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Keeping up with the cost of living spotlight on food costs

Keeping up with the cost of living spotlight on food costs

You will have seen lots of information in the news about the rising cost of living. Read on to get some ideas about what you can do to save money on your food bills.

The cost of living is rising fast and while you may not be able to reduce some of your costs such as your rent or travel, you will hopefully be able to make savings in some areas. Food prices have risen exponentially in recent months but despite this is still an area that most of us can make some savings in.

Why are food bills rising?

Depending on which report you read, the cost of food has risen somewhere in the region of 10% to 14% in the last few months. This is being driven by what can only be described as a 'perfect storm' of increasing energy prices, rising fertiliser prices, avian bird flu, high temperatures and a lack of rainfall in the summer and a shortage in the labour market in some agricultural areas. While 10% may not sound like too much, many food items that lots of us would class as cheaper options have increased significantly more than this such as milk, pasta, potatoes, cereal, eggs, cheese and butter.

What can we do about these increasing costs?

Now we know what is happening in relation to food prices, what if anything can we do to keep our costs under control? The best way to save money on food is to reduce or eliminate waste by planning what you are going to eat and only buy what you need. Plan your meals around basic store cupboard ingredients that have increased in price but are healthy and still relatively good value for money such as rice, pasta and pulses. Check your cupboards before you go and take a shopping list so you are not buying what you already have.

While this may sound quite straightforward, we know in reality it isn't. As humans most of us want instant gratification, meaning we will forego a future benefit (saving money in this example) for something that gives us joy now (a takeaway or night out maybe). So having a meal plan and the ingredients is only half of the story as you also need to have the motivation and resolve to stick to your plan in order to achieve your goals. Just think about this briefly when you are tempted to buy something you don't need. Giving yourself a moment to consider a purchase, whatever it may be, can really help.

Now we have done the psychology part, here are some tips to save money on your food.

  • Go through your bank statements since the start of term and check exactly what you are spending on food and takeaways so you can see where your money is going. This is not to make you feel guilty but for you to learn more about your budget so be honest with yourself.
  • Learn to cook a few basic things from scratch such as a pasta sauce (will stretch to many meals), a veggie curry or chilli (even nicer after it has been in the freezer) or hearty soup that are all easy and cheap to make.
  • Check the prices in the supermarket as you shop and remember the cheaper options are normally near the bottom of the shelves with the more expensive ones at eye level.
  • Don't shop at the local mini market near to your student accommodation unless essential as these are likely to be more expensive.
  • Batch cooking and freezing is always a great money saving tip if you have a freezer. This will stop you buying ready meals or takeaways (expensive and not healthy). You also only have to shop for ingredients for one or two meals.
  •  Take your lunch to uni with you if possible and if you love hot drinks, invest in a decent thermos cup and take a hot drink with you. Even doing this a few times per week can save you a lot of money over the year.
  • While we are all a bit obsessed with the yellow reduced stickers in the supermarket, they can in fact trick us into buying more than we actually need and, in some cases, if we don't use them straight away, these items will just end up in the bin. Look at the reduced section but only buy things you will eat or can use in another way referring to your meal plan. The reduced banoffee pie may seem like a bargain at 2, but that 2 will cover the ingredients for a pasta sauce that will last you much longer.
  • Try to reduce the amount of meat you use; meat free Mondays are really popular, and pulses offer a cheaper and healthier source of protein than meat. While it is very tempting, try to avoid simply swapping meat for vegetarian options e.g. veggie sausages are a similar price to meat sausages.


Check out what your university is offering in relation to cheaper food options. Some are offering low-cost meals, free breakfasts or hot drinks. Check out your student union or student support for what is on offer or coming soon.

Revisit your budget

If you find your costs are increasing over what you had planned to spend, you should revisit your budget as a matter of urgency before costs get out of hand. Check if you can make any savings elsewhere or increase your income in any way maybe picking up an extra shift in work. Don't forget lots of unis have job shops and you may be able to get a job on campus.

If you need help speak to someone in your university, either in the careers or job shop or in the student support team.

Worrying about money

All universities have support staff you can talk to in confidence about your money, and most universities have hardship funds you can apply for if you need additional financial support. You are not alone so if you need help you just need to ask.


Nosh Books
Good student friendly recipes and a great app you can download for free

Money Saving Expert
Information about saving money and budgeting

Save the Student
Money saving ideas including using your freezer

Love Food Hate Waste
Promoting cheap and easy recipes and reducing food waste

BBC Good Food
Some slow cooker recipes that are easy to do

By Lynne Condell - Student Money Advice Specialist

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