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How to Cut Back on Your Food Budget in College

Jul 6, 2013

As a college student, you don’t have a lot of money. Not only are you not able to work a full-time job, but the jobs you can get are likely low-paying. Add to that the fact that you are likely living on student loans and you need to find every way you can to make your money stretch.

It’s important to eat well to stay healthy and to fuel study sessions for academic success. There are many ways that you can cut back on your food budget in college without relying on ramen noodles for dinner every night. Here are a few tips:

Live at Home

The best way to cut back on your food budget is to get all your food for free – by living at home. If your parents will allow it, and if your school is close enough, consider living at home instead of moving into the dorm. If your parents are paying for your room and board, it will save them money. If you’re paying for it through student loans, living at home will save you a lot of debt later. Though it may cramp your style to live at home a bit longer, your wallet will thank you for it after you graduate.

Rent an Apartment

Renting an apartment with several roommates instead of living in a dorm will save you money across the board. Renting an apartment will help you to save money on your food budget by allowing you to cook all your meals at home instead of eating out or eating in the school cafeteria. You can shop at local markets, sign up for a co-op, grow a garden, or split food with your roommates in order to save money. However, just by shopping for whole ingredients to make all your meals, you’ll save money.

Cook What You Can

If you must live in a dorm, you can save money on food by cooking what you can. Few dorms are going to be equipped with a kitchen – or to have access to one – but some dorms will allow you to keep a microwave, a toaster or a hot plate in your room. If you are allowed access to these items – and a mini fridge for storing food – you can make many simple meals and snacks that can help you to save money on your meal plan.

Grow What You Can

Dorms aren’t likely to come with a patch of yard in which you can garden either. However, you can grow some many crops in containers that you put in front of a large window or on a balcony. You can grow some basic items like lettuce or herbs to help you make food that you don’t have to buy. If you can’t have even a small container garden in the space available to you, consider growing a small plot in a community garden. You’ll have more space and be able to grow more items, opening up a number of meal possibilities.

Limit Eating Out

Eating out is the number one way to spend a lot of money on your food budget. It may be tempting to grab a quick bite to eat when you are cramming for a test or to go hang out with friends for some food and fun to relieve some stress, but it’s best to limit eating out as much as possible – to eliminate it even if you can. Stick to making quick and healthy meals for yourself and to socializing with friends in other ways.

When you live on a college-student budget, you have to find every way you can to make your money stretch. These tips can help you to eat well while also cutting back on your food budget. You’ll spend less money and take on less in student debt, helping you to achieve financial independence more quickly after you graduate.

How did you make your food budget stretch when you were in college?

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