food & drink

Discount stores – How to shop for food on a budget

Written by Chloesayers

So in the last week the budget retailer Poundland have bought one of their rivals, 99p Stores, for £55m. The change is set to happen over time. This may be positive as it will stop the pathetic rivalry between the two. The BBC’s Pound Shop Wars programme in 2012 following the competition between 99p Stores and Poundworld gave further insight into their “friendly” competition…

Personally, I don’t shop at either (unless I have presents to buy for people I’m not too close with so they end up with a small box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray) purely based on the fact I don’t live near either store. Or any discount stores. Or any local shops for that matter. Even though they both sell some fresh food and drink like juice, milk and bread, I wouldn’t even think of “just popping into Poundland in the local town centre for a sandwich” because these kinds of stores are not the typically associated stores for basic food items.

I must confess I was slightly put off discount stores after Harry Wallop on C4’s Dispatches discovered that we were being somewhat “conned” by deals. Poundland’s jar of Nutella was 20g smaller than a jar from the leading supermarket, which was also £1. However this is somewhat biased considering it was on offer in the supermarket anyway. The exact same for the loaf of bread which was 800g on offer at another supermarket for £1 whilst Poundland sold a 600g loaf.

For some students, these stores are essential when shopping. As their offers don’t change as often as supermarkets, there is more certainty when shopping. Discount stores are often located on busy high streets where the main supermarkets are small and overpriced. If you can face the queues, there’s no reason why shouldn’t do food shopping at them. Just remember to buy your fresh ingredients from elsewhere (unless you live off cupboard food alone). Student Beans has some constructive advice for shopping at discount stores. Some useful tips include:

  • “Stick with the brands” – this is good advice as Harry Wallop warned us of “phantom brands” which were essentially “made up” brands that Poundland had created.
  • “Dry goods are good news” – discount stores often do fabulous deals on student staples including cereals, biscuits, chopped tomatoes and soups.
  • “You might find it cheaper elsewhere” – if you’re on a strict budget it’s always worth checking out websites such as
  •  “Only buy multi-packs if you need them” – essential advice before you end up with 10 cans of tuna before remembering how much you hate fish.

Happy shopping!