How to master grocery shopping on a povo student budget

December 07, 2016
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Gritting your teeth and peeking at the dwindling digits sitting in your bank account is a painful exercise when you have to take into account how much will be cut out for things like rent, insurance and sanity saving alcohol.

Often when we budget out our weeks or months, we tend to neglect the little expenses that get us by - like food… that's a pretty important one.

For all those battling students out there too tired or stingy to get their groceries done, here are a few handy hints to make sure that you don't actually have to eat sleep for dinner.

Shopping list, yes. Impulse buys, no.

If the choice between paying rent this month or being homeless rests upon your ability to resist the magnificence of double coat Tim Tams, you should be writing a shopping list.

It's the easiest and most cost effective way to make sure you're getting only what you need, but it has the added bonus of keeping the share house food situation democratic.

When everyone has a say on what the food money is being spent on, then it can be split fairly and suits everyone's needs and budget.

The only thing you have to stress about now is finding out who ate the Mi Goreng off your shelf in the cupboard.

Are you really hungry though?

There are three things that will have you eating through your food supply: thirst, boredom… and actually being hungry.

To make sure you're keeping your weekly shopping expenses at a minimum, drink some water and rip through a Sudoku (or actually study), before you decide whether you're going to chow down.

… and no, sleep is not a suitable meal alternative if it turns out you actually are hungry.

The supermarket hunting ground

Every supermarket visit should have this spot in mind: the discount section. Every grocery store has one; whether it's a rack, fridge space or shelf - there will be low cost, low expiry date goodies for the bargaining.

It's the perfect place to lock down a meal or two for the next few days whilst keeping expenses on the low low. It's still important to check the date and whether or not it's actually much of a saving before taking it to the checkout.

Shop it and swap it

Much like Mi Goreng, vodka Red Bulls and not going to lectures – ingredient substitution is a staple of the uni student lifestyle.

Steak? Economy mince.

Mac & Cheese? Penne pasta and melted cheese slices.

Finding your go-to ingredient is essential and the most versatile of which is the glorious egg.

The egg has breakfast, lunch and dinner covered. It does omelettes, quiches and hard-boiled snacks. It's filling, healthy, cheap(ish) and goes with everything.

Your freezer should be your favourite housemate

Seriously, it can save you so much money.

Not only can frozen bread last a lot longer and become toast pretty much instantly, but for us students who want nothing else than to come home and pass out immediately, it is a handy space to store those quick microwavable meals in bulk.

Whether you are storing some frozen meals for later or looking to zap a pie in the microwave after a long day of uni/work/both, it'll save you cash in the long-term.

The most useful part of having a freezer is using zip-lock bags for single portion meals after having a decent cooking session so there isn't any wastage when you go to have leftovers.

Harrison Johnstone

A country kid at heart with city slicking aspirations in his head, Harrison is an aspiring journalist, video editor and human being.

Image: Bradley Stemke, Flickr Creative Commons license