This post was written by an external contributor. Lucy Skoulding details the best ways to pocket some spare cash when purchasing your food and drink.
University is often the first time that you are living completely independently from your families. It’s an exciting and important learning curve.
It’s also the first time that many people must manage all their money, schedules, and meals themselves. This can make for some very interesting concoctions in the kitchen.
Being unfamiliar with this can lead some people to take the easy route with food, always buying it out, getting ready meals, or just living on toast. But never fear! You can still eat delicious food, and not overspend on it.
Make your lunches
Making your own lunch is nearly always cheaper than buying it out, and usually healthier too (unless you make yourself ten nutella sandwiches). I discovered this the hard way when starting off in my first year of uni buying café paninis, before realising I could make my own food for a fraction of the price.
Slot making lunch into another kitchen activity, whether that’s making dinner the night before, or getting your caffeine hit in the morning because it will feel like less of a chore. The food doesn’t have to be boring, you could make salads, pastas, rice boxes, soup, sandwiches, and hot food. Websites like BBC Good Food have great lunch box ideas.
Find offers for eating out
If you fancy a meal out, you will always be able to find restaurant offers, from money off your meal to 2-for-1 deals from a specific menu. Eating out with friends is a lovely thing to do, and it doesn’t have to cripple your bank account.
Tastecards are great investments (sometimes they even come free with bank accounts) because they give you either 2-for-1 or 50% of all food at many different restaurants. Vouchercodes.com also has thousands of restaurant offers and allows you to search by location to find the ones nearest to you.
Shop late at night
One of my favourite university discoveries was the reduced section of supermarkets, especially when you go in just before the store is closing. Some supermarkets have food with reduced stickers throughout the store, whilst others bung it all in one section.
If you can get to the supermarket late at night, check out the reduced produce, as you can freeze most food so it doesn’t matter if it is going out of date. My best purchase was a whole birthday cake for 10p!
Don’t be wasteful
You should be conscious of wasting food anyway, but especially if you are trying to make your money go far. It’s very easy to waste food but try hard to get everything out of the food you buy.
Be experts in your food shop – know exactly when products go out of date and ensure you either eat or freeze them before they go off. Do batch cooks and then freeze the lot. This will save you time and money in the long run, as well as preventing you wasting.
Invest in a takeaway cup
A lot of people spend money on buying coffees out, myself included until recently. Investing in a good reusable takeaway cup (which aren’t actually that expensive) means you can make coffees at home, or get money off of coffees from many chain cafes. Plus, you’ll be living greener.
I recommend the Bodum travel mugs as they keep drinks hot for hours, but you can use anything you like. Depending on your preferences you could make coffees at home, or visit chains like Pret, who will give you 50p off of any drink if you use your own cup.
Go to markets
One of the benefits of living in London is that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by markets. And you can save a lot of money on food but shopping in them, plus you’re supporting local business by visiting.
Fresh fruit and vegetables from markets are often a lot bigger and better than their counterparts in supermarkets, yet you can get them cheaply. For instance, a punnet of grapes is £1 at my local market. Find out where your nearest market is, and visit it regularly if you can.
Host drinks evenings
Often the most popular yet most expensive items students spend their money on is alcohol. Even just buying a few drinks at a bar over the course of a night can set you back a significant amount, especially if you are studying in London. So why not stay in with drinks?
Suggest to your friends that you ditch the same old club night for a night in with drinks and snacks sometimes. You can make it fun – cocktail making, drinking games, a film night, or a murder mystery – but you can also sell it on its price. Picking up a bottle of alcohol each from the supermarket will be cheaper than drinking in bars.
The theme running through all of these points is to be prepared. If you know what you will need during the day in terms of food and drink, you can ensure you get it in the cheapest possible way. Be savvy, don’t waste anything, and always be on the look-out for good deals.