Food glorious food. It’s one of the most wonderful things about life. Nothing brings you satisfaction quite like having a delicious meal, I mean it’s human nature…we simply love to eat. That’s why when students first fly the nest, we are unprepared for, and quite frankly shocked at how willing we are to spend the majority of our maintenance loan on food. When living on your own, you very quickly face the realisation that supermarkets can be expensive, and that despite what you always thought, the fridge at home actually wasn’t magically refilling itself every week. Who knew ay?
When it comes to budgeting, this whole ‘needing food for survival’ thing can be somewhat annoying, especially when the weekly shop very quickly becomes one of the most tedious tasks in your to-do list. When I’m in Birmingham, the chore is usually made bearable by the fact that there is an Aldi just a short walk away. But being accustomed to shopping at this haven of bargains meant that the prices of food in France came as quite a shock to the system. A shop that would usually cost me around £30 in Aldi came to almost €60 here, almost inducing a mini heart attack in my first week of living in Toulouse.
As someone who generally likes to try and save when I can, I have adapted my food shopping habits over the years of being a student in order to eat well on a smaller budget. I must hold my hands up and admit that the frequency of my restaurant visits has increased drastically in the last few months, but I’m just going to blame that on my year abroad and the wonderfully irresistible French cuisine. Besides, how else will I be able to write a post on the BEST restaurants in Toulouse? That’s dedication to the blog if you ask me.
So in between all of these completely necessary meals out, I really try to ensure that I shop economically during the week. I may not be an expert but I do LOVE saving money, so I wanted to share my wisdom with with world…(well, with my followers at least).
DOUBLE OR NOTHING
If I could give just one tip in this entire blog post then it would be this one. Ever since I got the hang of cooking for myself I have been making double portions for dinner. I tend to make a lot of rice and pasta dishes which are so easy to make into two portions without having to use lots of ingredients. So, every night I make my dinner and then keep the second portion in a Tupperware box for another time. This technique has saved me SO much time and money because not only do you double your amount of dinners, but if you’re in a rush before going out somewhere, it’s so easy to reheat one of the dinners you had the week before!
P.s. this does not mean you need to have smaller dinners, I have used the technique for years and my portions are huge, just ask my flatmates…
THE FREEZER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Growing up, I learnt from the best (aka my mum) and she always taught me to freeze things. Now this routine is pretty much ingrained in my mind. It was only when my boyfriend seemed to be blown away by the notion that I realised not everybody has the same relationship with their freezer as I do.
If I ever buy meat, I put it straight in the freezer and then I don’t have to worry about the expiry date, this makes life much easier if you are planning ahead. This technique is also the perfect partner to my first tip. Whenever I double up my portions, I always put the second one in the freezer, which means I can keep it for ages and just enjoy it again whenever I want by chucking it in the microwave. Simple.
MENUS AREN’T JUST FOR RESTAURANTS
Okay so I’ll admit that the chalk board menu in my family kitchen at home might be a stretch too far for students (besides, lord knows that menu written on there hasn’t changed for three weeks). However, when it comes to shopping on a budget, planning your meals is essential.
I always try to sit down before I do a food shop and make a proper list, grouping together the items to show what meals they make. That way, I can visualise how far my list goes, plus it stops me from just buying everything in sight and letting it all eventually go mouldy and unused. Making a proper list and planning your meals can take 10-15 minutes of your day, but it reduces waste and actually saves you a lot of money in the long run!
BE A BASIC BITCH
When it comes to food shopping, basics are everything. Consider what things you use all the time, what are the staple ingredients of most of your meals? I tend to stock up on things like chopped tomatoes, rice, pasta, onions and stock cubes. These are things that cost little, last forever and go towards so many different meals.
Nobody wants to have to restock their entire fridge for each recipe. So it’s time to cook smart. By making meals that involve similar basic ingredients, you can save money and the effort of going back to the supermarket all the time.
CURB THE CRAVINGS
I think it’s a combination of my lack of sweet tooth, along with my gigantic portions that have stopped me from being big on snacking. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in the mood for it then I could eat a whole bar of Dairy Milk in one go, but otherwise it’s just not something I really do.
I think the importance of having filling, balanced meals cannot be overstated in general. But when it comes to budgeting, it’s also really important, because it reduces your need to buy snacks. At breakfast I tend to eat something filling like Weetabix, and then for lunch and dinner, I quite often have rice and pasta based meals. . Obviously everyone’s body is different in what they can and can’t eat, and many people want to avoid carbs altogether. But the premise of this point remains, do some research into filling meals that work for you and you’ll feel less of an urge to buy snacks. It may seem like you’re only saving a few quid but in the oh so wise words of Tesco, ‘every little helps’.
It actually doesn’t take that much to start making regular savings from your food shop. Obviously, when it comes to actually shopping, looking out for deals and the best value products sort of goes without saying…no time to be a snob as a student!
Implementing small tricks like these into your life can end up saving you a fair bit of money, meaning you have more to spend on things like clothes, makeup, travelling and going out. All extremely important and very necessary things. After all, food may be essential for survival, but these things are essential for living right??