The best way to… get groceries

Studying abroad can be quite expensive, so you need to know how to get your groceries as cheap as possible. Here's how you do that.

Albert Heijn bonuskaart: After your first few weeks in Groningen, you may have noticed that  Albert Heijn offers great discounts every week – but you won’t get those reduced prices unless you get an Albert Heijn ‘bonuskaart’ – bonus card (not the most difficult translation ever).

To get one, just ask for a card in the store: you can either use it anonymously or you can register your data online for more personal offers.

The market: One insider tip is the open market. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from early in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, merchants set up at the Vismarkt and the Grote Markt. Among the stands, you can find a great variety of vegetables, fruit, bread, fish and even spices.

That may not sound so different from a supermarket, but if you want to save money, this is really the place to be: veggies and fruit in particular are much cheaper here compared to the standard supermarket prices.

If you need a break after a long day of classes (or shopping), the market also offers snacks and coffee. And don’t be afraid: there’s no expectation to haggle over prices.

Aldi & Lidl: Even though most students would be happy eating pizza every day, we all need some basics for our daily nutrition. If you’re looking for cheap staples like pasta, cereal or bread, check these two discount stores.

In comparison to the bigger chains, the prices here are generally much lower and you can still get good quality items, especially produce. Be sure to check their weekly ‘aanbiedingen’ – special offers – every now and again. They also offer student-friendly items like rain jackets, notebooks and sneakers at majorly reduced prices.

Zegels: Albert Heijn also offers a great way to save up some cash with minimum effort. For every euro you spend, you can pay 10 cents more to get one ‘zegel’- stamp – for your stamp booklet. When you return a full booklet with 490 stamps, you get 52 euros in return.

That can come in handy when you need to replace your bike tire after it goes flat – again. And Albert Heijn isn’t the only supermarket that hands out zegels; if you ask at your supermarket of choice, they will happily give you information about their own savings offers.

Time management: Plan your grocery store trips for the end of the day, because most supermarkets will have more discounts in the late afternoon.

Yes, that almost certainly means fighting your way through hordes of your fellow students, but if you want to get your meat for a 30 percent discount, it’s worth the trouble. Most food that is sold at a reduced price will expire within the next few days, so it’s best to buy ingredients for dinner tonight from the bargain bin.

Bonus tip: don’t forget the ‘toko’s’- international stores – scattered across the city. If you’re looking for exotic vegetables, spices and sauces, your neighbourhood toko may be the place to go!