Groceries on a Grant, Lunches on a Loan, erm, Breakfasts on a Bursary? – I’ll get my coat…

Trolleys

Fresher Food – There are loads of cookbooks that persuade students that they can make wonderful and cheap meals every day. Sometimes the recipes might sound pretty quick to make. Sometimes. But for many students, they still want to grab the fast(er) food and speed up the whole process so they can spend time on other things. So how can you buy whatever you want, including ready meals (but easy does it!), when you’re on a budget? Well, it’s not always simple, but if you’re willing to put in the initial effort, there are plenty ways you can batter down the bills:

1. Become a Freegan!Guardian / Guardian Blog / Aimhigher / Freegan Girl / David Rowan / BBC News / Times Online

2. Supermarket loyalty can BOGOF – If you are close enough to several supermarkets, use them all for their special offers. The more shops you can check, the better. Check out most supermarket offers online at Mad About Bargains. It’s great when you see how much is there at half price, Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF), and similar. If you’re a very picky eater this might not work. But if you’re willing to sacrifice a very particular shopping list, you’ll get a lot more for your money if you only look at special offers. There are even offers on alcohol, so try to grab those instead. In fact, try buying nothing but offers in each of the supermarkets. That’s how I did it. With so many BOGOFs, I’d sometimes walk out with double the shopping of my housemates, but had spent the same amount of money. Carrying it all back home was a hassle, mind you!

3. If you can’t beat ’em, list ’em – If you really must write a shopping list with specific products (or if you only want to use one supermarket per shop), check where the product is cheapest (I found a lot of things were always on offer in at least one of the supermarkets). Also, buy the cheapest brand there. Unless you’re an academic food snob who wishes to max out on the credit card from day 1, don’t worry. Sometimes you’re getting exactly the same food as the more expensive product, just with crappier packaging. And if it doesn’t taste quite as good as the brand you’re used to, is the slightly better taste REALLY worth two or three times the price?

4. Coupon collecting – You’ve probably seen various food product coupons in magazines and completely ignored them. If it’s for some brand of butter that you couldn’t care less about, for instance, you’d just turn the page. But what some of the supermarkets do is take the money-off vouchers and coupons, even if you haven’t purchased the product. They don’t all do it, plus it depends on who is serving you sometimes, but if you’re happy to try it each time, it’s worth a go. It might only mean a 60p here and a 40p there, but it’s still money better in your pocket. It all adds up.

5. Meals with housemates – Now this one depends on your circumstances. It might be super easy or it could be nigh on impossible. But you’re sure to get a good selection of meals if you can gang together with some of your housemates to take turns making meals. That way, you’d be able to have some of your meals cooked for you and you’d only need to take one turn ever week or so to do the cooking. AND…it’s usually a lot cheaper! If you can pull this one off, it’s a fantastic thing to do.

If you spend, say, £25 a week on your shopping, you’d be surprised just how much you’d get if four or five of you contributed £20 each and did one big shop for all your meals together.

6. Think BIG – If you can’t do the clubbing together thing for whatever reason, how about making a meal to last you three or four portions? That way, you can still look to cheaper grub, but divide it into fridge/freezer portions for yourself. Only thing is, you might get bored with the same food over several days. But sometimes when you’re trying to save money for better things…

7. DON’T IMPULSE BUY! – Just don’t. Yes, the sweets and goodies are by the till for a reason. No, you don’t have to succumb to it.

8. Go down the market – Find out if there’s a market that comes to town on a regular basis and make the most of their (usually) cheaper prices on fruit and veg. Similarly, if there is a farm shop nearby, they might have decent prices on fruit and veg, especially if you buy in bulk and combine some of the tips above. If you like a bit of a sweet snack sometimes, a load of different fruits might be a cheaper and healthier way to eat, rather than fatty and sugary snacks. I know that’s boring and you’ve probably heard that advice time and time again, but it’s true. And you know it!

9. Do your main weekly shopping AFTER you’ve had a good meal – You won’t be tempted to pick up half the amount of stuff you might have done on an empty stomach.

10. Buy fruit and veg loose, not packed – You pay loads extra for packaging, and excess packaging is getting a hard time in the press anyway at the moment. If you buy loose, you can save money AND tell people you’re doing it for the love of the environment!

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