Cooking on the cheap

Cooking can be expensive but this page will save you hundreds of pounds every term.

If you buy any of these you shouldn’t be called a student & quite frankly you’re an embarrassment 😉

  • Pre-made quick meals (i.e. ready meals, pastas pots, salads, sandwiches etc)
  • Small packets of anything dried (i.e. pasta, rice, noodles, cereal etc)
  • Buying tinned, canned or preserved food when they’re not on heavy promotion.
  • Singular packets/bars (crisps, biscuits, chocolate, sweets etc)
  • Meals out (unless special occasion or you really can’t be arsed to cook)

Things that all student should do:

  • Home cook wherever possible, this will give a great saving + will generally be healthier for you which will likely improve memory function and long term health.
  • Buy cheaper alternatives i.e. buy basic tinned tomatoes and spruce up with herbs, spices, garlic, sauces & other add ins to make an equivalent of super high quality tomatoes.
  • Buy in bulk & we’re not talking about buying a pack of 10, we’re talking 6 packs of 10!
  • Take advantage of other peoples wastefulness, by buying ‘past best before’ date food and drinks.

Home cooking sounds great but I can’t cook!

Follow some simple recipe guides, they’re super easy & just have a little faith (aka chuck it in the pan and cross your fingers.

Supermarket own brand items explained

Supermarkets all offer an alternative to the big brands i.e. Heinz, Coca-cola, Fairy etc, but most of the time these ‘own brands’ are generally made by the same companies that supply/create items for the big brands.
It is up to the customer to decide within a few seconds if they want the premium brand, supermarket brand or value brand.

The following questions will float in your head whilst you’re stood comparing items:

  • Am I just paying for a prettier label?
  • Is the premium brand going to be obviously better than the non brand
  • Are the health implications of the cheaper alternative that bad?

Why are they cheaper?

  • Less money needs to be spent on advertising, marketing etc
  • No need to pay for artwork, label design, distribution & extra packaging
  • The product might be inferior – For instance sausages – cheap ones will have loads of additives and lots of fat, expensive ones will have lower fat etc.

Is there a taste difference?

This really depends on you and your taste buds. You might think something tastes better, but this could be due to added fat, unwanted additives or some other nasty. You can only really find a difference in taste by testing both out.

What to watch out for?

Meat & Fish – Cheap meat will always be worse than expensive (as long as you’re buying meat from a reputable company). Higher quality meat will always taste better, this is partially true but unfortunatly companies now know this and do have a tendency to add flavourings, additives etc to enhance the taste. The rule of thumb is always spend more money on meat, buy it in solid large pieces and ideally from a reputable butcher (unless the supermarket is offering great value).

Remember it really depends on what you can afford, but if you’ve just saved £60 by buying bulk products & ‘past best before’ products why not spend that money on some decent fresh meat & fish.

Veg – Less obvious differences, but buying local products can make a real difference to taste. Also the difference between premium and value items can be quite big in this sector, so try both out and see.

Eggs – Go free range if possible, taste is generally noticeably better & eggs are generally bigger.

What essential items should I keep in my cupboards?

Dried Food

Pasta, Rice, Couscous & noodles

Remember to buy dried food that is past it’s best before, as it tastes exactly the same & very rarely goes off.


Onions, Carrots, Potatoes & Garlic.

Buying local, from farm shop and/or market can save you money compared to supermarket, but be sure to compare prices before you do the weekly shop.

Oils, Spices, Sauces & Herbs

Vegetable oil, olive oil, dried chilli (even if you can’t stand the heat), tomato ketchup, sea salt, black pepper, mixed herbs, bay leaves, tomato puree & stock cubes.

Be sure to purchase oil, ketchup and stock cubes in bulk, as you will always use them and they never go off.  

Tinned, Canned & Processed food

Beans (Baked, Cannelloni, Kidney, Butter etc), Tomatoes (Plum & Chopped), tinned fruit etc

Always buy these items in bulk and at a great price. 

In the fridge

Butter/Margarine (although olive oil is probably better for you), eggs & milk.