Ask the intern: How to not blow all of your money on food
“Hi Fiona, I’m about two weeks into my international internship in London and I’m having THE BEST time, especially trying all of the new food. Although I’m loving my experience here, London is a really expensive city and my bank account is beginning to look a bit… sad, do you have any tips on how how to stop spending money on food while still having a great time?”– Henry
Hi Henry, it’s great to hear from you! This is a subject very close to my heart, I wouldn’t say that I’m a food connoisseur but I am definitely a food lover. I fully understand the struggle of balancing a love of trying new food with the love (and need) of not being completely bankrupt. Since starting my international internship I’ve picked up a few tricks. Here are my top tips for not blowing all of your money on food – while still having the best possible time abroad.
1. Create a budget
Whenever you begin to think about trying to save some money, the most important thing is to be realistic. Think about how much money you actually have and how much you can afford to spend each week. This may sound like an awful task but it’s definitely a necessary first step to begin your saving. It’s called ‘budgeting’ for a reason. The easiest way to go about this is, first of all, to take the dreaded look at your balance – eek! Now that you’ve managed that, divide this amount by the number of weeks that you have left in your internship. This will give you a weekly budget, which of course can be as flexible as you need. You may even have more cash spare than you thought.
2. Do some research
I want you to know that these tips are only a guideline. Contrary to many other saving experts (not that I am one), I truly believe in the value of going out to eat with friends. I believe you should try new restaurants and spend in a way which some super-savers definitely wouldn’t approve of. Saying this, there is a way of doing this sensibly and creatively. The best advice I can give you is to do some research. Some of the best places are slightly unknown and off the beaten track, making them inevitably cheaper. There’s no need to give up your meals out just because you’re trying to be careful with money! Check online for the best budget-friendly restaurants in your area. This can be a great way to move away from the touristy places and try some authentic, local food. Win!
3. Write out a meal plan
So last week I tried this for the first time, and I was really surprised at how effective it was. Whenever you look at online articles or money-saving blogs it’s always high up there on the list of practical solutions and so I thought I would give it a go. The way I did it, and the easiest way I think, was to plan realistically. I had a look in my fridge at what food I still needed to eat and planned around that. I drew a chart with the weekdays at the top and underneath I wrote what I would eat that day. Making sure that I included all of the ingredients in my fridge. Then I wrote a shopping list of the few things that I needed and decided to stick to it religiously.
Although it sounds a bit lame, it doesn’t have to be a boring task. Get online and find exciting new recipes to try. Make sure to schedule in a few days when you can have a meal out with friends! Try and new restaurant or even grab a take-away from your new favourite fish and chip shop.
4. Be a savvy shopper
The biggest trap for anyone who loves food is supermarkets. My big problem while shopping is impulse buying. I walk into a supermarket and immediately see a new crisp flavor that I haven’t tried, or something covered in chocolate glimmering under a “two for one” sign and I can’t resist. The easiest way to fall into this trap is to shop while you’re hungry. When you’re hungry everything looks exciting and it’s much easier to move away from that shopping list that you lovingly created. Make sure you go after you’ve eaten, or have a quick snack before you venture out. Another great savvy shopping tip is to work out what you eat the most of and bulk buy. Do you always buy a small packet of crisps from the shop near the office? Why not buy a multipack from your supermarket and bring one to work every day instead?
5. Make things from scratch
Although the idea of a ready-made meal that you put in the microwave for four minutes is sometimes, after a long day of work, very tempting, they’re not the best option. Normally you can make the exact same meal for half of the price in not a huge amount of time. Also, the home-made version will definitely be a lot healthier! Cooking from scratch has made a huge difference to my money situation. It’s much easier to stick within your budget because you can buy fruit and vegetables very cheaply and then create huge meals. These will keep you full and also stop you from snacking! A great idea is to cook a big batch of something and then freeze it in portions. If there is ever a day where you absolutely cannot be bothered to cook, there’s a quick, home-made ready-meal in your freezer.
6. Bring lunch to work
Buying lunch every day at work, even if it’s just a sandwich and a drink definitely adds up. That being said, if a colleague asks you to lunch shouldn’t necessarily turn them down. Always make sure that you’re grabbing every opportunity to network and create contacts at work. But saying that, think about the days when you just run out and grab something quick. Why not wake up slightly earlier and make a sandwich? Or even bring in some leftovers from the night before? You’ll find yourself with more money at the end of the week to spend on having a fab weekend.
These six steps aren’t a definitive guide but are just the few things that I have learned from living abroad. Take away from it what you like, you don’t have to do everything on the list but you can pick and choose as you please. I hope this helps if you have any slight worries. Remember that your international internship will be one of the best experiences of your life. There are always ways to experience everything that your new city has to offer without breaking the bank.
Now that you know how to stop spending money on food and how to stick to your budget, apply now for an international internship to boost your career.
Photo 2. by Fiona Johnson