The average student spends nearly 30% of their monthly budget on food, and this expense is taking its toll. We've ranked the most affordable supermarkets to help you keep your grocery budget in check.
In the face of the country's current cost of living crisis, 82% of students worry about making ends meet, and 52% have even considered dropping out because of financial stress. With these affordable shopping lists and cost-saving tips, we hope we can offer some helpful advice to students struggling with money worries.
Top Student-Friendly Supermarkets in the UK
If you want to control your grocery budget, then Asda, Aldi and Lidl are your best bets. At Asda, you can spend under £20 on an average student shopping basket if you buy from their "Just Essentials" range. This cost estimate includes all the regular staples like bread, milk, fruit and veg – and of course, the student's best friend, coffee.
Here's a breakdown of the three cheapest supermarkets on our list and how much you can expect to pay per item.
Food is the second-biggest expense for students, making up almost 30% of the average monthly budget. The average student spends £27 a week on food, but where you choose to shop can make a big difference and save you valuable pounds.
For example, cutting your grocery expenses down to £20 would save you £7 a week. That might not sound like a lot, but it adds up to £28 in savings over a 4-week month and £336 over 12 months.
More Cost-Saving Tips to Chop Up those Grocery Expenses
Choosing an affordable supermarket and buying store-brand products are great ways to reduce your weekly food expenses. Here are 10 more tips to help you stretch your budget further.
1. Plan ahead
Make a meal plan and a grocery list before you do your shopping. This will help you to stay focused and buy only what you need.
2. Learn to cook
Figuring out the essentials of cooking is easier than ever, with a huge variety of online tutorials at your fingertips. Ensure you know how to assemble a few simple meals from scratch. Choosing easy "go-to" dishes will take some of the hassle out of cooking and save you the cost of takeaways or ready-made meals.
3. Make your meals in bulk
Cook a big batch of food at the weekend and freeze it in smaller portions to eat during the week. This means you'll have food ready and waiting for you on busy days, plus you won't get stuck with wilting groceries sitting in your fridge.
4. Shop strategically
Did you know that when you shop can be as important as where you shop? Buying groceries when you're hungry almost guarantees you'll spend more on food than you need. Shopping when feeling flush (e.g. the day you get paid a salary or student loan) also means you're more likely to overspend. Be smart about your weekly grocery runs; don't shop on an empty stomach or join the crowds shopping on payday. Doing your shopping in the late afternoon can also help you save, as supermarkets are more likely to start offering reduced or clearance prices on unsold perishable goods.
5. Switch to online shopping
Most students already shop online for clothes, tech and study supplies, so why should groceries be any different? Ordering online does include an extra delivery cost, but it can save you money in other ways. It's easier to compare product prices side-by-side, and it cuts out the temptation to make those extra "impulse purchases" that often happen when you're at the supermarket. Some stores even offer online-only discounts and specials. Shopping from home will also save you bus or taxi fare.
6. Give "Meatless Mondays" a try
Research shows that vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians typically spend less on groceries than those with fully omnivorous diets. That means you can save some cash by going vegan or 'flexitarian' – set aside one or two days a week when you avoid meat and eat veggie-based meals instead.
7. Buy seasonal produce
When buying fruit and veg, you can cut costs by focusing on the stuff that's UK-grown and in season. This is better for your budget and for the planet. As a bonus, local in-season produce tends to be fresher and tastier than imported or out-of-season items.
8. Look out for student discounts, rewards and cashback apps
Many supermarkets today have loyalty cards and apps that allow you to earn discounts and get cash back on your purchases. University towns that are geared towards students also typically have special offers and discounts available for those studying at the local campus. Your uni website should have the inside info on your town's student deals.
9. Give and take community support
There are some great websites and apps making it easier for communities to help each other out. For example, Olio connects people who have spare food to give away, with others nearby neighbours who don't have enough. Too Good to Go lets local restaurants sell their unsold food at discounted prices, to prevent waste and help locals on a budget. Food banks also offer some relief, and around 10% of students say they have used one at some time during the uni year. Some universities offer cost-saving meal purchase plans, and the University of Kent even provides emergency food packages to struggling students. Join a local website or community program that lets you give help when you can, and receive help when you need it most.
10. Include some treats in your budget
Being frugal doesn't mean being miserable! Add the occasional affordable treat to your grocery basket – whether it's a snack that reminds you of home, or a fun new ingredient you've wanted to experiment with when you cook.
As a student, getting a great deal on rent makes a big difference to your uni experience. Find UK student accommodation to suit all budgets, so you can focus on your studies without unnecessary financial stress.