To Save Money on Food in College: DIY Dressings and Sauces, Participate in meal exchange programs, Host Potluck Dinners, Explore local farmers markets, Share bulk-buying memberships with friends, Repurpose Leftovers, Shop Discounted Items Late, Brew your own coffee, Use Loyalty Programs at grocery stores.
There are countless ways to eat healthy and nutritious food while still saving money. Consider preparing your meals in bulk, growing your greens, shopping with a budget in mind, splitting the cost of groceries with a roommate, and healthy snacking to save your hard-earned cash!
How to Save Money on Food in College With Low-Income
- Plan Your Meals
- Cook in Batches
- Buy in Bulk
- Explore Discount Stores
- Utilize Student Discounts
- Limit Dining Out
- Shop Seasonal Produce
- Compare Prices
- Use Coupons and Apps
- Invest in a Slow Cooker
- Embrace Generic Brands
- Limit Convenience Foods
- Bring Your Own Lunch
- Stay Hydrated with Water
- Participate in Community Programs
How Much Does a College Student Spend on Food?
On Average a College Student Spend on Food $410 on an Off-campus meal, $260 on a Home-cooked diet, $460 on a Campus meal plan, and $155 on a Home-cooked vegan diet.
Before we discuss some practical tips to save money on food as a student, let’s find out how much an average collegiate spends on electric bills, food, and groceries!
Aside from utilities and tuition fees, buying food and groceries is the biggest concern for students in the US. And honestly, inflation is not making things easier for them any time soon. Especially when you are living on campus, it can be very tempting to dine out and try all kinds of foods.
I have done some research and this is what an average college student spends on food every month:
|Type of food||Average per month spending|
|Campus meal plan||$450|
|Home-cooked vegan diet||$155|
As you can see, cooking at home is the most economical option out there. Even if you are eating packaged ramen noodles thinking it will save you bucks, know that it’s not a very fulfilling alternative.
As far as the average grocery budget for college students is concerned, it can cost you anywhere between $272-$345–depending on the type of meal plan you are following.
If you go real thrifty, it’s possible to save reasonable money on groceries. There are various ways you can cut down your average food cost.
5 Tips to Save Money on Food As a Student
I have listed some tips below that will help you save a big chunk on groceries and food in general.
1. Prepare Meals in Bulk
Bulk meal preparation can save you hundreds of dollars every year! If you are a student sick of always overspending on food, purchase groceries in bulk and prepare at least a week’s worth of food to refrigerate.
The idea of bulking meals is to help reduce ordering and takeout costs! It is very unlikely that you will go buy a pizza or order Chinese when there is ready-to-eat, healthy food available in the fridge.
This DIY meal prep will not only save you bucks but time as well. Here are some things you can make in bulk to reheat and eat as it is:
- Overnight oatmeal for breakfast
- Pasta, lasagna, or mac and cheese
- Chicken nuggets
- Sandwich batter
Expert tip: Make cheese, almond milk, and cream at home instead of buying from the store. They are extremely easy to make and will save you quite some bucks! You can also brew your coffee at home rather than heading to Starbucks–this move will also prove to be a big money saver.
2. Grow your Greens
I know it sounds very old-school, but hear me out! Microgreens, lettuce, mustard, and collard are some easiest edibles to grow at home. They are very nutritious and require just a dash of sunlight and watering every other day to thrive and ripe!
Microgreens especially are the easiest to grow. You can get the sets on Amazon, put the contents in a draining jar, give water every two days, and have a harvest in 4 to 5 days.
Similarly, all the salad greens I mentioned above sprout very readily and mature quickly. So, there is usually no room for anything to wrong.
If you have a balcony or a window, you can also try to grow:
3. Shop with a Budget in Mind
Your main focus while purchasing groceries should be on saving as much as you can! Don’t just grab whatever looks delicious from the shelves. Instead, make smart choices and control your impulses.
One of the best ways to stop yourself from overspending at a grocery store is to prepare a comprehensive list in advance. This will help you identify what you need for the month or week and avoid unnecessary shopping.
Here are some more tips to help you keep your grocery budget in check:
- Look for local brands or generic items instead of purchasing imported or branded stuff.
- Join grocery apps as they usually offer better promotions, discounts, and deals.
- Stay updated on reward programs, loyalty cards, and coupons.
- Grocery stores near universities and colleges often offer student discounts, so make sure you get the most out of them.
4. Split Grocery Expenses With a Roommate
It’s a great idea to split your grocery expenses with your housemates or dorm partner! To simplify things, you can share the cost of some common items like eggs, sugar, salt, spices, oil, etc.
As people usually have different food preferences, it will be logical to share expenses of only common goods or perishable items. This way, you will not only save money on groceries but also avoid food wastage.
However, if you think it will be too much to divide the expense of every kitchen essential, ask your dorm partner or housemates to chip in one or two items from the overall grocery list.
5. Eat Fruits and Nuts as Snacks
It’s common to feel intense cravings for juicy burgers, fries, and saucy wraps while burning the midnight oil. Late-night study sessions are usually the culprit behind takeouts and home deliveries.
While giving into these cravings once in a while is okay, daily junk food consumption will only leave you broke and sad!
Try to snack on fruits like apples, bananas, and berries to keep late-night cravings at bay. You can also buy some dry fruits like roasted peanuts, Cajuns, almonds, and hazelnuts to munch during the day.
Adopting healthy snacking habits will help you avoid junk food while keeping your food budget in check.