You’ll be surprised how far a £20 a week food budget can stretch.
Sticking to a £20 a week food budget can be tough, especially if you’re experiencing academic burnout, have no idea how to really cook, struggle to stick to a budget or don’t know what the cheapest foods to buy are (hint: seasonal food shopping is cheaper).
Do you need to stick to a strict budget when it comes to your food shop? If so, we’ve got you.
But there’s no room for boring meals here, spending just £20 on food doesn’t mean sacrificing the foods you love.
We’ll look at how to afford to buy food on a sparse weekly shopping budget and how to save money on food shopping as a whole through meal planning, seasonal buying, discounts and more!
- Use a recipe book or videos
- Plan your meals ahead of time
- Buy own-brand food
- Shop seasonally for fresh food
- Buy cheap fruit and veg from markets and greengrocers
- Buy frozen fruit and vegetables
- Get a loyalty card
6 ways to shop on a £20 a week food budget
1. Use a recipe book or videos
Pick out recipes from a book or your favourite TikTok videos which have the exact measurements you need to make your meal. This way, you stop yourself some buying one too many of an item you think you need more of.
Plus, if you’re not confident in the kitchen, food recipe videos are a fantastic way to keep you on track and teach you how to cook. The Student Beans YouTube channel is packed with cooking tips, such as how to prepare basics like pasta, chop vegetables, and easy recipes to follow too.
2. Plan your meals ahead of time
If you’ve got your food recipe videos and want to go out shopping to get the ingredients, just make sure you list out exactly what you need. It can be easy to go into a shop and come out with way more than you need — particularly if you’re hungry!
Write the ingredients on your phone in a notes app or checklist, and tick them off as you pick them up around the aisles. You’ll find that planning ahead of time will help you make smarter choices with your £20 a week food budget.
3. Buy own-brand food
Own brand food, sometimes called store brands or own label, is really not that much different from the alternative. Supermarket own-brand foods like tinned tomatoes, baked beans, and spaghetti are all incredibly cheap and can save you more money than you might expect.
Common own brand foods you’ll find at ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the like include baked beans, rice pudding, tomato ketchup, bread, washing detergent, loo roll, bin bags, cleaning supplies and all sorts more.
4. Shop seasonally for fresh fruit and veg
When you’re mulling over shopping list ideas, don’t forget to think about the seasonality of food. Not only does this mean the fruit and vegetables you’ll buy will be fresher, and taste better, but it’s also cheaper as they generally grow more locally.
The cheapest foods in supermarkets are often seasonal vegetables from the UK because they have less taxes and fees due to lower transport costs. Having spent less time travelling to the supermarket, fruit and veg is often fresher, too, meaning it’s better for your health.
With only a £20 a week food budget, buying seasonal produce will ensure you’re getting your money’s worth by buying in-season, ripe fruit and veg, rather than wasting it on hard avocados or sour strawberries.
If you’re wondering what vegetables are in season in the UK right now, you can find a seasonal eating charts and info online easily enough. However, we’ve listed some popular seasonal produce from the UK below:
- January & February: Apples, Carrots, Celery, Kale, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Pears, various types of cabbage and root vegetables like squash.
- March & April: Artichoke, Beetroot, Carrots, Leeks, Parsnip, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spring Greens.
- May: Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Chillies, Lettuce, New Potatoes, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Spring Onions, Strawberries.
- June & July: Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Beetroot, Chillies, Elderflowers, Lettuce, New Potatoes, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rocket, Strawberries, Sweetheart Cabbage, Watercress.
- August & September see the addition of Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherries, Courgettes, Cucumber, French Beans, Garlic, Mangetout, Mushrooms, Plums, Pumpkin, Raspberries, Summer Squash, Sweetcorn and Tomatoes.
- The colder months of October, November and December bring with them Aubergine, Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chestnuts, Marrow, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Swiss Chard, Turnips, White Cabbage, Cranberries, Carrots and more as the cycle restarts.
Buy cheap fruit and veg from markets and greengrocers
The cheapest fruit and veg you can buy will often be at your local market or greengrocer as opposed to the supermarket, so it’s worth shopping around for the best prices – especially with food prices on the rise again.
This is for various reasons, but generally small businesses operate on smaller profit margins because they have less outgoing expenses – meaning the cost of staff, supermarket utilities, international market fluctuations etc won’t be passed onto the price of your fruit and veg.
When it comes to market or greengrocers versus supermarkets and shops, there are a few other positives to consider. Other than being cheaper and offering riper, more local fruit (in many cases), local markets will usually also use less pesticides to keep the produce fresh as it travels a shorter distance.
