For most of us, starting university means experiencing a lot of things for the first time, and that includes managing your own finances. Whilst you can be a maths whiz or know the periodic table like the back of your hand, studies have shown that majority of the students are baffled by the idea of financial literacy. According to the National Student Money Survey the proportion of money spent by the average student in the UK on food is the second highest in its total expenses, with rent coming up at the top. Therefore in this article, I would like to explore with you the art of budgeting when it comes to food – grocery shopping edition.
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail, you probably hear that a lot but oh well, it is a cliche for a reason. It applies closely to everything we do in life, from finishing your coursework in time to…… grocery shopping! Unsurprisingly, the best way to ensure an economical shopping trip at your local supermarket is to plan your weekly meals. But of course, you can always start out small by planning for the next 3 to 4 days if 7 days feels too far ahead. After you have done that, then the fun part comes in: shopping time! But wait! Before that, make sure to list down all the ingredients needed for your carefully crafted menu so you can get everything in one trip, then try to actually follow it this time. The trick here is to bring just the right amount of cash so there’s no wiggle room for that extra candy bar lying enticingly at the counter.
There is strength in numbers, and there is also money to be saved in bulk buying! Supermarkets often offer attractive bulk purchase deals and there are a few things that are definitely worth stocking up in the long run. Whilst you have probably heard about buying toilet paper rolls and laundry detergent in bulk, other things like rice, pasta, cereal and granola should also be in the list owing to its long shelf life and ability to be stored easily. It might seem insignificant to your money saving New Year’s resolutions right now, but I promise you that it adds up over time if you are patient and consistent enough. On top of that, if you are living with flatmates then pooling money in a pot together for bulk buying can go a long way in trimming your monthly expenses. Take note however, as stocking up does not give the green light for everything that sits on the shelf of a supermarket. Liquid bleach for instance, with a total shelf life of 12 months including the date of manufacture, loses its effectiveness over time especially if it is stored under high temperature or in the sunlight. Buying in huge quantity condiments like mustard or ketchup that goes bad a few months after it is opened, or baking supplies such as flour that retains and attracts moisture over time, probably requires a second thought too.
Myths about Expiration Dates
In 2016, the United Nations (UN) published that 8 million UK residents are food insecure, equivalent to the population of the whole of London. Meanwhile, it was estimated that a shocking 250,000 tonnes of food go to waste every year in the UK, which is approximately £650m worth of meals, when most of them are still edible. So the question is, why do people throw away money, in the form of perfectly consumable food?
One way of explaining this is the ongoing confusion surrounding food expiry dates. According to the National Health Service (NHS), “”Best before” dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it does not mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.” In other words, it indicates the best of quality and not necessarily the safety date as we perceive it to be. In fact, most food that you throw away is indeed more safe for consumption than you might think otherwise, especially frozen food or shelf-stable food. That being said, you might want to take a pause to reconsider before getting rid of that frozen pizza of yours. On another note, the NUS also advises not to use “any food or drinks “after the end of the “Use by” date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk.” In line with that, you should always be mindful and look out for the smell, texture or flavour of the food before instantaneously devouring it in hope to be more frugal. A bonus for reading up this far, you can buy groceries online that are sold at a discounted rate at ApprovedFood – one of the biggest online sellers of clearance food and drink.
Finally, food waste produced every year aggregates up to one third of the global supply – an amount sufficient to feed up to 2 billion people in the world as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Therefore, doing your part will help cut food waste that will in turn lead to lower costs, so you will have to worry less about your finances, a win-win indeed!