Eating right is definitely one of the most important things at university. You might have heard a few horror stories about university communal kitchens, though. It’s also not hard to see yourself eating takeaways most nights! It’s hard to adjust to university life, so getting a hold on your food budget can be tough. Don’t worry! Most students are in the same boat.
On average, students spend approximately £20 a week on food shopping. Oxford students spend the most, at £27 a week, and Leicester students spend the least, at £13 a week. However, students also spend around £12 a week on takeaways, so a week’s worth of meals costs students about £32! Food is one of, if not sometimes the largest expense students make while at university.
To learn all about food shopping and home cooking at university, check out the rest of this article.
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How expensive is food at university?
Food expenses at university can really stack up if you don’t keep to a budget. A lot of students opt for takeaway food because it’s quick and convenient. It’s not hard to see why takeaway food is the go-to for students, but it can get seriously expensive!
In 2022, Which reported that students spent an average of £49 a month on takeaways (£12.25 a week). This money could be stretched out over 2 or 3 meals instead of just one, if it wasn’t a takeaway!
Ignoring takeaways, What Uni reported that food shopping costs students an average of £81.20 a month (£20.30 a week). For most students, food shops cost more than monthly bills!
Done right, budgeting for food at university can actually be pretty easy. Setting aside a certain amount of money for food each week helps you stick to that budget.
For example, the University of Surrey suggests setting aside £35 each week for food. However, this is just for ingredients, not meals. I’ll be discussing home cooking later in the article.
Of course, food prices can vary greatly depending on where you shop and your preferred diet. While these numbers are an average for students shopping around 2022/23, you may find that you spend more or less.
All-in-all, remember that food at university can add up quickly, so you should always keep an eye on how much you spend. Limiting your weekly spend can keep it in-check. I recommend this Think Student article for budgeting tips!
Do universities provide their own food?
Most universities will have Dining Halls – visit your university website if you’re unsure about any catering services. In dining halls, you can buy breakfast, brunch and dinner meals, usually at a decent price!
To buy ready-cooked meals in university halls, you’ll most likely need some form of student card, to which you can add money. For example, check out the UCL and University College, Oxford pages on ways students can acquire food and how much it costs.
The same details can be found on your university’s website. University halls are a great resource if you don’t want to cook and want a cheap, hot meal.
Be warned, though – you’ll still have to pay for university meals yourself! A lot of students work to fund their food expenses. You can read more about working while at university in a Think Student article linked here.
Should you learn to cook at university?
Cooking is a great skill to have in general, but it’s even better to have for university. Home cooking is not only significantly cheaper, but as shown by a Harvard study, it means you eat healthier too. Learning to cook at university has some great benefits which I’ll go through below.
First of all, home cooking is so much cheaper than eating out. I mentioned earlier in the article that students spend an average of £20 a week on food shopping.
This amount of money covers the entire week, whereas the £12 a week on takeaway probably only covers 2 meals. Finder reported that the average takeaway in the UK costs almost £8. Therefore, what would cost you £80 for food shops in a month costs £480 in takeaways.
Secondly, cooking in student kitchens means you get to choose exactly what you’re eating. This means you can eat what you like and eat healthy. If you need ideas, this Think Student article has a list of foods that are healthy for the brain!
Another benefit to home cooking is cooking with friends! Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. Having a group meal every week or so can be a great boost for mental health, and usually works out cheaper too. Kitchens are great university community spaces!
Student cooking tips and tricks
You don’t need to be MasterChef qualified to cook a good meal at university. As someone who frequently cooks for themselves at university, I’m here to offer you my best advice!
My biggest tip is to stick to what you already know. While it can be tempting to experiment, you don’t want to be a potential fire hazard. Plus, trying new things can sometimes be more expensive, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s money down the drain.
As well as that, cook in a group as often as possible. First of all, it’s a great way to learn about different cultures and broaden your palate. Not only that, but you can split the cost for ingredients, so it works out a lot cheaper! It’s also a good way to spend time with people you might not see otherwise.
A cooking tip I received from my friends is to cook bigger meals than you think you’ll eat. Firstly, the meal will make you feel fuller, which stops you spending money on snacks and consuming too much sugar. Secondly, if you don’t end up eating it all, you can refrigerate it for another day. It saves you the hassle of cooking another meal!
What are the best places to find recipes as a student?
Personally, my favourite recipe website as a student is BBC Good Food, a link to which you can find here. They offer quick and easy to make meals, and even as a picky eater, I like a lot of their recipes!
However, one problem with BBC Good Food is that they don’t tell you the cost per portion, which is vital for students.
Before I started university, my parents bought me the Nosh for Students cookbook. You can find it on Amazon here. I personally use this cookbook for most mealtimes. You can definitely tell it was written with students in mind, and it tells you all the prices!
Alternatively, if you’re in a pinch and need a quick recipe, this Think Student article has a list of 10 quick, easy and cheap meals for students.