Let’s face it, college can be very expensive. However, there are alternatives to save money on food in college besides eating Ramen Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Tip #1 – Campus meal plans
When students live off campus they sometimes believe they are not eligible to sign up for campus meal plans. This is not the case with every university. The initial investment may seem daunting at first, but remember that it often covers three meals a day, six or seven days a week. Ultimately, it should not be surprising that a large university buying in bulk can prepare meals for less money than an individual can. Granted, the food may not be exactly what you’re hungry for at the time, but the long term savings can be significant. You can also see if your college offers a partial meal plan, which will reduce the upfront costs and still save you money in the long-run.
Tip #2 – Shop on a full stomach and make a list before you go
This is not just good advice for college, but a trick that can save you money for a lifetime. If you make a list before you go to the store (and stick to it), you’ll avoid impulse buying. The same goes for eating before heading to the store; when you walk past donuts while hungry they start looking mighty tasty, but if you’ve just eaten you can stroll right past them.
Tip #3 – The vending machine is not your friend
One of the luxuries of college is that most dorms and campus buildings have vending machines. However, the same snacks, candy or drinks that you buy through a vending machine can cost upwards of 70% less at the grocery store. These extra costs are going to add up quickly and can easily be avoided. Save money by getting your food, drinks, and snacks in advance and not giving in to temptation.
Tip #4 – Be a smart shopper
Yes, there are more exciting ways to spend your Sunday afternoon than reading through the Sunday paper for coupons and advertisements, but the savings you gain from comparing food prices at different grocery stores is astounding. If you combine this tip with tip #2 and plan ahead, finding a grocery store with many of your list items on sale can save you a lot of money.
Tip #5 – Watch the campus calendar
It can really pay off to watch bulletin boards and campus calendars for events where free food is served. There is absolutely nothing wrong with free food. You can get some great bites and save money just by dropping by stopping by a few of these events.
With so many other costs such as tuition, books, and an active social life, it’s important to try to save as much as you possibly can with small changes. With a little bit of planning ahead you too can save yourself some money and still eat great food. What tricks have you found to save money on food in college?