Food shopping is going to make up a big chunk of your student budget, which is why it’s crucial to make your food shop last. We surveyed students about their monthly spending in our Student Living Index 2017. The results showed that other than rent, students spend more on supermarket shopping than any other living expense.
But a big spend also means a great opportunity to save. So, grab your student cookbook and use our thrifty tips to help you make the most out of your food shop.
Make a list
Making the most of your supermarket shopping starts before you even step out of the door. What you need to buy depends on your menu. What can you make? The internet is full of recipes and cheap dinner ideas. Get planning.
Look at what you already have
There’s no point buying what you already have, especially if there’s nowhere to put it. Making a list is an essential tool to help you avoid doing this. Check what you have against your list before you set off.
We spoke with Selina Juul, the founder the Stop Wasting Food movement, who has helped to reduce Denmark’s national food waste by 25%. Selina says “a good life hack to avoid food waste is […] taking your phone, opening your refrigerator and taking a picture of what you have. Then when you’re in [the] supermarket you already have a clear overview of what you have in the refrigerator.” You can find some other great tips on avoiding what she calls ‘food waste traps’ to help you save time and money.
Learn food labels
There are two main types of food label: ‘best before’ and ‘use by’. Knowing what they mean will stop you throwing out good food.
The ‘best before’ label is found on dry goods like pasta, cereal and biscuits. It means that the food inside the packet will taste better before the date on the packet. Afterward, it won’t be as scrumptious. It won’t last forever, but thankfully it’s not the end of the world if you slightly miss the date.
The same is not true for things like milk, meat and fish. These items will have a ‘use by’ date on their packets. After this date, throw them out.
Be a bargain hunter
Think outside the basket. Instead of shopping for everything week-to-week, why not take advantage of supermarket special offers on ‘best before’ items and things you can store or freeze? A beefy bulk buy means you don’t have to go shopping as often. But be careful, if you can’t store it you’ll waste food and money.
Going shopping in the evening is a great way to pick up some bargains at the supermarket. Also check out the clearance section for discounted items. But avoid the trap of making reasons to buy things you don’t need just because they’re cheap.
You may be used to branded goods at home, but most supermarkets have their own ranges. Switching to their own lines can knock a lot off the cost of your average shop. Just be sure to check the labels and portion sizes to make sure you’re getting the same nutrition.
Batch cook and store smart
Instead of using the oven for an hour every evening, spend a few hours batch cooking for the week. Fill the oven with dishes, cook several meals at a time and store what you don’t eat.
The freezer is your new best friend. But you have to know how to work with it. Freeze in portion sizes. If you freeze a massive container of stew you’ll end up having to defrost one. If you can’t eat it all in time it’ll end up in the bin. And you’ll get sick of the sight of stew.
It’s also great for portion control. You can’t burn through your food if you only defrost what you need – making it easier to stick to your student meal plan. Label and date everything so you know what to use first, and check how long you can freeze different foods.