Food. For many students – especially those with XY chromosomes – it’s the first thing you think about in the morning, and the last thing on your mind before you go to sleep.
Chances are, you’re thinking about food right now.
But let’s face the facts: food in Sweden is expensive. While we can speculate all day long as to the reasons for such high prices (the harsh climate, government subsidies, plot by reptilian alien shadow government to enslave mankind), that’s just the way it is.
Sounds depressing, huh? Thinking of taking Uncle Lester’s advice and forgetting studying in Sweden?
Well don’t. Because there’s hope.
For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And in this case, saving money is as easy as… well, just follow these tips and you’ll still have enough kronor for that 80s theme party this weekend you’ve been dying to go to.
Shop for sales
It sounds simple, but this just might be the most important thing you can do to stretch your food budget. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, most Swedish universities don’t offer a meal plan for students, meaning you’re on your own when it comes to food. But many grocery stores have weekly sales, and sometimes it’s good to buy items like rice in bulk if you think it’ll last a while. Check newspapers, flyers, and online for the best deals. You’ll be glad you did.
Many grocery stores have what’s known as a “distressed” section where perishable foods (meats, dairy, etc.) that will expire soon are placed – usually near the back of a store or in an otherwise hard-to-find location. Prices can sometimes be more than half off, so it’s definitely worth the effort to hunt for it. The only drawback is that since the food will expire soon, you have to eat it within one or two days before it goes bad.
Avoid eating out too much
This is one of those “no duh” tips. Compared to the U.S., eating out in Sweden is often crazier than an Italian football match. Even fast food is spendy: a simple 15-centimeter (six-inch)turkey sub at Subway costs 43 kronor – about $7. Even if you were to eat just a simple 15 kronor cheeseburger at McDonald’s once a day, every day, you’d end up spending more than 450 kronor (around $75) a month. While it’s okay to eat out once in a while, do it too often and your wallet will suffer.
Become a food cart fanatic
If you don’t feel like cooking, then a food cart is your best bet for satisfying cuisine. Food carts offer everything from traditional Swedish meatballs (köttbullar) to kebabs or falafel. Prices aren’t as high as restaurants, and the portions are generous. They’re great after a night at a pub or club, or a quick bite to eat on the way home from class. Personally, I find the “kebab i pita med tzatziki” (“kebab in pita with tzatziki”) from a food cart that’s run by an elderly Bulgarian guy here on campus to be the greatest invention ever. Granted, food carts may not be high class, but there’s a certain indie-hipster coolness to them anyway that only a student would understand.
Surf for serious savings
It sounds simple, but it can go a long way. Finding out from others how they save money can help give you ideas for how to do the same, and online resources offer a dearth of information on the subject. I myself am a big fan of the Get Rich Slowly Guide, but there’s many other sources like My Money Blog that are just as useful.
Cost should never prohibit someone from doing something – it’s merely an obstacle that can be overcome. And with a little creativity (ditto learning how to cook), getting your daily nutritional requirements while on a budget is more than doable.
It may take a little practice, but once you start trimming your food budget you’ll be thrilled to finally have a little extra money to start paying off all those student loans you took to get to Sweden.
Or you can just visit H&M.