Is a Waitrose addiction really the wisest idea for a student?

It has a reputation for being an expensive way to shop. But is it worth it?

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The Independent Online

It was when I accidentally pulled an Emily Wilding-Davison on Belgrave Square that I realised it had become too much. Nearly falling into a town car procession was not a finer moment. It struck me again as I sprang like a jack in the box to reach the last mozzarella wrap from the top shelf, all shame gone and over-hungry.

But when it hit me squarely in the face was when I actually tutted at the absence of the rare-as-unicorns, dream-filled dark chocolate biscuits that I knew there was a problem: Waitrose. You see, I was there again. Not a great shock. This time I’d tramped in the rain through SW1 and past two separate shoals of hair-plaited under-tens from Eaton Square School, patiently waiting and holding hands in twos for their teacher. 

To a middle class mother, none of this sounds too tragic. But I – at the tender age of 20, when others might be partying – will go out of my way to find the closest John Lewis outpost. I know, it only supports my bid for premature middle age. In London I know the good ones: the Wapping branch has had more innings on my debit card than David Warner has had at Trent Bridge this week while its branch at Clapham Junction served me all too well during my time as a Wandsworth resident. The latter comes with an added next-to-Waterstones bonus, satisfying both of my Saturday morning browsing ambitions. But I am aware of which part of The Independent’s website you are viewing this on: the student.

Be not fooled: although I am now (nearly) a third year, I am still in possession of a valid student card. Not that it works in any food retail spaces, I might add. Happily it means 10 percent off mostly everywhere else. How fine and dandy, ho ho ho. It’s just a shame it won’t last as one day I am expected to graduate and financially, that will be an enormous shame. But why am I shopping at Waitrose, you ask. Because... well let’s say I’m quite resourceful.

The John Lewis group is secretly on the student side. In an Eleanor-exclusive newsflash, it turns out that you don’t need a bank loan to shop at Waitrose. If you find yourself plan-free on a Sunday afternoon – a luxury! – then a trip to the meat aisle can be very lucrative. My flatmate and I are having a monthly competition for best red label discounts: I’m on 30 pounds of steak for a fiver, so I reckon I’m winning.

For mild claustrophobics, a group I join as soon as ‘food shop’ is mentioned, the wide aisles make for peaceful browsing. Lidl is an exception to the food shop stress, because everything is in the same place whichever store you visit. So 59p apple juice is exactly where you know it will be every time.

Because your faces have probably turned a sour shade of anti-snob – ‘who does she think she is, shopping at Waitrose?’, a disclaimer. I shan’t apologise for taste or claustrophobia, but I have fallen for compromise, hook, line and sinker. In a new era of quality not quantity, this requires a little planning. If compromise is one box of steak less then so be it. Catch this new leaf while you can, for like the Sunday evening deals, we won’t last long.

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.