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5 Tips For Finding Cheap Eats On Your Campus

The following is a guest article courtesy of Kelly Darmer on behalf of online degrees, a handy service connecting prospective students with the right higher education program.

With the price of tuition as high as it is, it can feel like you’ve broken the bank before you even start college, so how can you keep costs down while you’re there? There are plenty of things you could do to cut back, such as going out less, buying fewer drinks when you are out, or selling your text books. None of these options are particularly favourable, but there is one area where you can reduce the cost without reducing the enjoyment: food.

Eat From Your University Meal Plan And Avoid Vending Machines

If you’re in catered accommodation, cutting back on the amount that you spend on food can be difficult; there is an entire array of hot meals and desserts on display in the campus dining hall, calling out to be eaten, and a whole host of vending machines on your way back to your dorms. But you can use this to your advantage – if you stick to the meals that you get in the dining hall, it could save you a small fortune on snacks. As for the vending machine temptation, the mark up on those machines is extortionate, so choose multipacks of chips and candy from the superstore instead. Just make sure you don’t eat them all at once…

Plan Your Meals

If you’re responsible for feeding yourself, the opportunities to reduce your food costs are endless. The greatest piece of advice I can give you on this point is to plan your meals for the week before you do your weekly food shop. A friend of mine used to go to the store everyday to cook elaborate meals and ended up spending about $45 a day, which wasn’t far off my weekly budget.

It takes about quarter of an hour to sit down with a student cookbook or the internet in front of you and decide what meals you’re going to eat that week; seven hot meals, seven cold meals and seven breakfasts, plus a few snacks here and there and maybe some drinks. From that list, work out what ingredients you’ll need and write your shopping list. If there’s anything that’s on the list that will go off quickly, make sure you cook that meal at the start of the week so no food goes to waste.

Keep Track of Your Food Pantry

Writing a list of all the food you have in the kitchen and sticking it on the fridge is another effective way to make sure that you waste absolutely nothing. If you cross off each thing once it’s finished and add it as soon as you’ve bought it, you’ll make sure that you don’t buy something you’ve already got, and you’ll know to use it up before it goes past its sell by date. Checking this list before you do your weekly trip to the superstore can give you some inspiration too – if you’ve got a jar full of mayonnaise, for example, use it in a potato salad and it’ll be one less ingredient to buy.

As you get used to making your shopping list for the week it will become easier to plan meals that are going to be using similar ingredients so that you can bulk buy in the store without anything going to waste. For example, you can buy massive bags of potatoes which are better value, but you won’t get the benefit of it unless you use them all, so for that week you could make meals with homemade fries, mashed potato and maybe that potato salad for lunch. You can buy meat in massive multipacks as well, so make sure you freeze the individual portions when you get back so you don’t forget to use them before they go off.

Steer Clear of Fast Food

One of the easiest ways to end up spending an entire day’s food budget in about ten minutes is fast food; especially after a night out! Take out is always so tempting if you can’t be bothered to cook or if you’ve just been out and fancy an early morning snack, but it’s pretty easy to avoid (most of the time). For a start, if one of your meals one week is a homemade curry, you could make a massive one, eat one portion and freeze the rest in one-portion tubs. That way, it’s there for you when there’s nothing in the fridge but a block of mouldy cheese and a yoghurt pot. As for the fast food, buy some frozen oven chips and make some mini homemade pizzas on pita bread, wrap them in saran wrap and freeze them. The same goes with buying lunch on campus – if you’re really organised, make a sandwich or a salad the night before so it’s ready for you to take to college with you. It’ll work out a lot cheaper than buying a meal on campus every day.

Always Find The Sale Items

Finally, don’t forget to look out for anything on sale in the superstore – you could end up with a cheap substitute for something else that was on your shopping list. For example, if you’ve decided on beef steak one night but there’s reduced price lamb steak. Be careful though, sometimes the store makes it look like something’s cheaper when it’s not.

Good luck, and happy budgeting!

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