How to Save Money On Food in College

In college, spending is a constant. Tuition, housing, and transportation can weigh heavily on your bank account, so you want to save where you can. Often, students will sacrifice when it comes to food, choosing to miss meals or opt for snacks rather than a balanced, full meal. It’s a quick way to save a little cash, but it can result in a lack of nutritional health. What other options are out there? Here are some solid ways to save money on food.

Cooking at Home

Cooking is an easy way to save money and improve your diet. By cooking at home you can have more control over your health, gain new skills, and be more financially conscious.

Learn to Cook

College is all about developing new skills, and while it may sound difficult, learning to cook is an easy, fun way to save money. Anyone can learn to cook, and there are endless arrays of step-by-step recipes and how-to videos at your fingertips (hint: just browse Pinterest!). You can find fast, easy beginner level meals that taste great. Who knows? You might even be able to show off at Thanksgiving.

TIP: Learning to cook has never been easier! The Welcome Table’s “How to Learn to Cook (for Beginners)” and Bon Appétit’s “The 7 Essentials of Becoming a Better Cook” are great resources for beginners and future chefs! 

Learning how to cook has become a health-focused hobby,  making it a great way to begin creating your own healthy eating habits. You don’t even have to be a pro! And money is no issue. There are plenty of healthy options on a low budget.

TIP: Want to eat healthily but don’t have much money? Find tips in The Girl on Bloor’s blog post, “EATING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET + 10 CHEAP DINNER IDEAS.”

You can also invest in cooking tools to help you out in the kitchen. Think about purchasing appliances, dishes, and utensils that fit your needs. While it seems like an expensive goal, having cooking tools and appliances on hand can be a big money saver in the long run, especially if you live in a dorm where they are not provided. Cooking tools also give you more food options and make meal prep easier.

Plan & Prep

Meal planning and meal preparation save time and money, especially for a college student’s hectic lifestyle. Meal planning entails finding recipes or choosing meal ideas and buying ingredients needed for the meal, while meal prep is about actually preparing the food to be cooked.

Meal planning eliminates worries about what your next meal will be and how you will afford it by planning ahead and managing funds. Not to mention, indecision is removed, so you won’t waste twenty minutes trying to decide what you want to eat two or three times a day. Finding recipes and buying the needed supplies ahead of time will make the rest of the week a breeze.

TIP: New to meal planning? Check out thekitchn’s article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning: What to Know, How to Succeed, and What to Skip.”

Meal prep makes quick meals fast and convenient; prepping them in advance reduces cooking time and may only require a few steps like assembly or microwaving. Prepping meals at the start of the week essentially does half of the work for the rest of the week. The time it takes to prep your meals is easily worth the time you save that can be used for other activities like homework or free-time.

TIP: Want to learn how to meal prep? See Healthline’s article “How to Meal Prep — A Beginner’s Guide” for tips and info!

Cheap Meals Are Your Friend

College students have a particular brand when it comes to their lifestyle. Lack of sleep, a huge workload, and the signature broke college student foods often prevail. Ramen, mac n’ cheese, and a collection of junk food – these foods aren’t usually healthy, but they’re really cheap. Ready-to-make meals are the savior of college students everywhere. Until you get tired of the taste.

While you shouldn’t eat ramen all the time, that sort of cheap meal is a cost-efficient option you’ll likely benefit from. And they come in a variety of options, like instant noodles, frozen microwave dinners, and pizza in all forms. Cooking is a useful skill, but it isn’t always the first priority. Stock up on ready-to-make options.

There are other options besides ready-to-make meals, too. Easy beginner meals and dining hall delicacies can be beneficial, cost-efficient options that can be healthy and tasty. Don’t count them out if you have access to them! The internet is home to plenty of recipes to suit your needs, and you never know what you’ll find on campus.

TIP: Want to eat cheaply without sacrificing your wallet or tastebuds? Check out Goodful on Buzzfeed’s “22 College Eating Hacks That Are Cheap, Easy, And Healthyish” for tips and tricks on making the most of what you have.

How to Make the Most of Your Money

Budgeting

Meal planning allows you to budget, or plan the amount of money you will spend on food. Determine how much money you have to spend on food. You can make a weekly or monthly budget, factoring in groceries, eating out, and snacks. Have a plan for your spending habits.

Ex. You have $70 to spend on food for the week, or $10 a day. After adding up the cost of each item you need, you plan to spend $50 at the grocery store. That leaves $20 to eat out once or twice during the week.

Budgeting also makes grocery shopping more effective. With a budget in mind, writing grocery lists becomes a more organized process, especially with a meal plan in mind. And rather than filling up the cart with whatever you see, you have a plan of action and an ideal spending limit. With both aspects of shopping – expenses and goods – in mind, a student can make the best choices for themselves.

TIP: Budgeting doesn’t have to be a struggle. See “How To Make A Food Budget You’ll Stick To” from Work Week Lunch to learn how to make a realistic budget!

Student Discounts

Many businesses have student discounts, especially those near campus. Restaurants, movie theaters, and your campus’ corporate partners can off.

Couponing + Couponing Apps

Couponing is known to be a time-consuming but beneficial hobby. Coupons reduce prices of everyday products and can make shopping more accessible to those with less money. People who coupon actively look for and pursue deals they find. College students would do well to learn how to coupon. It could be a major advantage not just for their food budgets, but also their budgets for basic necessities like hygiene and cleaning products.

TIP: Want to learn how to coupon? “How to Start Couponing for Beginners: 2020 Guide” from Thrifty Nomads can give you all the information you need!

Fast Food

While eating fast food all the time can be costly and unhealthy, it can be a good change every once in a while.

Take advantage of as many deals and promotions as you can! Dollar menu items can be much less costly than items on the regular menu, making them better options for eating out. Students can even purchase several items to last a second meal. Promotions and happy hours can offer free and reduced prices, so if you find yourself hungry at favorable times of day, treating yourself isn’t a bad idea.

TIP: Who doesn’t like free stuff? Save The Student’s “Ultimate list of free stuff” is your guide to freebies from all sorts of restaurants, stores, and websites!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

Works Cited

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