As students, we all know that every penny counts. So, why waste money on grocery shopping when you don’t have to?
Here are my tips on how to save on your food purchases whether at the supermarket, or on the go:
- 10% off at Co-Op – use your Totum student discount card at The Co-Op supermarket where you will receive 10% off everything you buy except cigarettes and petrol. You can read more about this in my article about student discount. And yes, this also includes alcohol so it’s an absolutely fantastic offer for students.
- Loyalty cards – several supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have loyalty cards that you should take advantage of. They all operate slightly differently, but it’s worth you having one for each to benefit from what they all offer.
- Don’t shop for food when hungry – it may sound obvious but grocery shopping when you’re hungry is a bad idea. That rumbling tummy and the delicious smells from the in-store bakery send signals to your brain which stop you thinking rationally. The overwhelming need for fuel will cause you to spend on what you don’t absolutely need. So, always buy your groceries after a meal.
- Choose your supermarket wisely – it is important that you don’t just shop at your most convenient outlet but that you shop around for the best possible prices. There are several supermarket comparison sites, my favourite of which being My Supermarket. You can experience some serious savings by just entering what you want to buy online and finding where the best deals are, it might take a bit of time but is well worth the effort. Lidl and Aldi are obvious options for discounted groceries and if you haven’t already tried them I seriously recommend you do your next weekly shop at one of them. You will be amazed by the high quality and low price, particularly for fruit and vegetables and the range and diversity of items available is incredibly impressive.
- Multi-buys and BOGOFs – clearly, bulk buying can be a great idea but only if you will definitely use the number of items you are required to purchase to benefit from the deal. It may be worth you chipping in with your house mates if deals require large quantities, but many offers are available as BOGOF (buy one, get one free). Don’t get too tempted by these deals though – remember only buy what you need. Just because there is an offer available, it’s not going to save you money if you honestly won’t use the items.
- Reduced items – keep an eye on supermarket colleagues who are marking down items and follow them to see what they are about to mark down next (don’t worry they are used to this sort of canny shopper behaviour!). Always know the ‘reduced aisle’ location in your supermarket of choice. There can be some serious mark downs at the end of the day when ‘use by dates’ are coming to an end and the company needs to get rid of that stock. You can always buy items and put them straight in the freezer too if they are suitable for freezing, as long as you know you have space and are sure you will use the food.
- Groupon – I have recently been sent several deals from Groupon with offers to buy a £10 supermarket voucher for £5. Clearly a great deal but only available by invitation and there are limitations about how many can be bought. So, sign up to Groupon and you should receive some great deals. There are also frequent food offers that are not by invitation making it definitely worth a regular check. Put the app on your phone too to check deals as you’re shopping.
- Coupons/vouchers and cash back – don’t be afraid or embarrassed to use coupons, but only use them if you need the specified items. There are several websites offering printable discounts which are certainly worth checking to see if there are any offers on items you need. I like Freestuff and Vouchercloud – I’ve tried some of their vouchers and they’ve worked well. There are also apps available which serve a similar purpose such as VoucherCodes – I rarely find supermarket deals on here but they sometimes come up, there is a Sainsbury’s code on there right now but I’ve not tried it’s effectiveness. Quidco offers you cash back on your online purchases so can help if you order home deliveries from Asda for example.
- Buy own brand not brand names – the difference in price between a supermarket’s own branded product and that of a well known, named brand can be phenomenal. The quality however between the two is rarely noticeable. It is always worth trying an own brand product before you reach for a familiar name. I have found this is especially the case for items such as soups, tinned vegetables, sauces and cheese. A huge saving can be made by making a switch.
- Look out for ‘use by’ and ‘best before dates’ – and know the difference between the two. You must always check the dates on every item you buy to ensure they last as long as possible, this will help you avoid wastage. I constantly reach to the back of the shelf when supermarket shopping as the items with the closest ‘use by’ date are generally at the front. You should also remember the difference between the two date code terms; ‘use by’ means that if the item is consumed past the printed date it may be harmful to your health, however ‘best before’ means that if you eat it after the stamped date the quality of the product may be effected, but it may not necessarily be harmful.
- Don’t buy on impulse – make a list and plan your week. Planning is vital to help you save money when grocery shopping. Decide at the beginning of the week what you’re going to eat, make a list and only buy the items on the list – nothing more.
- Don’t buy food at university or college – take a packed lunch and a flask. I bought myself a lunch box when I started uni and I thought I’d be embarrassed to use it, but on my first day I noticed there were more students with packed lunches than there were buying expensive sandwiches and snacks from the catering establishments. At Robert Gordon University we have numerous microwaves in the catering halls, so if you want to bring something to heat up for lunch you can easily do so. Check if your uni or college have similar facilities and take advantage of them. A flask is a great idea for your morning caffeine fix too, it will save you a fortune on expensive take away options.
- Use ‘Scan and Go’ to calculate your spend – I always use a ‘scan and go’ option where possible when supermarket shopping because I can watch the total spend easily on the handset and this seriously curtails my spending. If I’m getting close to my personal spending limit I can always put something back that I don’t really need.
- Buy frozen food, especially vegetables – it’s a fact that frozen vegetables are mostly cheaper than their fresh equivalent and will obviously last longer thus avoiding needless waste.
- Apple pay and contactless payment options – If you use Apple pay and other contactless payment options you have to limit your spending to £30 in most supermarkets and with the majority of providers (worth checking with your particular shop and bank). Challenge yourself to spend under £30 when you shop and this will stop you from making impulse purchases. According to The National Student Money Survey, last year students spent on average £21.23 per week on grocery shopping so limiting yourself to contactless payment options is most definitely do-able and advisable.
- Don’t ever shop with children – pester power is absolutely a real thing. Whether you have your own children or young relatives/friends, NEVER take them grocery shopping with you. They will pester you when you’re busy concentrating on your purchases – they know your weaknesses and they will always win. You will leave the supermarket having bought far more than you needed and spent way over your budget. Try and shop alone where possible.
- Remember your re-useable bags – not only is remembering your ‘bag for life’ important for the environment but it’s good for your pocket too. Some supermarkets are charging upward of 20p for a simple carrier bag and this soon adds up if you forget them every time you shop. I know they can be a pest to carry and take up space in your own bag but if you follow the trick in the video below, you can simply fold a few and pop them in your pockets. This has saved me a fortune and is wonderful trick that will revolutionise your life – you’ll never need to buy a bag again! It’s also worth knowing that they’re not called ‘bag for life’ without reason, don’t be afraid to ask for a replacement if one of yours breaks.
I really hope that by following my tips you’ll manage to save some money this semester on your groceries.
If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. Please either leave a message below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Thanks for reading.
The Voice of The Mature Student Tribe