The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

5 Tips to eat cheaply in a new country

Student food on a budget

Today in the UK, it is the Budget. This is when the government decides how money will be spent on public services, and where that money is going to come from (usually taxes, unfortunately). While this happens annually, students have to do it all the time as they’re not normally the wealthiest of people. However, if you are struggling with a new currency and don’t know what is considered a “good” price locally, what do you do? Here are a few tips to prevent you going hungry, or paying too much:


Ask as you shop

It’s simple, but makes the most sense. You might feel awkward doing so, but people will understand that you are not a local. Remember, people do like to help others if they can; it makes them feel useful. Look out for someone your own age, who is probably a student too. While you should never hand over your wallet to a stranger to pay for you, simply enquiring with other customers won’t hurt. Obviously, don’t ask an employee at the shop, as it’s a little rude and they’re going to say it’s a good price anyway. It’s a great way to meet people as well, as you can move onto new topics. For example, if you’re buying ingredients, you can move on to what meal you’re cooking quite easily.


Make the most of local food

Experimenting with new food and cuisine is one of the joys of studying abroad. In just a year, you can broaden your food palette, and have a new-found culinary knowledge that will stay with you forever. Plus, it’s boring to eat what you would normally at home; so make the most of having new foods available to you. Depending on where you are studying, regularly buying foods and ingredients which are not easily-sourced there, will be expensive; you’ll find yourself having to look for and buy from specialist shops which are a niche for that location.


Communal cooking

Whether among your housemates or as part of a society you belong to, cooking as a group is excellent for bonding with others. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, or approaches to cooking; this way, you can get to know each other quite quickly. Plus, it’s fun! Usually everyone will put in a little money to make one large dish, so it won’t cost very much either. If you are cooking within your house or apartment, you can organise a full week where everyone takes a turn to prepare the meal.


Stalls on campus

Some university campuses have an agreement with local fruit and vegetable retailers to set up on campus once or twice a week. These are usually very reasonably priced, and offer a wide selection. It’s much more convenient to pick up a few things on your way back from class, rather than go all the way into town especially (so you’ll save money on transport too).


Ask questions and shop, online

Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s not too difficult to get an answer for anything nowadays. Rather than having no clue about the area you’re moving to, you can prepare in advance. Be visible on sites like Reddit, Facebook groups or forums specifically for students in that area. Students in the years ahead you, will remember when they moved away for the first time, and will be only too happy to help. Don’t be scared to ask simple questions, like ‘how much does a loaf of bread cost?’; after all, they’re the easiest ones to answer and more likely to get a response.

Once you arrive, if you don’t feel confident enough to go to the supermarket yourself, find out if there is an online delivery service provided by the store. This is quite common for large chains, though there may be an extra charge to deliver to your home (so be careful). However, by shopping online, you can take your time; keeping track of the cost of your shopping, and comparing prices across different shops. For someone in a new country, being in a busy shop can be intimidating if you’re not sure what you’re doing.


Have you got a great tip we missed? Let us know below!

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About Author

Student food on a budget

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.