Being a college student and living away from home isn’t easy, nor is it cheap.
One of a student’s biggest expense is food — and with the plethora of food choices available, it can be challenging to abstain from eating anything under the sun — much less save with the escalating food prices.
So if you want some practical tips on how to save a pretty penny, here are some ways to do it like a pro:
#1. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk can save you money — but only if they are things you use regularly. This practice also helps you avoid making several trips to the supermarket and saves you money on transportation too.
So purchase consumables that can last forever, such as oatmeal, pasta, rice and cereal in bigger bundles. However, ensure that you have ample space for them or you might end up with tons of groceries without any space to keep them!
#2. Split the cost of your groceries with your housemates
Talk to your housemates about splitting the cost of common-shared groceries (e.g. salt, pepper, eggs, milk, sugar, flour, rice, butter, etc.). This way, each of you can save money without worrying about wasting your food, especially perishable items.
Ensure that everyone gets the portion they paid for and be on the lookout for the nom-nom thief (the housemate who steals other people’s food)! If you think splitting the cost of groceries is a hassle, get each person to chip in for 1 or 2 ingredients instead.
#3. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere
Your bottle of water should be your loyal companion. Yes, not only will you save several ringgit on beverages each day, it’s also your healthiest drink option.
Invest in a proper container (e.g. those that are sturdy and BPA-free) and never waste money on bottled plastic water when you can easily get a free refill on campus.
#4. Get your protein from eggs
Eating protein is not only important for your health, but it can keep you full longer too. Eggs are cheap and a good source of high-quality protein.
They are also versatile and can be cooked in a variety of ways (e.g. scrambled, fried, boiled, steamed and poached).
#5. Snack on fruits and nuts
Do you crave for some McDonald’s french fries or a plate of nasi kandar while burning the midnight oil? Eating regular meals and snacking healthily throughout the day can keep your hunger pangs at bay, which can keep you from craving expensive takeouts and fast food.
So save more in the long run and stock up on fruits like bananas and apples and nuts such as almonds and walnuts to snack in between meals — plus, they’re good for your brain too.
#6. Cook your own food
Why pay RM4 for toast and kaya at the kopitiam or RM12 for a supposedly healthy chicken sandwich (which basically has a measly slice of ham) when you can make it yourself at a fraction of the price?
You may hate cooking with a vengeance, but learning to do so can save you hundreds of ringgit in the long run. If you’re a novice in the kitchen, start with these student-friendly recipes. Once you get the hang of things, you can even start meal prepping!
#7. Salvage your food
Do you constantly find yourself tossing out food from your pantry or refrigerator because it doesn’t look good anymore? Stop! Most of the time, these food are probably still salvageable. You just have to learn the tricks to revive them or learn how to preserve them.
For starters, don’t fuss over best before dates. They merely act as a guide, and are likely to be edible for at least a few more days. A simple guide to know when to or not to consume food that has passed it’s best by date is to use your 3 senses — smell, sight and touch. If they pass all 3 tests, more often than not, they’re okay to eat.
#8. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Have you ever gone to the supermarket with one item in your mind, but ended up buying a host of other things that you could have done without? Well, you were most likely hungry.
Research suggests that you should never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach as you may not only spend more than necessary, but make unhealthy food purchases too. So always shop on a full stomach and resist the temptation to wander off to the junk food section!
#9. Shop during sales or promo hours
Some bakeries and food outlets will offer patrons food at discounted prices at certain hours of the day, typically a few hours before closing. This is perfect if you’re looking for some cheap eats for supper, or for the following day if you do not feel like cooking at home.
You could also check out hypermarkets during the weekend to sample new products without having to purchase anything (free food and drinks!), and scour for Buy 1, Get 1 Free promotions to help you save some money.
#10. Pack your leftovers
Ever ordered some food at a restaurant, only to realise that you can’t finish your meal? Don’t wreak havoc on your bank balance — you can always ask the waiter to pack whatever that is left.
Better yet, if you’ve realised from the start that you would not be able to finish your dish, you can simply cut the portion in half and pack the rest before touching your food. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, we promise! After all, why waste perfectly good food when you can save yourself RM10 for another meal?
#11. Work in food outlets
Ever wondered what it is like to work in the F&B industry? Depending on the café or restaurant you work at, you may enjoy free meals or an employee discount.
This will not only help you save money on food while earning an income, but you’ll also become an all-rounder by picking up some new skills at work, which can make you look good on your curriculum vitae!
#12. Purchase your groceries from bargain sections
“Reduced to clear.”
You might have seen these signs at the bargain corner of your local supermarket and felt skeptical about purchasing food items in this section. However, just because the items sold here are nearing their use by dates, or have been slightly damaged (e.g. squashed bread), that doesn’t mean you still can’t consume them.
Many food items usually last longer than their used by dates, and you may be able to save up to 50% off the original price by picking up these rejects! However, remember to thoroughly check its condition (remember: sight, smell and touch) before making your payment.
#13. Buy store brand items
Instead of purchasing branded food items, try buying store brands or generic brands instead. Retailers such as Tesco sell their own version of popular products (e.g. cereals, biscuits, etc.) which cost less than popular brands.
You’ll be surprised to find your favourite cereal or chicken nuggets costing up to RM5 cheaper than popular brands, which translates to big savings. The packaging may not be as appealing as those of bigger brands, but the content is what matters at the end of the day.
And there you have it! We hope these 13 suggestions will keep your wallet from thinning too quickly. With some practice, you’ll be a pro at saving money on food in no time!