The cost of living is going up dramatically and doesn’t appear to be going down anytime soon. One of the most important and biggest living expenses after rent and utilities is always going to be food. So how can you keep an eye on that food budget, ensure you have enough to eat and won’t be going hungry towards the end of the term? Here’s our list of 10 tips to help stretch your student food budget.
1. Meal planning to stretch your student food budget
Planning is key, thinking about what to have throughout the week isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do or stick to. At the time of thinking about what to buy you may have a craving or really fancy something. A few days later you may decide that you don’t fancy it. If the product you bought was fresh, chances are it has a limited shelf life and will eventually go in the bin unless you eat it. Not sticking to the plan means ending up with money and food in the bin.
Looking at recipes beforehand and planning what you need before you go shopping can help save on your food budget. Knowing what you need will help get you out of the habit of picking up special offers or falling for the shopping tactics that retailers employ to up and cross-sell products that you don’t actually need.
With having a shopping list and recipes handy, you can work out a cost per portion for your meals. If your spending on food is high, looking for cheaper alternative brands/ingredients and meals can count towards your efforts to reduce your food budget and waste.
2. Shop smarter
Brand snobbery is a big part of daily shopping habits. Sometimes certain brands cannot be replicated for their quality, Trying to substitute certain package foods can still be easily achieved though, and save a fortune in the process. In fact, many supermarkets’ own brands are produced in the same factory as their more expensive counterparts. The only differences are in the size/consistency and packaging.
Cheap end of life can be frozen
If you find yourself looking at the end of the day reduced section in a shop, It’s always worth looking if the reduced products can be frozen. Although near the end of the best before and use-by date, popping them straight in the freezer should give them a minimum of two weeks of storage depending on the icebox or freezer rating. Best before dates may be good for a day or two but be vary wary around use-by dates.
Buying Individual groceries.
Supermarkets have a great trick of getting you to buy products that are pre-packaged, especially in fruit and vegetables. Unless you really need a kilogram, always look for the loose produce. For example here are the prices for carrots.
1 KG Prepped (Cut washed and packaged)Carrots – 99p
1KG Loose Carrots (Pre Packed) – 40p
1kG “Wonky” Carrots Pre Packaged – 30p
1-2 Individual Carrots By weight 10-20p (dependent on weight)
Now note that the prepped carrots will only have 2-3 days use by on them as they have already been prepped ready to use. Chances are you will throw most of them out unless making soup or batch cooking something.
the loosely packaged carrots would maybe last 1 – 2 weeks in a fridge, but again you would need to go through a lot. If you only need 1 -2 for the week, buying individually is better. It may seem that you only save maybe 10p but if you did this every week £5.20 would disappear. Which could easily equate to the cost of another full meal.
3. Stock the food cupboard.
If you can stock the food cupboard at the beginning of the term with long-lasting goods such as rice, pasta, and grains. These dried goods along with tinned produce have shelf lives that will keep for a long time. When the budget starts to become a bit tighter the closer you get to the end of term, you will be grateful for still having food in the cupboard.
4. Waste is bad for the environment and the bank balance.
Not using leftovers can equate to putting money in the bin. Correctly cooking, storing, and reusing produce can make it last longer. But be careful as not following food hygiene guidance can be dangerous, especially for high-risk products such as fish, dairy, and poultry. If you are unsure of what to do always follow the guidance provided by agencies such as the NHS Eat Well guide at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-prepare-and-cook-food-safely/
5. Carbs can bulk out a meal.
In moderation and as part of a balanced diet, carbs can bulk out the substance of a meal cheaply and easily. Done correctly and in the right quantities, potatoes, rice, pasta or bread can accompany most dishes.
6. Containers are key.
Correctly storing foods at the correct temperatures in fridges and cupboards, in air-tight or resealable tubs, wrapped in foil or cling film. Correctly looking after all foods in clean environments can make them last longer. Even dried goods can become tainted if not stored properly.
7. Get creative with recipes
Rather than going out to fetch something for dinner, see what you can make with what you already have in. Using websites like https://www.supercook.com/ you can enter what ingredients you have and it will display a list of recipes you can then make.
8. Grow your own.
Herbs and seasoning can change the flavour profile of any dish dramatically when used correctly. Buying fresh or dried herbs can be costly, especially if only using them once or twice. If you can, why not have a go at growing your own in an indoor pot garden. Find somewhere with plenty of light (Sometimes a struggle in Sheffield in the winter!) and give it a go.
9. Don’t forget the treats.
Even when the budget is tight, remember that eating is a necessity but should also be enjoyable. Try to budget for at least 1 treat as a reward for your newfound catering on budget skills. When it comes to shopping day and it’s all planned out it gives you something to look forward to.
10. Batch Cooking and cooking in bulk
Cooking in bulk is always cheaper, the more you buy, the cheaper the cost per portion. With this in mind, why not look at batch cooking a large pot of a meal and freezing it to be eaten at a later date. Want to spread it amongst your housemates? Why not take it, in turn, to cook for each other even if it’s just one night a week? taking it in turns to provide for everyone could easily lower the cost per portion of your food budget. You could even consider going the extra mile and throwing a dinner party.
Controlling your food budget can be done
Although as a nation the cost of living has risen dramatically especially over the past 2 years. Being sensible about our individual food consumption shouldn’t adversely affect our budgets. The rise in costs is mainly shown in food that comes “pre-prepared”. The age-old debate of paying for convenience has always been included in the cost of food. Prepping meals at home is always a cost saver, with the added benefit of being healthier and more environmentally friendly.
About Thornsett Properties
Thornsett Properties have been supporting students from South Yorkshire and Surrounding areas studying in Sheffield. with Student accommodation since 1985. We supply accommodation to over 650 undergraduates and postgraduate students studying at Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University every year. Designed to fit with your budget whilst looking for student accommodation. Thornsett Properties are property owners and not agents, meaning all our properties are managed by ourselves and not reliant on third parties. Our aim is to help you succeed in our student accommodation in Sheffield