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6 Ways to Stay on a Food Budget in College

Staying on a food budget in college can seem impossible at times; with balancing classes, late night study sessions (which obviously include snacks!) and post going-out meals, saving money on food can seem like a daunting task. With these tips, though, hopefully you’ll find some new ways to save some cash and still treat yo’self.

Bring Snacks on the Go
Torey Walsh / Spoon

One of my favorite hacks is to bring snacks from home (or your dorm room). That way, you don’t have to spend money when you get hungry between meals. Some of my favorite snacks to bring are granola bars, apples and peanut butter, or trail mix.

Pack Meals
Roased Veg
Christin Urso / Spoon

A great way to save money in college is to bring your own meals. Restaurants and cafes can get pretty pricey, whether you’re on a budget or not. Instead, try to prepare meals beforehand so you can just throw them in your bag before class. For breakfast, for example, overnight oats are a great choice. They’re easy to make and cheaper than buying breakfast on the go.

Treat Yourself!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Alex Frank / Spoon

It’s still important to treat yourself, even when on a budget! One of the best ways to do this is to choose one item to splurge on per week (or as often as you can budget it) that is more expensive than the rest of the groceries you buy. Whether it’s a type of chocolate, or a gourmet snack you love, treat yourself to it!


It may sound obvious, but deciding on a set amount of money to spend per week on food is a great way to ensure you’re budgeting correctly. Pro tip: If you want to organize your spending more, separate your budget into grocery money and going out (restaurant/cafe) money. 


Keep a Record

Another way to stay on a food budget in college is to actually keep track of all the money you spend on food. Even small purchases should be recorded. If it helps, keep receipts from restaurants or grocery stores to help you stay on track.

Use Your Resources! (dining hall)

If you’re like me, and you’re on a meal plan, taking food from the dining hall can be a great way to save some cash. Taking small things for snacks later, like apples or cereal, can be a great way to be prepared so you don’t have to go and buy snacks later.

Hopefully this list has provided you with some new ways to save money on food. While it may seem challenging or tedious at times, your bank account will definitely thank you. Happy saving!

Ila Schrecker

Wisconsin '23

Hello! I am a sophomore at UW Madison studying Communication Arts and English. I love hot yoga, coffee, and baking.
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