Before coming to university, most students have never faced grocery shopping, and discover it can be quite a daunting task. It seems as simple as going to the market, chucking what looks good into a cart, and swiping your credit card. In actuality, grocery shopping is crippled by every student’s worst nightmare: a budget. With classes, social activities, and that pile of odorous dirty laundry begging to be washed, buying food needs to be watered down to its purest form.
I’ve gathered that Tesco is the preferred shopping center of students, measured by the ever-present horde of students there at any given hour. With its central location on Market Street, it is easy enough to pop in between lectures for lunch, but is it the best place to do your weekly shopping? They have a decent selection of fresh produce, but their dairy section is rather limited. While offering non-dairy milk options, vegans and those with lactose intolerance will have to look elsewhere for yogurt and cheese. They also have a wider selection of pastas, breads, and sauces that would be enough to sustain a student’s appetite, albeit not if they were hoping to get too creative in the kitchen. The frozen section is small; there’s really no way of romanticizing the limited options of frozen meals and prepackaged veggies.
On a basic level, you could do your weekly shopping here, but if any specialty items were required, you’d be hard pressed to find them. Tesco does have a club card, but the rewards are less than helpful, and will be prove to be no big money saver in the long run.
Clearly, the size of the store is about a third of Tesco, which translates into fewer options. The fresh produce is selective, but they do have a semi-decent selection of frozen and on-the-go meals (for those of you who haven’t yet learned to boil water). The bakery is tiny, the selection of pasta and sauces are severely limited, but surprisingly, the candy aisle is very well stocked.
Sainsbury’s also has its own variation of the club card, the Nectar card, yet once again, no big savings are to be expected here. A rather nice feature of Sainsbury’s is that the checkout will compare that brand name item with the prices at other stores, and if it’s higher they will refund you the money via coupon. In regards to overall shopping, I would advise against attempting to do a week’s worth of shopping in the cramped store, unless you prefer to do shopping day-by-day, rather than on a weekly basis.
The last major grocery story worthy of consideration is Morrison’s. While it certainly has size in its favour, the store’s location is a bit of a hike from the center of town, especially when carrying armfuls of groceries. However, Morrison’s selection is by far the best. Their selection of produce is extensive, an entire aisle is dedicated to pasta alone, and the frozen section runs the width of the store. They also have a fresh bakery and a butcher. Overall, the difference in price is insubstantial in the decision of where to shop.
If you don’t mind walking a little out of the ways, Morrison’s is probably your best bet for groceries in St Andrews.
While these three are the Holy Trinity of grocery stores in St Andrews, there are other specialty shops and delicatessens worthy of recognition. Holland & Barrett and the St Andrews Health Food Store both carry an assortment of specialty items like dried fruits, nuts, teas, and vegan goodies like cheeses, candy bars, and milks. They also sell an assortment of vitamins and supplements, for those whose diets find them lacking.
Butler & Co, The Guid Cheese Shop, and Mitchell’s Deli also sell specialized items, but unless you require a specific type of French cheese or can’t make do with pre-packaged turkey breast from Tesco’s, you’re going to end up spending more at any of the specialty stores which is quite a challenge given a typical student budget.
In all, knowing where to shop isn’t actually the most important aspect of student grocery shopping. Knowing how to shop will serve you far better. Consider writing out a list of meals for the week before going shopping, talk with housemates about collaborating on meals to save cost, don’t wander into the store on an empty stomach, or be prepared to spend more than you anticipated.
Grocery shopping, even in a place as small as St Andrews, can be easy and affordable. And really, you don’t want to blow your week’s budget on food when there’s the weekend filled with drinks, films, and events. Let’s face it, you’re going to need a little extra spending money.
PHOTO CREDIT: Myretailmedia