5 Ways to Survive Without a Meal Plan

It's the beginning of second semester. At this point, you've realized that a meal plan is crazy expensive, especially if you have the all-access and are only going once a week. You're debating getting rid of your meal plan, but don't know if you'll be able to survive without one. Sound familiar?

You have come to the right place. I don’t have a meal plan and I try to eat as healthy as possible on a tight budget, so I've picked up a few tips! Here are my holy grail tips on eating without a meal plan.

1. Make a budget and stick to it

For one month of groceries (and a cappuccino at Tricera every once and awhile) I budget $100 a month, which is about $25 a week if you want to break it down that way. That's enough for me, but you can always do a trial week to see what’s best. Sticking to a strict budget will not only be good for your college budget now, but it will help you get in the mindset of frugal spending for the future. It will train you to search for deals, cheaper grocery stores, and coupons.

2. Go grocery shop over eating outImage courtesy of Huffington Post.

I cannot stress this enough – groceries are cheaper than take out! I know it sounds like common sense, but when you start strictly buying groceries it’s a shock how much more food you have to eat and how much less you’re spending. Groceries stretch through the week longer than leftovers.

3. Make a shopping list

This is a tip that forces you to get your sh*t together! Think about your week and plan your meals, then go buy groceries accordingly. If you have a couple of exams, add some chocolate to the list. Think about work and classes and plan meals you can take on the go. When you get to the store, try not to stray much from the list (though I do understand if rice crispy treats are on sale!). While writing your list it’s helpful to think of the layout of the store and write it in the order that you would be going down the aisles.

4. Get a crock potGet this one on Amazon for only $39.99!

I know this isn’t the best for some people. If you don’t like cooking, this might not be for you. But I recently got a crock pot and it changed my life. Seriously. I put everything in the night before, put the pot in the fridge, take it out in the morning, turn it on, and eat a hot meal after a long day of class and work! It gets me through my day to know I have a yummy meal waiting for me. When you get a crock pot, Pinterest is your best friend. It is full of recipes that people have already tried and reviewed!

5. Shop at AldiImage courtesy of Organic and Healthy.

Before college I had never heard of this amazing grocery store. It is a broke, healthy college kids dream. It is a beyond-cheap grocery store! They are able to keep their prices low due to not having many employees, carrying off-brands, needing a quarter for the carts so no one has to be paid to chase them around the parking lot, and not supply plastic bags. I do almost all my grocery shopping there (but I also like to go to the local market).

These are a few of my tips for living off the meal plan. I hope this shows you that living without the all-access meal plan with its unlimited bagels at Einstein's is an attainable way to live. Happy grocery shopping, and if meal services asks why everyone dropped their meal plan… I was never here.