If you’ve been a student for a while, you probably know that you can cut a few corners with your spending. Making a few sacrifices is all part of student life – no, you don’t need those new trainers, and yes, skipping that night out will save you a bit of money. The one thing you do have to buy is food. We all need to eat; it’s unavoidable.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to do your weekly shop like one of these real adults with a disposable income, so we’ve put together five tips for doing your grocery shop on a budget.
1. Buy Own-Brand Products
All the major supermarkets offer their own twist on the brands that you love at a fraction of the price. For example, the leading brand of baked beans would cost you something like €1.04, whereas their own-brand would only cost, say, €0.32 – that’s less than half the price (so you could cut the cost of your grocery shop in half by avoiding the big brands).
If you’re thinking "no way am I buying own-brand, they’re horrible", we’re going to let you in on a little secret – they’re virtually the same. In fact, many own-brand products are manufactured by the same companies that make your favourite brand, and they’re just packaged differently.
2. Don’t Waste Your Food
If you make a huge amount of food only to bin what you don’t eat, then you’re probably going to find yourself spending more on your weekly shop. You don’t just have to use it for lunch the next day either, because there are inventive ways to spice up a meal: add extra ingredients, throw in some herbs and spices, or turn the leftovers into something else entirely (for example, mashed potatoes and steamed veg can be turned into a creamy soup).
This is much easier to do if you cook from scratch, and having many raw ingredients to hand will help you turn yesterday’s meal into today’s lunch. Not to mention, you’ll save a load of money by making everything yourself – for example, as easy as a ready-made pasta packet is, you have to pay for the convenience.
3. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach
This one is common sense, really: going shopping when you’re hungry means you’re likely to buy more food than you would if you had already eaten. The major supermarkets employ a lot of sneaky tactics to make you buy more (keeping eggs in strange places is one way to get you to spend more time walking around the shop), so strolling past delicious snacks while you’re hungry makes it more likely that you’ll end up buying them.
What you might not know is that research suggests that hunger triggers the need to buy non-edible items as well as the things you can eat. Hunger activates the need to acquire something and because that might not necessarily be food, you could end up looking in your shopping bag and asking yourself what was I thinking?
4. You Don’t Have to Shop at the Big Three
When you think of doing your grocery shop, you probably only consider the larger supermarket chains, but you don’t have to limit yourself to these. Aldi and Lidl offer a cheaper alternative to the likes of Tesco, and these supermarkets don’t necessarily sacrifice quality for the sake of price either. You have probably heard that Aldi are releasing a three-litre bottle of prosecco for under €70 – that’s the equivalent of six bottles, so you might not have to sacrifice that night out after all.
We recommend buying a whole chicken for just €3.99, which you can then use to make five different meals through the week, including tacos, risotto and soup.
5. Shop for Deals
Another one of the supermarkets’ sneaky tricks is to pretend that they are offering you a good deal, when in reality you aren’t saving much at all. It’s best to arm yourself with your phone’s calculator while you shop, so that you can work out what deals are actually worth it.
At the end of each day, the supermarkets will scramble to generate last-minute profits, dropping the prices of products with shorter shelf-lives, so bargain-hunters like you can grab them at discounted prices. It’s not just items nearing their sell-by dates that go in the reduced section, either – damaged packaging also makes the cut, so you could land a tasty bargain.
Uninest Ireland: Giving You the Tips You Need to Get Through Uni
Managing your money as student can be difficult, and you’ll learn that you have to make a few sacrifices to get by. It can take some students the full three years to master the tricks that help you get ahead with your finances, so we thought we’d put together some advice to give you a head start. Take a look at our blog section for more ways to survive as a student.