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5 Ways Smart College Students Can Keep Their Food Bills Low

Food setWant to make an extra $50-$70 a month? Then stop with the morning coffee. Medical science still can’t seem to decide whether a daily cup of joe is good or bad for your health, but it is certainly awful for your budget. estimates that if you cut out your daily dose of fancy coffee and your gooey breakfast pastries, you’ll easily save $50-$70 each month. This is just one easy tip that college students should keep in mind when trying to balance a limited budget with a big appetite.

Your school likely has a meal plan, but many students will tell you these options can get pricey real fast. For example, the University of Houston charges $1,350-$1,800 per semester for food plans, depending on your dining interests and options. You can get creative and likely save money if you have your own kitchen. UH students can check out Houston apartments for choices near campus that are excellent for trying your hand at independence, money management and food preparation.

This is only one option—frugal students can find plenty of other ways to save on food bills:

Look for Student Discounts

Many merchants welcome student dollars. You can start by asking a merchant if he or she has any deals available for students, since some national restaurant chains may offer them but individual restaurants may not. Or visit, which features special dining offers for students in communities all around the country.

Buy Cheap

Every town has some kind of discount grocer where dented cans are the rule, not the exception. The inventory is always changing and the prices are always affordable. You might find flavors and varieties that didn’t catch on in other parts of the country, food in dented packages that’s still consumable, brands you’ve never heard of or even stuff not from this country.

Buy in Bulk

Giant warehouse stores are definitely economical, but on a huge scale. The biggies in the U.S. are Costco and Sam’s Club, but B.J.s Wholesale Club is also gaining some traction on the East Coast. Membership at either store starts around $40-$50, and there may even be a student deal. Or if you don’t want to join, find a classmate with a membership who can bring you along.

Go With the ‘Manager’s Special’ Meat

When meat gets close to its recommended “sell by” date, stores often discount it and move it to the “Manager’s Special” section rather than tossing it. There are some great deals to be found here, but the types of cuts or meat choices are random. If you’re comfortable cooking everything from ground beef to chicken, you’ll be in cheap carnivore heaven. Ask the meat manager if there is a certain day or time that items are moved, so you can have a better selection. Make sure you either cook it or freeze it right away.

Educate Yourself

Colleges or county extension programs often teach inexpensive classes about food and nutrition, including cooking, vitamins, dietary health, protein and more. They rarely take more than a few hours, so are great for students who want the info but don’t want to enroll in a semester-long course.

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2 Responses to “5 Ways Smart College Students Can Keep Their Food Bills Low”

  1. Maybe the most important tip is that as a students, you better make effort to learn to cook asap. In the long run, this will save LOTS.
    And, regarding the morning coffee – it’s easy to make it at home and carry it to work/school in a ceramic/plasic imitation of paper coffee cup.

  2. Doug Schantz says:

    Appreciate the comments Heidi! I agree with you on the coffee – definitely a lot of cheaper alternatives to purchasing at the local coffee shop. Thanks for visiting!