The Essential Food Shop

Trekking to Lidl is always an effort, but you should probably go soon.

Listen, I understand, pot noodles and Deliveroo are sometimes the main food groups of a student, we’ve all been there. However, I put it to you that nutritionally, it might not be the best idea. In fact, research had shown that students are able to learn better when they are well-nourished as foods high in fibre, protein and healthy fats provide enough energy and sustenance to allow for better revision and concentration.

After doing some extensive research I have created a shopping list for the start of a new semester that should take the pressure off of trying to make nutritional meals that are quick and easy and won’t blow the bank either.

This article goes through the food groups you should be eating, the shopping list itself, and where the cheapest places to shop said list are.

The Food Groups

Before diving in, I think it is important to mention the different food groups that we should be eating, and in what quantities.

While no food group is more important than the other, fruit and veg are obviously a vital part of our diet and by eating them we secure many vitamins and nutrients that simply don’t exist in other food groups. Next up is that of carbohydrates that give starch and fibre, allowing for us to feel full and satiated as well as helping our natural bodily functions.

Dairy or its alternatives are also important, but in much smaller quantities than that of fruit and veg and carbohydrates. Fats and oils are also important to correct bodily function and are not to be shied away from, although the amount consumed should be heavily controlled. Junk foods high in saturated fat, sodium (salt), and sugar should be consumed as treats in small quantities.

It is also important to remember to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. Other drinks including tea, coffee, fruit juices, and smoothies can be included in the total of liquids consumed but they do come with their own sugar and other additives which should be taken into account.

The NHS has issued the standard Eatwell guide which shows you what percentage of each meal should be which food group, and it is this that I try to follow when creating shopping lists and meals.

 Credit: NHS

The List

Fruit and Veg

  • Apples - While fresh often considered best on a budget dried, tinned, juiced and frozen fruit are all excellent options that can help give you your 5-a-day.
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Oranges - Buying fruit that is local and in season, when you can, is often the cheapest and most sustainable option.
  • Garlic
  • Onions*
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Tomato paste
  • Tinned tomatoes*       
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Spinach or Kale
  • Salad leaves
  • Peas

*These are essential in many recipes!*

TIP: Sometimes fruit and veg can be cheaper when bought in bulk in the frozen section.


  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Cereals e.g. Oats

It is cheaper to buy flour and make your own bread/ flatbreads. You can easily customise recipes to make them perfect for you!


  • Lean meats
  • Kidney beans
  • Butter beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Tofu​

Beans, while most commonly found in tins, are often a lot cheaper to buy dry and in bulk.

Nutritional yeast is great for non-dairy individuals who crave the salty, nutty-ness of traditional cheese. I buy mine, fortified with b12, from Amazon.

Dairy/ Alternatives

  • Milk, or an alternative     
  • Cheese, or an alternative
  • Yoghurt, or an alternative
  • Oils and (Healthy) Fats
  • Olive oil
  • Oil-based spreads
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters e.g. almond butter

While many milk alternatives can be great for both your health and the environment, some research articles have suggested staying away from Almond milk due to the amount of water it takes to produce just one almond, damaging the environment.

​​Vegan spreads and ‘butters’ are often incredibly expensive, however checking out more traditional margarines are accidentally dairy-free and still delicious.

Spices and Other

  • Onion/ Garlic powder
  • Basil/ Oregano
  • Chilli flakes
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper

These are all optional, but a good selection of herbs and spices can really transform a dish.

Salt and pepper are definitely not optional, however!

The Pricing

Now, here comes the science-y bit; which shops near Aberdeen Uni have the overall cheapest shop, as I know how frugal us students can be.

*Prices correct at the time of writing (September 2019)


Clearly Lidl is the cheapest, and therefore it would make more sense to shop there if you are frugally minded. However, I think it is important to note that you cannot get everything in stores with such low prices, as items are often seasonal. Similarly, household names and brands are not often stocked in these cheaper stores, so if you are a stickler for a brand you may want to take this into consideration.

Fruits and veggies are often the most expensive, particularly when they are fresh, and as such, I would advise shopping seasonally for these in an attempt to get the best deals. Overall, it doesn’t really matter where you shop, and how much you are willing to spend. What is important is that you eat balanced, well-prepared meals that will aid you in living life to the fullest!