Friday, September 15, 2017

How to Save Money on Food in College

Now that I'm into my fourth year of college, I feel like I've picked up a couple tips and tricks that have helped me cut down on spending money for food. I spent two years in the dorms with an unlimited meal plan, and this will be my second year cooking + grocery shopping for myself. I honestly feel old because I look forward to weekly ads and grocery shopping (lol). It's oddly relaxing and nice to plan ahead meals so I don't have to worry about it when I'm super busy during the week in class or at work. 

Take Advantage of Free Food
Keep an eye out for promotional events on Facebook or on campus. Michigan State is a very big school, so I always see free coffee and pizza slices being handed out. Also, different food apps like Grubhub or Hooked will have deals around the area pretty often. If someone brings food to class or a club meeting, be sure to take advantage of that too!!

Explore Different Grocery Stores in the Area
There are four or five different stores around me I could go to, but I found the best ones are further out where less students shop. You'll have a better selection of items and shelves won't be cleared out. Find one or two go-to places that you can compare coupons and sales flyers to, and stick to shopping only once a week or once every other week.
My Favorite Stores
I find the best places for cheap, healthy produce are Aldi and Fresh Thyme. Aldi is much different from your normal grocery store, with "off-brands", but that doesn't really matter for fruits and vegetables since it's always fresh and they have lots of organic options. Bananas are literally 40 cents a pound, and a bag of tortilla chips run for $1.69 - and that's without any sales. They have most of the basics, and also many healthier options like their brand Fit and Active. My bill is never more than $40 for every other week which is amazing, but that also depends on how much you normally eat. Stick to the basics like potatoes, veggies, fruit, and whole grains - be sure to take advantage of their spices since they're very cheap and come in much larger bottles than other places.
Buy an Off Campus Meal Plan + Take Food Home
Depending on your school, some might offer smaller meal plans if you don't live on campus anymore. Whenever my friends and I go to a cafeteria, it's more of a "treat" now that we don't have unlimited access to food! Bring some plastic bags and tupperware to secretly grab some food to have for later. Before a brunch party we had one time, my roommates and I raided the salad bar for spinach, peppers, cheese, etc. to make eggs, and also took some bagels home :) 

I call what I do a "half meal prep" because I will prepare food ahead of time on Sunday or Monday, but won't separate my meals in six different containers that you see on youtube or instagram - it would just take up so much space in the fridge, when I could just put the food in one large container and scoop out what I need onto a plate to heat up or right before I go to work in a small tupperware container. 

If I meal prep, I don't have to think about meals throughout the week, and most importantly, I won't go out to eat for food when I'm lazy. It saves you money AND time, which are very valuable to college students. Some of my favorite things to meal prep are homemade "mac and cheese" (I try to eat dairy free and this is my favorite recipe), kale salads (the greens don't wilt and it tastes better the longer it is in the fridge), tofu (baked in the oven, and easy to top salads, rice, or in rice paper rolls), stews (always made with sweet potato and lots of veggies; either a curry or chili), grans (rice and quinoa; perfect to top salads and buddha bowls), and overnight oats (takes about to five minutes to prep, and perfect for non-morning people!).

I hope this helped some people, and let me know of your ideas too!

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