Food is near the top of the list of things you might miss when away from home. But food can be one of the best parts of living in the UK. We've put together our top tips for shopping, cooking and eating out while at university in the UK.
1. Explore food markets
In recent years there has been a huge growth of food markets in the UK. From farmers markets selling local, fresh produce to trendy food markets where you can eat and socialise trying a range of foods - there will be something for everyone.
Buying fresh fruit from supermarkets such as avocados and strawberries can be very expensive. Finding your local fruit and vegetable market can often reduce the price of these. Food markets are a good place to shop, whichever city you are in, as the food is quick, cheap and often relatively fresh. Food markets are an easy compromise to arguments over which type of food you and your friends will eat; Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean and South American food can often all be found in the same place.
2. Shop smart
In most cities and towns you will find a selection of supermarkets. There will be large superstore style shops where you can pick up most food. You can always pick up food late too as most big supermarkets will have a smaller version which is open until 11 p.m. However, it is important to shop tactically. ‘Local’ smaller stores will often be a lot more expensive and not ideal when on a student budget. It's best to plan the day before so that there is no need for last-minute shopping. We would recommend supermarkets such as Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi as the top three most student-friendly supermarkets. A weekly shop in these places can cost as little as £20.
3. Take advantage of special offers
Budgeting and saving money are definitely important during university, but you may also want to socialise with friends. A good way to do this can be going out for meals or drinks with them. To make this cheaper and more affordable, we recommend signing up to UNiDAYS . Here you can find money off many high street restaurant chains and food stores. We would also recommend going out to eat or for drinks during the week. Avoiding really busy times such as weekends can sometimes mean that there are special two for one deals and special offers.
If you drink alcohol, happy hours can also make a huge difference to your bill, often making drinks half price and considerably subsidising food prices. Happy hours are often relatively early hours (eg. 5 pm-8 pm). Checking times in your local bars and restaurants before setting off will avoid unwanted shocks.
4. Enjoy takeaways
Getting a takeaway delivered to your house can be a great way to bond with your flatmates and relax in the comfort of your own home. There are lots of discounts (especially in Fresher’s week) and it’s cheaper if you order in a group. Services such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber eats offer delivery from most restaurants. These are all at the click of a finger, meaning that students can get the best foods on demand.
5. Love cooking
It is important when at university to build a positive relationship with food and cooking. You can make cooking interesting in a number of different ways. Firstly, why not try making something that you’ve never made before? Using social media platforms and recipe books may inspire you and turn you into a culinary genius! You can make things that are fun and get the whole flat involved. Pancakes and quick cakes are good for this, meaning that at the end everyone gets a treat. Beware though; washing up in large quantities can be a student’s worst nightmare. We suggest that to really enjoy cooking, you and your friends take it in turns washing up as you go.
6. Learn about cooking from course mates/ house mates
The beauty of living and studying amongst people from all backgrounds and cultures are the amazing different cuisines that everyone will cook. Why not ask your flat mates for a few tips? Learning to make a few quick and easy dishes from a different culture means that you can add some necessary variation into your diet when the food that you usually make begins to get a little dull. Having to make your own meals every day can get very monotonous, so why not spice it up (quite literally), by trying other cuisines?
7. Stay healthy
It can be easy to fall into the trap of not eating well at University. Staying healthy can be a challenge socially and financially. In addition to buying from fruit and vegetable markets as mentioned earlier, we suggest that you organise yourself and prepare for meals that you are going to make in the week. Preparing for the week doesn’t mean that your meals have to work like clockwork. Make sure that you balance your diet, by having a range of different foods on each day. Don’t be afraid to have a treat, however. It will be hard when living in halls to stay completely healthy. Instead of drastically dieting, plan in one less healthy meal every week on one day, say Friday, as a well-earned treat for a hard-working week.
8. Make the most of catered halls
If you are lucky enough to be living in catered halls then fret no more! Living in catered halls at university usually means that breakfast and dinner, Monday to Friday is catered to you. It also makes life a lot easier having meals ready and made for you when you need them and it can be a really sociable time, where you and your flatmates can have dinner around a table, and get to know each other better. Breakfast can be relatively early, say 9 am or 10 am for students; however, aiming to get down on time is worth your while. And make it to every meal: it’s all paid for, so make the most of it.
If someone in the UK offers to cook for you, it’s seen as polite and friendly to bring a little something with you – for example a cake or some chocolates for the host. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – it’s the gesture that counts.
If someone has invited you to a restaurant, they might be planning to pay for the meal – but it’s always polite to offer to pay your share, just in case.
If you’re at a restaurant with friends, people often decide to ‘split the bill’ equally to avoid complicated calculations. Some restaurants will allow you to pay separately, but not all.
Unless a restaurant includes a ‘service charge’ on the bill, you’re usually expected to leave a tip – between 10 and 15 per cent of the total. There’s no strict rule about this, but if you are happy with the service and you can afford to tip, then it is a custom.
If you go to the pub with friends in the UK, you might have ‘a round’ of drinks. This means each person in your group takes it in turn to buy drinks for everyone. People might say ‘It’s your round’ when it is your turn to buy.
If you don’t want to be part of the round or you can’t afford to, just say so. You can buy drinks for yourself – no one will be annoyed.
More in this section
'I studied French in Scotland and am now an award-winning chef'
Hear how Caroline, from the US, went from studying French at St Andrews to becoming a world-travelling, award-winning executive pastry chef at a top Brooklyn eatery.
The UK is a union of four nations – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with similarities and differences that make studying in each nation unique.
English is spoken across the UK, but it is not the only native official language. In London alone it is estimated that you can hear over 300 languages.
The UK is a multi-faith society where all religions are widely welcomed.
Travel and transport
Whether you’re based in the city or the countryside, you’ll be able to travel to most places in the UK quickly and see a lot during your time here.
Health and welfare
With one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world, as an international student in the UK you will be looked after.
Other relevant websites
Sign up to our newsletter
Get the latest updates and advice on applications, scholarships, visas and events.