Eating Cheap in College

Cheap eating tips for college students. Learn how to save money and still eat great food!

College students go through major transitions when leaving life at home for life at university.

One of the biggest transitions involves eating. Limited kitchen and refrigerator space, fluctuating schedules, limited cooking supplies, and a tight budget can make meal planning difficult for college students. These same factors can lead to unhealthy eating habits and the dreaded freshman 15.

If you’re a college student, you don’t have to settle for an unhealthy diet of ramen noodles and cold cereal. Here are some cheap recipe and cooking ideas just for you:

Use The Buddy System

Plan a dinner-making rotation with your friends. Once a week, one participant cooks dinner, the next week another person, and so on. This can also work with two roommates who can take turns cooking every other meal.

Share Ingredients With Roommates or Floor Mates

If you’re not going to be doing a lot of cooking, it doesn’t make sense to fully stock your kitchen. Consider sharing essential ingredients with your roommates or floor mates: spices, cooking oils, flour, sugar, rice, pasta, condiments, etc.

Avoid Fast Food, Convenience Foods, and Snack Foods

Try to avoid falling into the convenience-food trap. The easiest way to do this is to always eat a healthy breakfast. A couple of hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit is a healthy and cheap way to start the day. Then find the most convenient way to eat healthy yet inexpensive and unprocessed foods throughout the day. Once you establish healthy eating habits, they are harder to break.

Find Cheap and Easy Recipes

As a college student, you probably don’t have time or money to cook fancy meals. Stick to the basics and you’ll save time and money:

Also, check out cooking websites and cookbooks that focus on simple three, four, and five-ingredient recipes.

Use a Slow Cooker

Crock pot meals allow you to make meals ahead of time and do most of your work upfront. You can make oatmeal in a slow cooker (this recipe costs just $2.37 for four servings!) – and a million other recipes as well. Check out these other crock pot recipes:

Know Where To Shop

If you’re new to your college town, do some research to determine where to get good deals on groceries. Talk to upperclassmen. Search online. Find out if there is an ALDI nearby.

If You Have a Meal Plan

Most college meal plans are all-you-can-eat. If you fill up your plate and overeat at every meal, you are going to gain weight. Try to establish healthy eating habits from the beginning. Fill up your plate with fruits, vegetables, and low-calorie foods – and avoid going back for more.

Select the Right Cooking Utensils

You probably don’t have space for – nor do you need – a lot of cooking utensils. Check out thrift shops or garage sales to find these items for cheap. Start out with these essentials:

    • Medium sauce pan
    • Frying pan
    • Baking sheet
    • Microwave-safe mixing bowl
    • Mixing spoons
    • Spatula
    • Measuring cups and spoons
    • Large chef’s knife
    • Paring knife
    • Cutting board

Do you have any tips for saving money at college? Please share them below!

8 Responses to “Eating Cheap in College”

  1. 1

    Eileen — August 24, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

    Great tips for eating in college! I remember how horrifically I ate when I lived in my first apartment…let’s just say that I never want to see a box of tuna helper again. Well, that seems totally achievable! 🙂

    • Haley replied: — August 27th, 2012 @ 3:37 am

      Haha, Tuna Helper was a classic! I remember eating turkey sandwiches every day (and I mean every day) for lunch.

  2. 2

    liz — August 25, 2012 @ 4:14 am

    I wish I had a college student in my life to show this too – great tips! I love your list of cooking utensils (though I might add measuring cups – I am the world’s worst estimator!)

    • Haley replied: — August 27th, 2012 @ 3:35 am

      Great idea on the measuring cups – Added to the list!

  3. 3

    Valerie — August 27, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    These are great tips, Haley! If only food blogs had been around about…*I don’t want to say how many* years ago, maybe I could have avoided those angst-ridden nights spent listening to Tori Amos with a tub of cookie dough and a spoon. 😀
    p.s. Nutrition is important during those college years. (I had to use my fingers to solve the math CAPTCHA.)

    • Haley replied: — August 28th, 2012 @ 12:01 am

      I hear ya on the cookie dough thing! 🙂

  4. 4

    Taylor — October 9, 2012 @ 2:35 am

    I’m just finishing up my last semester, and the best tip I learned is to cook meals ahead of time. I never have time during the week to cook, but spending a few hours in the kitchen on Saturday or Sunday is no big deal, and you can make enough food to eat healthy and cheap for the week. My favorite is burrito mix: saute some peppers, onions, chicken, beans, corn, whatever, and leave a big bowl of that in your fridge all week along with a package of tortillas and some shredded cheese. Vary your meals from week to week, or put smaller amounts in the freezer. Do this with coffee too: I make a big pitcher of cold press while I’m cooking on Saturday and save a ton by not going to Starbucks all week.

    • Haley replied: — October 9th, 2012 @ 2:44 am

      These are great ideas Taylor! Thanks for sharing.

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