Saving Money On Food As a College Student

As college students, we typically don’t have a lot of money hanging around in our back pockets. Between housing, classes, textbooks, and numerous other expenses, we are all “ballin’ on a budget”. But no matter who we are, where we live on campus, or what our major is, there is one constant that tends to continuously find a way to suck out whatever money we do have on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis. That constant is none other than food. 

Between the occasional Domino’s Pizza craving and the late-night Insomnia Cookie order, these expenses add up, and quickly. In fact, students spend on average $4,097 a year on dining out or ordering take-out (HSBC Bank).  

There are often two food options students can choose between if they are living on a campus. A select number of students choose to opt out of the meal plan and buy their own groceries. This approach can be extremely cost-effective if it is done well. Buying food to make larger meals that can provide leftovers for multiple days rather than buying meal-by-meal dishes is what will give you more bang for your buck. Splitting the cost of these larger meals between roommates or friends not only saves money, but also gives students a sense of comradery and togetherness that can be hard to find when living apart from family.  

However, many of these students fall victim to the easier option of ordering out instead of making their own food. It’s less time consuming and may seem cheaper in the short-term, but after a week of eating out every night for lunch or dinner, you are spending a lot more money in the long run.  

On the other hand, a vast majority of students choose the university offered meal plan. As a student on a meal plan myself, I fully understand the lack of variety that students often dislike. It’s easy to get tired of the same pizza, burger, sandwich options. Because of this, students again are too easily tempted to order out and have food delivered.  

However, if you want to make the most of your meal plan, you must milk it for all it’s worth. Instead of getting the same dishes week after week, getting creative with your meals can help break up the repetitiveness. This might look like breaking up chicken tenders on a hearty salad instead of eating just plain chicken tenders or a regular salad. It might look like making a three-cheese quesadilla at the sandwich bar rather than a wrap. Or it might even look like making a chocolate milkshake from the soft-serve ice cream and chocolate milk. 

It’s also important to remember that there is more than one dining hall on most campuses. Instead of going to the same dining hall every day, take a trip to another dining hall on campus. Most dining halls have specials during the week that will give you ideas of what you can get. If you put in the effort to diversify your dining hall choices, it will also add variety to your diet and help make the  food just that much more appealing. 

Either way, there’s no harm in dining out every now in then, you just have to be responsible with it. 

Source: HSBC. “The Value of Education: The Price of Success.” 2018. PDF File. 

Leah Searcy 

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