If you don’t have to purchase a meal plan from your school’s dining hall so you opt-out but are now thinking about what you’re going to do for lunch, no worries. No need to pay for the overpriced although albeit convenient dining hall food and rather opt for more money-saving food items.
1. Grocery Shopping
You have a mini-fridge and a microwave that may not seem like the base for a four-star kitchen but it’s useful. Of course, you have to figure out what you can actually fit and what is reasonable in your very limited resources but grocery shopping is essential in saving money. Also splurging on a bulk supply of k-cups and a Keurig will definitely save money once you start skipping the campus Starbucks. Microwave rice and precooked veggies that you just pop in the microwave to heat up will be the base of your quick lunches or late dinners. It’s a great way to eat at your dorm and save extra cash when needed. The purchase of grocery shopping is expensive but it saves you money over time and the meals end up being way less than what you get at the dining hall.
Grocery shopping won’t do any good if you don’t know how to turn that food you purchased into meals and you just let it go to waste. There are plenty of cookbooks out there but they usually require an actual kitchen. Purchase a college cookbook guide to learn how to make your basic staple food into an actual meal and you should survive at least till you choose to order out as a treat. Cooking is an essential guide in growing and knowing how to make food with less will really help you out during the college years.
It’s so easy to be tempted by the snack food aisle and purchasing all the yummy junk food without even realizing it you spend way too much at the grocery store and half it is just snack food that you will finish in a day. There is no point in going to the grocery store without a budget and then overspending and having your groceries cost you the same amount for a meal plan. Setting a budget will allow you to focus on what you could purchase at the grocery store. Budgeting also allows you to save money and figure out where you can spend it. Grocery store shopping and budgeting will allow you to save up and have some money extra to afford to celebrate and go out occasionally. Track your expenses to figure out when you should go grocery shopping and how much you spend. If you are in an extra-tight pinch look at your grocery stores weekly deals and coupons and work your meals with those items to help save on your budget and wallet.
If you live in a college town there are usually restaurants and local businesses that tend to offer discounts to students. There was a great local Chinese restaurant near my university and if you showed your student ID they gave you a 10% discount. Discounts like these could really help you when you’re working on a college student budget and need to have it stretch as much as you can. Plus just because you are a college student does not mean that you have to eat in your dorm room all the time. Going out is a fun activity and you shouldn’t have to miss it just because you are budgeting. Look for your local restaurants and see what deals they offer for college kids. It could save you a decent bit in the long run especially. Don’t deny your craving of kung pao chicken just because you want to budget and still eat.
One of the best things about eating at the dining hall is the convenience of it all. If you’re busy studying or going from class to class you don’t have to worry about making a meal all you have to do is swipe your meal plan card and you have access to a hot ready to eat the meal that will be set for you in a matter of seconds. If timing is what you consider important along with eating and that’s the best quality you find in a meal plan don’t worry. Figure out when you have time to plan your meals ahead of time. Purchase some microwaveable sturdy Tupperware and plan your meals for the next few days. This is amazing if you have about thirty minutes between classes, enough to eat but not enough to cook as well. If this is an issue for you meal planning ahead of time could really help you out. An hour or two taken out of one day a week to make food for the rest of the time could really help with time and money. There’s a lot of others who plan ahead as well. There are cookbooks and videos on what’s best to meal plan and take with you in college.
6. Snack and Drink at Home
Purchase a Britta filter and a reusable water bottle. Sure that $2 water from the vending machine might not seem like much but having that a few times a week could be around $40 a month the price of a Britta filter that you can use for way more than a month. Purchasing that $3 container of 24 water bottles is definetely a cheaper option to the vending machine but it’s bulky and you have to repurchase it everytime you finish. It could end up being costly plus all that plastic isn’t good for the environment. If you need some flavor and not a fan of plain water add mio the water flavoring to your bottle to make it taste like juice. Purchasing those prepackaged chips could also help your salt craving and ignore the vending machine again.
Cooking in bulk and packaging the leftovers is a great idea to save time and money. This idea is great if you don’t have the time to cook multiple meals back to back to meal plan. What you had for dinner could double as lunch and if you really don’t want the exact same thing again just add a few more ingredients and spices to give your day-old leftovers a special kick.