For many, food has meaningful ties to home. Whether it be a niche cultural dish you constantly crave, or a family recipe passed down from centuries of ancestors, food can temporarily cure feelings of homesickness.
When arriving in the UK, some international students go through the cultural shock of adjusting to the prices of groceries here. This may be due to the cost of living back home being much cheaper than it is in the UK, or students overseeing their own grocery shopping for the first time. Along with this, the inaccessibility of specific staple ingredients may prevent students from cooking their favourite dishes. With St Andrews also being quite small, the restaurants here may not have specific cultural dishes that students are craving. This blog post hopes to be a brief guide to tackling these barriers to accessing your favourite comfort foods!
Tips for grocery shopping in the UK
Some students go through a stage of shock and gradual adjustment to grocery prices here in the UK. One thing to keep in mind is what you are looking for. Do you want top-of-the-line groceries? Or do you prefer quantity over quality?
Another thing to keep in mind is the stores you have access to. In St Andrews you have Tesco, Sainsbury, Aldi, Marks & Spencer, and Morrisons. I would advise taking a brief stroll through all of them to see which supermarket has the items you need most at prices you are happy with. Some of these grocery stores also have discounts and deals. For example, Tesco has a Clubcard you can sign up for to receive discounted prices on specific items. Supermarkets may also sell the same item at different prices so make sure to always compare prices of your favourite items!
Most of these grocery stores have an online shopping option which may be more helpful to some, especially when considering factors like distance and accessibility. There are certain cheap times that you can get it delivered in order to save money. As prices for Tesco Express and Sainsburys Local (which are smaller branches of Tesco and Sainsbury in St Andrews) are often elevated, getting your groceries delivered from a bigger branch may mean you get better deals, and have a larger variety of items to choose from. Moreover, you’re able to budget easier as you can make sure you don’t buy things you already have or miss things you need from the comfort of your home.
An alternative to traditional supermarkets is not to shop for groceries, but to sign up for companies which give you a variety of meal plans and send you groceries accordingly. There are subscriptions you may have heard of such as Hello Fresh and Mindful Chef which cater groceries to your selected meal plan, but I am aware these are quite pricey. Lollipop might be something you consider, as it is a cheaper way to replicate meal boxes from these subscription services.
Most importantly, budget! Go into supermarkets with a predetermined list and try not to stray too much when buying more miscellaneous things like snacks. Track how much of your monthly spending goes into groceries and adjust this accordingly. Are you spending too much? Or do you have room to treat yourself? Sticking to a personal spending goal may make grocery shopping a little less financially stressful.
Tips on accessing ingredients
Though big supermarket chains have sections which sell cultural ingredients, sometimes, they don’t have what you’re looking for. Looking more locally, Matthew’s Foods and Universal Supermarket in Dundee are supermarkets catered towards Asian and African ingredients respectively. Nationwide, there are a variety of different cultural supermarkets which do deliveries to Scotland. A con to this is the shipping costs. However, if you buy in bulk and/or split costs with friends, this might ease the shipping costs a bit. Below is a list of a few online supermarkets I found:
Matthew’s Foods (Dundee based) https://www.matthewsfoodsonline.co.uk/
Oriental Mart https://www.orientalmart.co.uk/
John and Biola https://www.johnandbiola.co.uk/supermarket-shop
There are so many more supermarkets which specialise in different cuisines and ship to Scotland that I couldn’t list here. These are easily found with one Google search. Always make sure to check their delivery policies before hitting purchase!
Other than grocery shopping and cooking, there are other options for finding your favourite cultural foods. Try searching for restaurants that have what you’re looking for in bigger cities near you. Regarding transport costs, I am aware it can be quite costly. Though, this can be a short-term financial goal you save towards! Alternatively, try looking local. If restaurants in St Andrews don’t have the dish you’re looking for, look within societies at the university. There are a variety of cultural societies here at St Andrews which often hold potlucks. It might be a fun experience sharing your cooking and tasting others’ foods from same or different cultures. Socialising with members of the society may also mean you find out underrated restaurants within Scotland as well.
*The St Andrews Money Mentors are not affiliated with any of the brands/companies mentioned in this blog post. All opinions are based on the student’s personal experiences. If you are planning to use these companies, please do your own research before going ahead.