Hello fellow foodies — because what college student doesn’t love to eat? This post is dedicated to those venturing out from dorms and dining halls and moving into their own off-campus places. Or people like me who previously had little experience with cooking before starting college. Here are some ways you can eat well while staying on budget.
Cook more, eat out less.
Cooking your own food can save you a lot of money. Sure, that $8 for dinner does not seem like much, but it can add up quickly, especially if you eat out daily. With that $8 you can buy a good amount of ingredients to cook enough food for a week (Plus not having to pay for a cook’s labor or a waiter’s tip).
Keep those leftovers.
Couldn’t finish your lunch? Pack it up and then you don’t have to worry about dinner. Sometimes, if the food is a good amount, I eat half of it and save the other half for dinner. This was especially relieving during exam crunch times. I would not have to worry about what to eat that night and could use that time to study instead.
Club Cards and Coupons.
Sign up for a club card at the grocery store you frequent. Then always compare prices and look out for club member discounts. Look out for and clip those coupons. It is amazing how much all of these an add up. I have seen my total amount drop as much as $20 at the cash register.
Look out for Deals.
Does your local grocery store have student discount days? Or just discounts in general if you flash your student ID? Are their specific days where chicken or bread goes on sale? Also check to see if there is a farmers’ market in your area. Often, farmers’ markets have lower prices and more local and fresh products.
Buy more unprocessed foods.
Go to the fresh produce and meats section of the store. Compare the prices of vegetables, fruits, or meat to frozen foods and prepackaged food. The former are most often significantly cheaper compared to the latter convenience goods. They also just tend to be healthier and you know what you are eating. A tomato will be a tomato, not something packaged away in preservatives, corn syrup and other unpronounceable ingredients that sound more like science lab chemicals than anything edible.
Buy in Bulk.
Lucky is the student with a Costco nearby. And a car to lug all those goods home.
Buy within your Means.
If there is one thing I have realized when I started living on my own in college, is that groceries really do add up. A trip to the supermarket can easily reach over fifty dollars.
Think about what is really necessary in your fridge. Over time, I have developed a system where I buy enough groceries for a week. My shopping list consists of the things I tend to eat on a daily basis — bread, fruit, milk, etcetera. I then think about what I want for dinner for that week and buy just those ingredients. This also prevents food from sitting in the fridge and ultimately going to waste. I tend to avoid buying lots of snacks and dessert. If anything, I use that as a reason to to go out for an occasional ice cream. After all, you have to treat yourself sometimes.
In summary, balance out eating out and cooking your own. Gradually try to cook for yourself more and more. Keep an eye out for deals. Think about what is healthy and what food is really necessary and what is not.
Photo courtesy of lu_lu via Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Check out the video below on how to save money on healthy food!