Student Food Budgeting

Here we aim to provide some simple tips on how you can save money every time you go out to do food shopping.

A bit of planning and self-control go a long way toward becoming a savvy shopper, allowing you to have more funds left over at the end of the month to spend on other essential things.

How and where to shop

Before leaving for the supermarket, make a list of the things you need.

When you get there, make sure you only buy what’s on the list and nothing else. Don’t be tempted to buy items on impulse just because they catch your eye.

Also, don’t purchase more than you can afford – it’s a good idea to take cash with you, and only enough to cover what you need to buy so you can’t spend any more.

Taking a credit or debit card makes it easier to buy things you don’t need.

Carrying a calculator round the shop with you to add up prices as you go along may help you stick to your budget too.

Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry either, or you’ll need up with unnecessary items going through the checkout!

Don’t forget the supermarket isn’t the only place in town that sells food!

Check out local speciality stores, where items such as rice are sold in much larger quantities so you can save more buying in bulk. 

You may find cheaper fruit and vegetables at local grocery market stalls and farmers’ markets, so find out what day(s) of the week these are on so you can visit.

If you go toward the end of the day, its’ more likely you’ll pick up a few bargains! Also, look out for special offers at the supermarket, but only buy them if they are things you will actually eat, otherwise they will be wasted.

Remember that whilst tinned and dried foods will last a long time, fresh produce doesn’t. So only buy amounts of fruit and vegetables that you know you can eat before they start going off, otherwise you’ll be wasting your money!


To help you save those precious funds, it’s a good idea to make a list of your non-perishable supplies, such as tinned foods, dried foods and any items that can be kept in the freezer for a while, and then work out roughly how much they will cost you.

Once you have budgeted for these, work out an amount on top of this that you can afford to spend each week on fresh fruit and veg, and other perishable goods such as milk and bread.

As soon as you’ve received your maintenance money for the month, go out and do a big shop of non-perishable items, so you’re stocked up for the next 4 weeks.

Remember to stick to your budget that you should have already worked out! Include your weekly allowance of perishable goods in this shop too, again making sure you don’t go over-budget on this.

It’s cheaper if you buy larger packs of items such as cheese, yoghurt, pasta and rice, as well as packs of 6 or 8 tinned food, such as baked beans and chopped tomatoes (rather than buying individual cans).

To help you keep within your budget, plan out what meals you’ll have in advance.

This way you’ll know how much of each item you need to buy, and won’t end up throwing food away.

Bulk cooking

Another way to save money is to do your cooking in bulk. This just involves making a little extra every so often, then putting it in the freezer until needed.

Don’t always assume that all you have to do is double the amount of ingredients, particularly herbs, spices and other seasonings, otherwise your dish may not taste very pleasant!

It’s better to bulk cook several dishes to give you some variety over the course of the week. For example, you could alternate between shepherd’s pie and lasagne. Other dishes good for cooking in bulk include:

  • Fish Pie
  • Cottage Pie
  • Casseroles
  • Curries
  • Pastas/spaghettis
  • Meatballs
  • Soup

If you plan on doing some bulk cooking, be sure you have enough ingredients in stock, as the dish will require larger amounts than for your normal, individual serving.

Don’t forget to stock up on some freezer bags/containers, aluminium foil and foil trays to store all your food as individual portions.

It’s better if your containers are also oven-proof and microwaveable too.

Further information

For more tips and advice on student cooking, please see: