University can be expensive. The fees, the rent, the nights out; all these things are a strain on the wallet. Then there is the ‘food-shop’ to think about and, as we all know, this can be costly too. It need not be.
Buy in bulk. This means eating together, as much as possible.
In university halls of residence, shared kitchens are common. So, cooking and eating as a large group may well have already become the norm. If you have engendered a strong culture of communal eating whilst in your first year, you are on your way, financially speaking, to a frugal year.
Extending the life of bulk-bought food is vital. There will no doubt be the occasion where, as a group, your housemates have been partying too much and, therefore, not eating communally. To ensure that you don’t waste too much, store it appropriately. It is a common misconception the fridge is the best policy for fruit and veg, and that packaged items will always last longer than those that aren’t.
Stick to these rules:
1. Potatoes should stay cool, dry and in the dark. That means in a paper bag if at all possible in a cold spot in the house; that shouldn’t be hard, as student housing is not exactly synonymous with turning on the central heating – for fear of the cost, of course.
2. Bags of vegetables rot like crazy so, avoid them. Buy whole heads of lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage – that sort of thing. If you want loose leaf spinach, rocket, or anything like that, do something inventive with it – make a sauce or pesto – and freeze it.
3. When it comes to bread and other similar perishables, always freeze half a loaf. We all know how often half a loaf finds itself sad and mouldy. Well, don’t let it. And, if it does go a bit funny - if it moulds or goes steal - then make bread and butter pudding for your kitchen commune.
4. When it comes to using the freezer it is important to keep things in order. Labelling and good organisation in the freezer department are key to preventing this kind of wastage. Every time a packet of mince goes in the freezer’s bottom drawer, re-label it. Magnify its, ridiculously tiny, ‘use by’ date. Remember: The ‘best before’ and the ‘sell by’ dates are irrelevant for your purposes here. On a strict financial regime, such a notion – that of considering when mince is at its ‘best’ - never comes into play.
Buying in bulk may be key but, as we all know, keeping to budget is another matter. Be organised. Since the institution of budgeting apps, being able to avoid a burgeoning overdraft need not be the preserve of the ultra-bookish. Keeping the food-shop to budget can be easy and for everyone. Apps such as, PocketGuard and the Mint Budgeting App can help you keep track exactly what you spend and, so long as you pay for your shopping with a card, these apps will automatically keep a handle on your food spending habits.
As well as budgeting, you can also save some extra pounds at the supermarket with coupons and vouchers. Some people even take it to another level, with extreme couponing; basically collecting coupons wherever they can, as well as using price matching and cashback, to squeeze down the price of their food shop as much as possible. This might sound awfully time consuming, but once you’ve used the tricks a few times, you can get the hang of it and might even start to enjoy yourself, once you calculate how much you have saved. Check out Student Money Saver’s guide to extreme couponing.
Pickup Unwanted Restaurant Food
If no one within your clique is particularly expert in the kitchen, communal eating can get a little boring. This is understandable. After all, we can’t all be Jamie Oliver. When this feeling - that of, ‘oh no, not another spaghetti Bolognese’ - begins to creep into the collective mindset of your kitchen commune, here is what to do. Visit www.toogoodtogo.com. You will find loads of local restaurants and cafes waiting for you to pick up their spare and unwanted delights that would otherwise be wasted. Pickup times are usually late afternoon or late evening but the food is, generally, of decent quality but on offer at rock-bottom prices.