Talking Points

How to work out a food budget as a student

One of the toughest parts of being a student, or indeed, being an independent adult in any capacity is keeping your spending in check.

And considering that food shopping is generally a big part of our budget, it’s one of the most important expenditures to get right.

With that in mind, here’s some tips for sorting out a proper food budget.

1. Have a system

Now, this is the trickiest part because your system will depend on how you like to eat and what best works for you.

For example, the simplest and most common method is probably ‘the big shop’, where you write down absolutely everything you think you will need, go to the shops once a week and buy everything in one go.

However, some people like shopping for what they need that day and instead give themselves a daily budget for a bit more freedom.

Some people like a halfway point, where they get all their breakfast and lunch shopping done in one big shop and then get whatever they’re having for dinner based on what they want that day.

Whatever works for you is best: as long as it doesn’t end up with you overspending, you can consider that a successful shopping system. On top of that though, there’s a few other things you’ll want to keep in mind.

2. Give yourself additional treat money

Everyone who has ever sat down to write a shopping budget has the best of intentions, and many are perhaps a little optimistic with their spending habits.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t cut back where possible but be realistic with yourself and put some money aside for the odd treat or two: a few beers, snacks, whatever you enjoy.

The important thing here is to put that money aside and count it as part of your general budget, so you don’t find yourself going without financially when you choose to indulge yourself every now and again.

3. Learn to cook

One of the most important things anyone can do to save money and eat well is learning to cook. Now, we’re not expecting you to become Gordon Ramsay or anything, but everyone can easily learn five simple and cheap meals to cook on rotation to cover most of the week.

This will save a huge amount of money from the usual quick and easy options of takeaways and microwave meals. But we know what you’re thinking, isn’t cooking itself expensive? Well, that depends…

4. Don’t just get smart with shopping, but get smart with ingredients as well

Cooking a meal can cost a lot or very little depending on what you’re making. The good news is that the meals which cost very little are often just as tasty as more expensive options.

It’s just about being smart with your ingredients. For example, consider making more vegetarian meals because meat is usually the most expensive part of a dish. Stocking up on spices may be a bit of an investment at first, but you’ll soon find that the majority of sauce-based dishes now cost a pittance per portion.

These are just a couple of suggestions, but rest assured, cooking is both cheap, easy and delicious when done correctly.

5. Take advantage of your freezer

Food wastage is one of the easiest ways to push up the cost of your budget. However, this can almost always be avoided if you remember to freeze those ingredients you’re not using. Not only that but planning to use your freezer in advance can save money as well.

If you’re making a meal, you’ll often find that you can only buy ingredients in a larger portion than you need or that it is cheaper to buy in bulk.

Instead of wasting some ingredients or eating everything then and there to avoid wastage, cook a larger portion of the meal and freeze everything you don’t need for later.

This saves money for two reasons: it makes the overall cost of ingredients cheaper and it gives you a quick and easy option for busy days, so you don’t end up getting a takeaway due to not having time to cook.

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