Buying food is an essential expenditure. Your grocery shop, and any takeaways, will likely make up a large portion of your weekly budget. However, it’s worthwhile taking a look to see whether there are ways you can reduce the cost and save money.
Expand the boxes to read our top money-saving suggestions.
Whilst it might sound boring, creating a meal plan for the week can really help to stretch your budget. Often, we make our worst decisions when we are hungry. If you get home late and hungry, you may be tempted to get a takeaway or even just buy something from the shop. So this is why you need to meal plan!
When creating your meal plan, we would recommend you look at what you already have in your cupboard. This not only avoids overbuying (and overspending) but reduces food waste too.
Check out Save the Student’s weekly meal plan ideas for some inspiration.
Cooking your own food is always cheaper than buying pre-made ready meals, particularly in comparison to food made by restaurants. Even just buying a £3 meal deal Monday-Friday would end up costing you £15 a week, £60 a month. You could match the sandwich meal deal for around £0.45 a day, £2.25 per week, £9 a month. Just a little swap like this saves you £51 a month.
So, it’s time to up your cooking game. There are lots of recipes and instructional videos on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.
Batch cooking, put simply, is just cooking larger portions of food.
Larger quantities of food are generally cheaper. For example, 300g of uncooked chicken breast fillets are currently £1.80 more expensive than an entire 1KG bag of frozen chicken breast fillets at one of the UK’s leading retailers. The same goes for store cupboard staples so it’s useful to stock up at the start of term if you have storage space.
Batch cooking saves you time as well as money. Simply reheat your pre-cooked meal when you are struggling to find time to cook. Not only do you not have to find the time, or energy, when motivation is lacking, but it also removes the temptation of a takeaway.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just double or triple the quantity of your normal dinner and put the remaining food into tubs. Store the tubs in the fridge/freezer to reheat on another day.
We’d always recommend you avoid just going to the closest supermarket to you. However, you do need to be mindful of the travel costs to visit an alternative supermarket and factor this into your budget.
Which update a Supermarket Prices Table each month which compares the cost of shopping across all major UK supermarkets and the Trolley app (available on Apple and Android, and also as a website) allows you to compare prices across supermarkets and save money off your next trip.
There are also new-customer deals offered by supermarkets and it may be worth trying them all to make some money back. The Money Saving Expert has compiled a list of these so take a look.
Remember, that sometimes the smaller versions of large supermarkets can be more expensive too!
Loyalty pays off
Lots of supermarkets (and high-street retailers) offer loyalty schemes for regular customers. This results in money off your shop or vouchers for money off future purchases. If you’re shopping somewhere regularly, make sure you take out a loyalty card and collect your points.
Which have compared Supermarket loyalty cards to see which gives the best deals – check it out!
Remember, you can get 10% off your shopping at the Co-Op (with a valid TOTUM card) and build up points as a member too.
Any Eat Well for Less fans will know the power of swapping from big brand names to supermarket own brands. Often you’ll be surprised just how much money you can save swapping to the supermarket own brand, and often you won’t even be able to taste the difference!
Don’t believe us? Check out MyLondon’s comparison of big and own brands and see for yourself.
Yellow sticker shopping
Yellow stickers are put onto food by supermarkets to get rid of them quickly. Supermarkets often start their first line of reductions first thing in the morning, before making further price cuts of up to 75% in the early evening.
You can’t rely on yellow sticker shopping for your weekly shop, but if you are smart about the times you visit the supermarket you can often make some big savings.
We’d always recommend you take a cautious approach when buying yellow sticker items. Four packs of 5 doughnuts for 20p seems like a steal, but be realistic about how much you can actually eat and whether you can freeze any of the items you buy before they go off.
Hot Deals UK have compiled a list of the approximate times popular UK supermarkets tend to discount their food.
Don’t throw money away
According to Business Waste, the UK throws 9.5 million tonnes of food away each year. The WWF report that we could reduce around 6-8% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions simply by stopping food waste.
Sites such as SuperCook and Big Oven have built in recipe tools to help you use up leftover or random food lingering in your fridge and cupboards. Simply enter the items you have and the site will index and match possible recipes just for you.
Another reason for this huge amount of food waste is a lack of understanding around food labels or leaving food to spoil. Food is labelled with Best Before and/or Use By dates. It’s worth knowing the difference:
- Use By: the Use By date is about food safety. Eating food after the Use By date could lead to food poisoning.
- Best Before (BBE): the food quality is guaranteed by the best before date. However, it will still be safe to eat after the BBE date (providing it is stored correctly).
Read more on the Food Standards Agency website.
It’s surprising the different foods you can freeze, from milk to bread and even eggs! Check out further details in the Save the Student article, 18 surprising foods you can (and can’t) freeze.
Grow your own
Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs at home can not only save you money but is hugely rewarding too!
You may think that you need a big garden or allotment to grow your own food, but you can actually grow lots of produce simply in containers on a patio, a balcony, or even inside on your windowsill.
Lots of food can be grown from vegetable scraps. Instead of throwing away your carrot and onion tops or potato sprouts, consider planting them and seeing what you can grow. Rural Sprout have some great tips to get you started.
Most supermarkets sell fresh herb pots in their stores which help to add flavour to your home-cooked meals. Whilst it’s easy enough to keep these alive with a bit of water, did you know you can actually get extra plants for free by dividing up your herb pot and growing them on? Check out Gardeners’ World’s handy guide for step-by-step instructions.
Other things you can grow at home include onions, garlic, potatoes, salad, chili pepper, tomatoes, cress, and even strawberries! Information about how to cultivate your own crops can be found on The Guardian, Save the Student, and Gardeners World.
Searching and collecting free food in the wild is a fun activity and saves you money too.
You need to be careful when foraging to make sure you are definitely picking edible (non-poisonous) food – otherwise you could become unwell. It’s also very important that you only forage in public spaces. You should also choose your loot carefully and make sure it isn’t contaminated by animal secretion or exhaust fumes.
If you’re interested, take a read of the following articles to get you started: