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Eating cheaply on a student budget is important. Particularly when your loan looks like it’s evaporating at a frightening pace.
Food is essential, but it needn’t swallow up your budget. By shopping around and finding deals, you can save your cash and still eat well.
Follow these tips to shop smart and slash your food bills, whether it’s your grocery shop or a meal out.
- Flash the plastic
- Nab freebies and discounts online
- Yellow stickers are your friend
- Plan your show
- Supermarket wars
- Specialist shops
You have your student card – hammer it while you can!
Restaurants like Yo! Sushi, Pizza Hut, Chiquito, Bella Italia and Frankie & Benny’s have student menus. These restaurants offer discount nights all year round. They’re a perfect haven for an after exam treat, a catch up with friends or even a date!
Then, at the end of your meal – once your discount has been applied – check your receipt. You may find a customer satisfaction survey, which, on completion, could earn you a bigger discount on your next meal out.
Look out for loyalty cards too, and sign up for company newsletters from your favourite restaurants to be sent all the best deals.
Here at Money Magpie, we love nabbing a freebie! But we know our army of students love a freebie even more. If you’re on the hunt for a treat, but don’t have the dosh to spare then search the food and drinks sections of student websites.
Our favourite one is Student Money Saver who offer free drinks vouchers, money off meals out, and trial food packages. It has deals on milkshakes, hot drinks, sushi and pizza – whatever takes your fancy really! A quick trawl through these sections can give you ideas for an affordable meal out with mates, or take pounds off your food shop.
Other sites we like include Save the Student, although they’re more about notifying students of supermarket deals rather than providing them.
A perfect way to eat cheaply on a student budget is to head to your local supermarket’s reduced section.
As the night draws in and the daylight starts to dwindle, supermarkets across the country start reducing the price of their goods. These sections are often tucked out of view on a low shelf or round a corner but are brimming with food that’s nearing its sell-by date.
According to the Student Money Saver website, Friday and Sunday evenings are particularly good times to pick up yellow-stickered bargains. This is especially useful if you live close to a supermarket and can pop across late at night. When I lived across the road from a Tesco, at about eleven o’clock nearly everyone in my house went over to see what we could find! Then, we’d head back to our house ready to rustle up a storm.
Remember, the trick here is to only buy what you would actually eat. If you start buying bits you won’t use, then you’re not using this section right.
Before you head out the door equipped with your bags-for-life, make sure you don’t end up splashing your cash on impulse buys, things you don’t need, or food that will go off before you can eat them.
Decide what you’re going to cook for every meal. Then, write down all the ingredients you need. Finally, stuff the list in your pocket before you shop. This will cut down on random buys and the amount of food you might have otherwise wasted.
Make sure you have a snack before you go as well. It’s completely true that food shopping when you’re hungry will make you spend more, and buy more of the indulgent treats you don’t want.
Also make sure you avoid any supermarket tricks to make you buy more. Read these 8 sneaky tricks that supermarkets don’t want you to know.
If you have the time and the choice, then use price comparison websites. You can join the ‘Reduce your Supermarket Spend’ community on Facebook. With over 20,000 members, someone may be able to tell you the price of a product before you even leave the home. Otherwise, you’ll have to research prices manually.
The supermarket wars have been slowly driving down food prices this year. Schemes such as Tesco’s Brand Match and the Asda Price Guarantee are making it easier to make the most of your student loan – especially if you combine the schemes with coupons.
Traditional discount stores like Aldi and Lidl have upped their game, and you can often get top quality wine and luxury food products at wallet-friendly prices.
So, if you have the time and supermarkets be sure to shop around for the best deals.
If you love Thai takeaways and fancy recreating your favourite curry at home, or pore over glamorous exotic recipe books but despair over the long ingredient lists, then make sure that you venture to specialist shops instead of the supermarkets.
Asian supermarkets and street markets sell a wide range of spices, sauces and unusual veg at a much cheaper cost. You’re far more likely to find what you need at a lower price.
You can also stock up on essentials like rice by buying cheaply in bulk. All while treating yourself to big bags of seafood, such as prawns and scallops, which are of top quality but at an excellent price.
If you can’t find a specialist retailer near you, use websites like The Asian Cookshop to stock up on ingredients from across the world. Then, team up with like-minded flatmates to split the cost of delivery.
Read our other articles on how to reduce your food budget:
What do you think of our top tips to getting cheap food for students? Have you got other ideas? Let us know in the comment section below – we love hearing from you!