How Much Things Actually Cost
If you're not used to doing the weekly shop a trip to your local supermarket can be a bit of an eye-opener. Plus, if you don't look at the prices of everything you're merrily dropping into your basket, you'll probably get a bit of a shock when you reach the checkout and have to put your hand in your pocket to pay.
The harsh reality is that food costs money and maybe you will start to realise why your parents always told you to put things back if you tried to add them to the trolley when you were out shopping! If you're used to being able to go to the kitchen and help yourself to whatever you fancy eating, or sit down to a nice, home-cooked meal every evening, shopping and cooking for yourself will certainly be a new and interesting experience. When everything is laid on at home it's easy to think of food and drink as being free. However, it will actually use up a large chunk of your budget while you're at college so it's good to have some idea of how much things really cost and how you can easily economise, whilst still eating well.
Fruit and VegThese staples of a daily diet can actually add up if you don't keep a close eye on prices. If you enjoy exotic fruit and unusual or out-of-season vegetables, you might be digging a little deeper into your pocket that you'd hoped. If you stick to the basics such as carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, apples and bananas, you shouldn't go too far wrong. Make these (and other lower priced items) your staples and then top them up with different extras each week for some variety.
Look out for special offers on bulk buys or seasonal items. You can also find some bargains on packaged produce that's due to be used the same day. As packaging will always have a sell by/use by date, it's a good tip to look out for reductions here. Just make sure you buy things you will actually use, as there's not much point saving a few pence and then binning the food a few days later as you haven't eaten it.
MeatDepending on what type of meat you like, you can end up spending a fair amount on this. Obviously the economy versions of things like sausages and burgers will always represent a bit of a bargain but it's really up to you as to what you want to put in your body! Chicken can be good value, especially if you buy bigger packs and freeze the portions individually. Thighs and wings are generally cheaper than breast fillets and these are great for using in dishes such as curries and casseroles. Also, buying a whole chicken can actually work out cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of portions. You can then either feed the whole house or cook the whole chicken and use what's leftover for meals the following day.
Dairy ProductsSpeciality cheeses can be very pricey so it's more economical to stick to more popular varieties and buy larger packs, if you eat a lot of cheese. Buy large cartons of milk as this works out cheaper than purchasing individual pints and likewise, larger cartons of yogurt can be more economical than individual tubs.
Rice and PastaAgain, it pays to buy in bulk here. Try shopping at ethnic supermarkets for rice, as you'll be able to purchase huge bags of rice at a fraction of the price that the equivalent amount would cost in the supermarket. Stick to the more popular pasta shapes as these will generally come in larger pack sizes and be cheaper than more unusual shapes.
These are just a few of the regular items that you might be buying. As long as you keep an eye on what you're putting in the trolley and how much it costs, you should be able to plan the amount you spend. It's worth spending a little more time in the supermarket and comparing prices of different brands and different varieties of your favourite foods - you could save pounds!