One of the harsh reality checks that happened when I came to school was how expensive food is. Whether buying a meal plan on campus or stocking your kitchen for the month, food is where a good portion of your money is going to go. It’s hard coming from a home that provided home-cooked meals every night of the week. I want to buy the kinds of food that I am familiar with, but I find that the bill adds up pretty fast. Some people are perfectly content with living off of ramen noodles and cereal, but I like to have filling and tasty meals every night, so here are some tips for inexpensive eating.
1. Don’t buy organic
Yes, there are some benefits with eating organic food; however, it is always more expensive. Stick with buying regular lettuce or bananas. They will taste the same and be half the price.
2. Plan meals ahead of time
Plan your meals for the week so you don’t waste food. Too many times I have bought onions or cilantro for a meal and then have the left-overs go bad in the fridge. Know exactly what you need to buy at the store, how you are going to use it, and how you can use the left-overs later. Don’t end up throwing food away. Even before you go grocery shopping, take note what you already have so you can incorporate it in your meals. Planning can take some time, but it will help you eat healthier, help you cook more at home, and save you money in the process.
3. Use coupons or grocery cards
I am not one to save every coupon I see, but I do make an effort to save any coupon that I will use. When I am shopping at HEB, I always make note of all the discount coupons they have around the store, and I have a Kroger card that saves me money when shopping at Kroger. It may seem futile at the moment, but saving a couple dollars each shopping trip will add up throughout the year. Plus, if you use your Kroger card at the Starbucks in Kroger you can get enough points to get a free coffee. Yum!
4. The Semi-Homemade Way
If you’re a passionate chef or baker, try making more semi-homemade dishes. Semi-homemade would be like buying a package of already prepared pico de gallo for some grilled chicken instead of making it from scratch. You still can cook and create your own dishes, but it will be nearly as expensive as doing everything yourself. It also is more convenient for those individuals who don’t have a lot of time to cook dinner every night.
5. Eat In
Grabbing a burger on your way home from school or going out to eat with your friends every other night is costly. Look back at some of your credit/debit card purchases or old receipts for a month and find out how much money you spend going out. During my more stressful months of school I could easily spend over $100 a month on fast food. Don’t get in the habit of eating out. It is not healthy, it’s expensive, and at a sit-down restaurant you have to worry about tipping the server. There is no better way to save money than eating in.
6. Don’t buy bottled water
If you are the kind of person who refuses to drink tap water, then get a water filter. Bottled water is an unnecessary purchase that some people just get in the habit of doing. Don’t be afraid of tap water. It will help you save money in the long run.
Use these tips in your daily life so you don’t feel like you’re spending all your money on groceries. Remember, you can be a college student and still eat well, and, of course you can also eat the occasional ramen noodles.