Groceries Are Your Best Friends When Abroad

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Mmmm, blood pudding. You'd think Mike wouldn't have any trouble saving money on food in the U.K.

Mmmm, blood pudding. You'd think Mike wouldn't have any trouble saving money on food in the U.K.

I’m going to be a little dogmatic here and just come right out and say that, in general, food is the largest expense that any college student has.

Coffees before class, sushi lunches with friends, birthday dinners, and a pint or 5 at the pub all make the collegiate world go round. Full bellies and over-stimulated (or distorted, depending on your beverage) minds are the key components of our anatomy.

But if you haven’t heard already, food can end up costing you a ton of money. And when you’re abroad, it’s even worse.


Before I mentioned that I’m working against a terrible exchange rate. A breakfast “bap” doesn’t seem too painful for my wallet when it only costs £2.75. But then when I realize that’s actually like $5, I end up seasoning my eggs with a healthy dosage of tears of despair.

Eating out everyday is definitely not an option for me. But neither is starving. So, what’s a transplanted, money savvy American to do when he needs some grub?

Well for one, start cooking for himself.


The first thing I did after surviving the complete circus known here in England as fresher’s week was take a trip to Tesco. We don’t have them back home, but they’re like a mixture of a supermarket and convenience store—but on steroids.

I’m the first-born son of a Bostonian Italian-American family, which effectively means that my mother has handled all of my domestic needs until roughly 2 weeks ago (i.e., when I came here). I can’t cook to save my life, but that didn’t stop me from cleaning out the store.

The chances of me having the time, inclination, or ability to whip up a decent dinner are slim to none. I didn’t kid myself by wasting money on things like meat because I knew there was just no way I’d ever have time to prepare it.

But the tear-flavored bap came back to mind, and I knew one meal I could definitely take care of with groceries: breakfast. I started filling my cart with eggs, yogurt, fruit, granola, and the like. It ended up costing me about £10, but I essentially took care of all my breakfast needs for the entire term.

Let me reiterate that: for £10, I can eat a light breakfast every single day for the next 8 weeks. I would’ve spent the same amount of money in 1 week if I got breakfast out everyday.


So when you’re abroad, or even back at your home university, do yourself a favor and buy some groceries. Even if you have zero cooking abilities, there are still things on the shelf that you can enjoy without too much preparation.

Breakfast food tends to be the best contender for that category, but you can make lunch work too. Deli cold cuts and bread are really all you need for a halfway decent sandwich. Combine that with a value pack of chips (though I’m tempted to say “crisps”) or a vegetable of some kind, and you’ve got a full lunch in front of you.

Some more food for thought: If you weren’t blessed with cooking abilities, but you did get some basic social skills, I’ll bet you have at least one friend who is an OK cook. If you bring the ingredients, and they bring the cookware and skills, suddenly you’ve got a nice cheap dinner to nom on as well.

Have you saved money on food while studying abroad? Mike could use your help (especially if he thinks £10 of food is going to last him 8 weeks). Let us know your secrets in the comments. 

(Photo: ctoverdrive/Flickr)

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  1. Alexandra Koktsidis October 22, 2012 / 3:51 pm

    go to Sainsbury’s!! The prices there are very good. Waitrose looks more like a legit market, but it’s pricey. Also, sign up for a Nectar card, you get points every time you shop, that add up and equal pounds.

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