Smaller retailers are likely to use less packaging, it engages you in a local economy (woo!) and it can be a more personable shopping experience. Many greengrocers are also held to less rigorous quality control standards when it comes to things like the size and colour of fruit, meaning there’s a wider variety to choose from and you aren’t paying extra for aesthetics alone.
You can also ask where your apples or cauliflowers have come from, if you want to…
5. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables
If you want to save money on food then this is it. Frozen vegetables can sometimes be better not just for price, but nutrition, too. Usually you have to spend more for better value nutritional food, so shopping around is your best bet. With a £20 a week food budget, you’ll easily get more fruit and veg in your diet by opting for frozen choices.
Plus, it means you’re likely to reduce your food waste. We’ve all been hit by a moment of cooking inspo to shop for healthy food and then left it in the fridge to wither away. Buy frozen instead if that rings true for you…
6. Get a supermarket loyalty card
Tesco and Sainsburys are great examples of supermarkets that offer loyalty cards. The more you spend in these stores, the more points you rack up to get vouchers and codes off your food shop. This could be a game-changer if you’re really tight on money.
Other ways to save money on food
If you’re wondering how to save money on food shopping as a whole, we’ve got a ton of ideas below to cut down the pennies on your food shop and make your £20 a week food budget stretch a lot further.
1 . Regularly check your fridge, freezer and cupboards
Base your meals around what you have in already (which could include bread and meat you cleverly froze after your last weekly shop). This way you aren’t constantly buying new things and only purchasing what you need.
Take note of what you have and use an online recipe generator. Or, get creative! It’s the quickest way you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.
2. Cook everything from scratch
It can be cheaper to buy the ingredients to make a curry than to buy it in jarred form. Even if it’s just the paste.
Better yet, you could save yourself hundreds a year just by limiting how many takeaways you get a month. That’s money that could go towards food shops, essentials and your future.
Cooking from scratch is a great way for your £20 a week food budget go even further, as ready-made sauces and pastes can eat into your budget. Opting for ingredients and cooking from scratch is also great for testing your cheffing skills.
3. Reduce your meat consumption if you’re open to it
Lots of people are reducing how much meat they eat because of the health and environmental benefits, but it’s a great idea for your bank balance too.
People are opting for meat-free alternatives or simply adding more vegetables to their routines. If this is something you’re considering but have no idea how to navigate, here are a few tips to transition to a reduce or meat-free lifestyle:
- Ease yourself in by replacing the mince in bolognese or chilli con Carne with frozen veggie mince or onions, mushrooms and peppers
- Make a stir fry with a ton of veg instead of your usual meats
- Try cooking curries using beans and pulses, or using potatoes instead of meat.
A pack of vegetarian or vegan mince can be costly (depending on the brand and offers around at the time), but subbing more vegetables instead may work out way cheaper. Check out our five easy vegan recipes for some inspiration too.
Here’s a TikTok creator who shows some meat swaps you can make. You don’t have to stick to this to a T, but it should give you a decent idea:
How to spend a £20 a week food budget
Our essential food shopping list for students should have you covered, but here are a few more tips to only spend £20 a week on food shopping.
Look at the bigger picture
£20 a week is £80 a month. This is plenty for one person. If you’d rather spend £40 on a fortnightly shop (especially if you shop lots of frozen or cupboard foods) then this may work better for you than making the weekly rounds.
If you struggle to get out to a shop because of distance or deadlines, then consider doing an online food shop. You may expect to pay more in delivery, but our student food discounts may be able to offset the price of your order.
Which supermarket is cheap to order from? Check out our cheapest online supermarket delivery post to find out which supermarket offers the cheapest delivery, order amounts and more.
Plan your food shop around your schedule
It really is that simple. Look at your weekly schedule and plan your meals around them. If you know you can’t cook one night because of a deadline then make it a point to batch cook on the weekend. This can stretch the life of your food out and make it easier to just heat it up in the week and get eatin’ asap.
Simplify your favourite meals
Let’s say you’re a big fan of risotto, you don’t have to buy risotto rice to make it! Plain white rice of any kind can still mimic this epic Italian dish and it’ll still taste fantastic. You can do the same with subbing out pizza bases with tortilla wraps the possibilities are endless. Especially if you have a £20 a week food budget, you can substitute for cheaper alternatives to fit within your budget.
If you’re really struggling for recipes, check out these posts:
Do you have any other hacks for saving money on your weekly shop? Let us know!