Many college students love the thought of getting a meal plan. You have swipes and dining dollars and can buy food pretty much whenever. There is no need to cook, clean or buy groceries to begin with. Many college students live this way for the accessibility of quick food option. Stand in line, swipe, get your food and you are done. Quick and easy, right?
What many college students do not realize is that making your own meals can be way cheaper than getting a meal plan. Don’t believe me? Here are some different examples of how cooking your own food can be cheaper than buying a meal plan.
One of my favorite YouTube accounts, Brothers Greens Eats, created a challenge where they challenged themselves to cook three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, all for the price of one coffee. Seriously, just one coffee! The results of their creative innovation was amazing. The best part was that they even shopped at Whole Foods, a health-nut store that is notorious for being slightly (very) expensive.
Throughout the video, the Brothers Green Eats show some amazing recipes, all by spending around $30 on a weeks worth of meals. The first meal they make for breakfast is toast with an egg in the middle. For lunch, they make one of my favorite meals, a lettuce wrap. Lettuce wraps are way healthier than regular wraps, and cost way less than it would cost to swipe at a wrap place, like Croutons at VCU. For dinner, they make a healthy stir fry with rice. All of these meals cost under $5 to make and are much more affordable than a meal plan. I encourage you to watch their videos to get some inspiration on how to eat well on a budget.
Another way that cooking your own food can be less expensive than a meal plan is for small meals. At our school, one swipe is supposed to be equivalent to a $12 meal. But swiping into the dining hall just to get one bowl of oatmeal and a waffle is far from a $12 meal. What I do for breakfast is buy a bulk box of oatmeal and have a bowl of that every morning. One 42 oz. box of Old-fashioned Quaker Oatmeal from Target costs $4.19, which can make at least 20 bowls of oatmeal. That would mean each of those breakfasts cost a mere 20 cents. Now, I do like to add other foods into my oatmeal, like blueberries when they are in season and chia and flax seeds to benefit my body, which I did not calculate into the meal price. But for a basic breakfast to get your day started that costs 20 cents, making your own meal seems much cheaper than using a dining plan.
I hope you enjoyed these different ideas on how to eat cheaper by making your own food instead of buying a meal plan. So, next semester when you are trying to figure out what meal plan to buy, ditch the meal plan and stick to cooking. It can be much cheaper if you know what you are doing!