As a college student living away from home, perhaps for the first time in your life, you’re in charge of all your dietary needs. No one’s stocking the fridge and pantry with your favorite snacks, or whipping up your best dinner each night. If you want to eat, you’ve got to plan.
All that shopping and food-prepping can be overwhelming—and expensive! With a bit of planning and prioritizing, though, you can master dorm-life eating without living on ramen noodles or going into debt.
Here’s how to save on food costs in college:
- Plan ahead. You don’t want to blow through your budget on a single trip to the supermarket or put on the “freshman fifteen” before you’ve taken your first exam. Keep yourself well-fed and your budget intact by planning your menu carefully. Set aside a few minutes at the start of each month to map out a menu for the next few weeks. Create a shopping list based on your menu and stock up on everything you need. This way, a balanced meal will be within reach at any time and you won’t be tempted to eat yet another meal out because you’re absolutely famished.
- Dare to share. Study groups can sometimes be less than productive, but food prep is always a good idea to share. Grab your friend who enjoys such activities and is great with details. Find another one who is an aspiring chef, and your buddy who always knows how to sniff out a deal. Then, see if you can share food costs and planning. Play on everyone’s talents to get your groceries for less and to plan out meals that are nutritious and delicious.
- Choose a food plan carefully
If your school offers pre-planned meals, don’t sign up for anything until you’re certain you’ll eat it. Lots of menu options sound better on paper, and it doesn’t make sense to pay for food you won’t eat. Ask older students for help in figuring out what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to the school menu.
- Stay away from vending machines
Don’t feed all the contents of your wallet into overpriced vending machines. Candy bars purchased in large packages at the supermarket can be 75% cheaper than what you’ll find in a vending machine. Stock up on your favorite on-the-go snacks and keep some in your school bag so you have something to munch on whenever the nibbles bite.
You’re in charge of your food now! Be smart and plan ahead for a well-balanced, inexpensive food plan.