How to Budget Food in College

It's my senior year and it's my first time living with a kitchen on campus. Now that I live in an apartment, I love that I am not limited by campus options. Instead, I am limited by my wallet. I have found a way to spend $50 on food a week ($700 a semester) and avoid relying on takeout, which is a steal since a meal plan costs $2000 a semester. Here are some ways I stay in my budget.

Preparation

1. Write a List 

It’s important to write a list so you have a focus before entering the store. We all have weaknesses when it comes to foods and we are all bound to impulsively buy something. For me that food is usually Welch’s Fruit Snacks. I buy them whether they are on sale or not. Why? Because I deserve to be happy. 

2. Eat Before You Go to the Store

Eat before you go to the store so it will be easy to stick to your shopping list. This way you are able to think with your budget and list in mind and your stomach will not lead you off track. Also by eating before, you will probably be nicer to the cashier and be able to avoid frustration for overcrowded aisles. 

3. Download Appropriate Apps Before Going to the Store

Almost every store has an app that tracks your rewards points and puts coupons on your card. Download the app before entering the store and you'll have a way better chance of saving some money. 

At the Store

1. Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

For some of us, it is a great victory to get fruits and vegetables in our cart. Often, when this nutritious food makes it to our refrigerator, it is pushed to the back and forgotten. Then it rots and our money is wasted. Instead, freeze it if you know you aren’t going to eat it right away. I buy my vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, in the frozen vegetable aisle. At ShopRite, there is always at least one brand on sale for $2 a pound. Which is a steal. Buying frozen fruit, like berries and mangos, is also perfect for smoothies because then you don’t have to add ice.

2. Buy Food You Will Definitely Eat

When walking through the aisles or looking in other people’s carts, I am inspired to change my diet. Little do I know, that inspiration only lasts while in the store. When I get home, I forget all about my impulse purchase and it usually spoils. For me, those foods are usually bananas and Kashi. 

3. Shop Where There Are Actually Sales

I don’t have the resources or time to go to different stores in order to get the best deal on every item I want. But I do want to maximize the number of deals I can get in one place. Stores have different ideas of what qualifies as a sale. Sometimes I feel like they put a sale sticker on an item and don’t change the price, just to bring attention to the items. Be aware of how much food should actually cost.

4. Buy Ingredients You Can Use in Various Ways

Feta, spinach, grape tomatoes, eggs and chicken breast are always in my fridge. Here are two different meals I prepared with these ingredients:

Some Recipes

Balsamic Chicken and Linguine

Ingredients:

1 large chicken breast

½ a box of linguine

½ cup of feta cheese

½ cup of sliced grape tomatoes

1 cup of frozen spinach

½ cup of balsamic vinaigrette 

Makes about 4 servings

 

Eggs with Feta, Spinach, and Grape Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 eggs

¼ cup of 2% milk

¼ cup of feta cheese

¼ cup of spinach

¼ of sliced grape tomatoes

2 slices of toasted bread

Makes one serving

 

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