that day.

Pick places that are cheaper for you

Some supermarkets are simply cheaper than others. Although I’m particularly fond of M&S, it’s not exactly a place designed with students in mind. Budget supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl have some amazing produce, at a fraction of the cost – and there’s no shame in going there.

You can also get student discounts at select places, the biggest being The Co-Op. They’ll give you 10% off if you can get your hands on an NUS Extra card (seriously, do it… you can use them in all kinds of more exciting places as well). If your family members work at a supermarket (or you can get yourself a part-time job in one), you may be able to access discounts, too.

You can also make savings with loyalty card programmes, for example, the Tesco Club Card. By collecting points over the year, you’ll be sent vouchers for special deals and even freebies.

Planning

If you can’t find any reduced items, or if you’re not able to access discounts, planning ahead is your best bet. You can pick up many habits now, which will still be good for the rest of your life. To be honest, I need to take some of my own advice, but when you know in advance what you want, you’ll save those pennies.

Set yourself a budget for food, and don’t go over it. This can be easier when you make a shopping list, and decide on your meals in advance.

Shopping online can help, because there’s nothing worse than shopping when you’re hungry. Trust me, I should know – I’ve often left with what feels like the entire shop!

When you plan upfront, you can also bulk buy – why not cook ahead for the week and store your prepared meals in your Liberty Living fridge-freezer? Just make sure not to take up too much space (you have flatmates too, you know!).

You can find loads of recipes online, and even on our blog. Once you have an idea of the kinds of cheap but delicious meals you can make, you can set your sights on them and give them a try – remember practise makes perfect!