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Ways to Save Money on Food as a College Student

Ways to eat real food on a budget

With your mind so muddled with details like classes, exams, and papers, who has time to think about food? You might be heading into the new semester with plans to subsist solely on convenience food and packaged junk. We’re looking at you, ramen noodles!

But as you’ll quickly discover, overdoing the processed foods will leave you feeling not quite full and not so nutritionally sound.

You’re ready for a change. But how can you prepare nutritious meals that don’t cost a bundle or take hours of prep time? Is it even possible?

Absolutely! Here’s how:

College girl with red and black backpack waiting at a crosswalk

1. Choose a food plan carefully

If your school requires you to purchase a food plan, select one that best suits your needs instead of signing up for everything. If you love a big breakfast but prefer to go with lighter fare for the rest of the day, consider purchasing breakfast only and eating the rest of the meals in the dorm. Paying for meals, you won’t eat much of is like kissing your money goodbye.

2. Plan

Lack of planning leads to the poorest choices. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan and shop for your menu. This way, you won’t be stuck missing key ingredients when you need them most and then opting for expensive, unhealthy takeout food instead.

3. Learn how to shop

If you’re using the kitchen, you’ll need to learn how to shop. Here are some quick tips to help you become a smarter consumer:

  • Always use a list. You’ll spend less time and less money at the store.
  • Look up and down, but don’t look straight. Supermarkets tend to put the priciest brands at eye level, with the less-expensive products higher up or lower down on the shelves.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Everything looks tempting when you’re running low on fuel.
  • Stock up on staples. Always have some pasta, rice, and beans on hand for easy, last-minute meals.

Get help. Use an app like Anylist and GroceryIQ to help you stick to your budget.

Two guys friends working together and smiling

4. Cook with a friend

Ask a pal to share cooking responsibilities with you several times a week. Lots of dishes, like pot roasts and casseroles, are ideal for sharing.

5. Invest in a quality lunchbox or bento box

As a college student, you’ll be up and about more often than not. Avoid the temptation to buy pricey convenience foods on the go by keeping your meals and snacks at the perfect temperature with a good-quality lunchbox or bento box.

6. Avoid vending machines

Vending machines are ridiculously overpriced. Plan your snacks and keep some with you at all times, so you don’t blow all your cash on $3 chocolate bars.

With just a bit of planning and careful budgeting, you can cut your food costs in half this semester!


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