Eating Cheap in College
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:
- Pasta and sauce
- Cheese and veggie quesadillas
- Baked potatoes with toppings
- Tortilla shell pizzas
Also, check out cooking websites and cookbooks that focus on simple three, four, and five-ingredient recipes.
Additionally, peruse the recipes included in these meal plans that cost less than $100 a week for 4 people:
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
- Medium sauce pan
- Frying pan
- Baking sheet
- Microwave-safe mixing bowl
- Mixing spoons
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Large chef’s knife
- Paring knife
- Cutting board
Avoid Costly Nights Out
Most college students don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on going out. Visiting restaurants, food trucks, bars, movie theaters, and other locales can quickly add up.
The fix? Learn some new indoor winter activities for adults like board games, painting, and baking. Hang out with friends (or meet some new ones) and have fun staying in.
Do you have any tips for saving money at college? Please share them below!