Good Food, Good Mood, Better Savings, Better Options: A Love Letter from UCL East

25 June 2024

A blog by Michelle from UCL East on how you can eat well on a budget at university.

Photo of UCL East

Dearest UCL East Students, 

Are you craving some fancy lasagna but hesitating due to the cost? Or perhaps the mouthwatering aroma of Tomyum has you yearning for a taste, but the restaurant is too far? Fear not! I've got the perfect solution that won't break the bank or require a lengthy commute. As someone who once struggled to even cook instant noodles, I've now mastered making local Indonesian noodles by myself! And guess what? You can do it too! However, finding a supermarket that suits your budget, with good quality, and discovering very specific seasonings might be confusing. I got your back, these are some tips that might give you more clarity.  

  1. Hey Stratford, can you do me a f(l)avour? 

Stratford really has everything! The biggest food supply markets you can find here are less than 30 minutes from campus. There are Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Waitrose & Partners, Marks & Spencer, and Iceland. All these markets, offer distinct shopping experiences. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose emphasise quality and variety, while Lidl and Iceland prioritise affordability and convenience, and Marks & Spencer specialises in quality and innovation across a range of products. And for my dear Muslim friends, yes, I hear you, worry not about finding halal meat because some supermarkets provide them in a separate section like Sainsbury’s or you can also directly go to a halal meat shop called Thariq Halal Meats

  1. Let’s not forget the bare minimum  

"But Michelle, I don’t have any cooking ware." Oh right, I almost forgot about that! For an affordable price, there's Poundland. I remember buying a cutting board for only £1! Or for higher quality, you can also find them at Argos. Plus, you can simply click & collect, so scrolling at home and picking it up in-store or having it delivered straight to your door might also be an option. 

  1. I miss you but… I miss homecooked food more 

I swear I often crave home-cooked food. I thought it would be difficult to find specific spices, however, I was wrong. These are some Asian supermarkets with high reviews that you can visit: WaNaHong, LoonFung, and there’s also an African supermarket called Esiton African and Oriental Superstore store. But sometimes it's such a hassle to buy groceries from different places. I usually try to find some hard-to-get ingredients like lime leaf, pesto, specific types of chilies, and more from Waitrose and Marks and Spencer! 

  1. Can we just fast forward, I’m hAngry! 

There are times when the schedule is too packed and you can’t even find time to cook, but you still want to save money. Been there, done that! Here are some suggestions for you. First, make sure you have club cards and download some apps. I recommend getting Tesco, Boots (it's a pharmacy), and Lidl apps, and registering for their club cards, they have various special offers. I usually grab a Tesco meal deal on the way to class, using my club card for a discount, and I can already get the main, side, and drink for under £5! You can also use delivery apps like Deliveroo, and Uber Eats, which often offer deals. 

  1. Finding the right match  

After reading those four important points, I hope you're feeling less confused now. To compare those supermarkets and apps, I usually use Which, which has data comparing prices and quality among UK supermarkets. However, checking out these supermarkets in your first month can also be fun because we need to compare directly to know what's best for us. For example, I can buy 3 different packs of fruit for £3 in Morrisons, but £3 for a pack of blueberries in Waitrose, and I can guarantee the quality is different. Additionally, I'm well aware that not everyone likes to cook, so I also suggest using Too Good to Go, Karma, or Olio. They're selling food waste at a high quality but affordable price. 

  1. I fancy you!  

Sometimes we all need a little treat, a pat on the back, and maybe a fancy meal from that restaurant on our list. But it's easy to feel guilty about spending more, especially with rising living costs. Did you know UCL offers financial support? And it’s for you, dear students, my readers. Especially for those of you pursuing postgraduate studies, there are myriad alternative fundings options available, UCL also partnered with GradFunding. Best part? You can access it for free using your UCL email!  

I know how difficult it is to settle in, especially when food is one of our primary needs, and for me, it's also primary happiness! So, spread this love letter to other fellow new students, your friends, or any UCL students, especially those in the east, because it might be helpful for others too! Let's support each other in this exciting journey! 

With love, 

Michelle from UCL East