Whether you’re meeting your financial needs with a part time job or with a monthly allowance, it can be difficult to properly budget while you’re in college. And when you’re living outside the dorms, you’ll have to include the very basic expense of food.
Healthy food has, unfortunately, rightly earned its reputation as an expensive option. But then again, proper nutrition is essential to your energy levels, school work and of course, your life. And let’s face it, no one really wants to subsist on ramen noodles. So, here are seven tips to help you keep both your body and your bank account healthy, sans ramen.
1. Buy in small batches. One of the most heartbreaking ways to lose money is by literally throwing it in the trash. So instead of buying everything that you probably, might or could possibly eat, stick to your regular grocery list. Buy less and increase the likelihood of using your perishable purchases.
2. Plan your meals before stepping foot in the grocery store. Writing up your weekly menu may take a bit more time and thought at the outset, but you’ll make it up throughout the week. Choose meals that reuse the same ingredients and/or repeat the same three or four meals throughout the week. Knowing your meals ahead of time will (a) save you time spent deliberating about what to eat for your next meal and (b) reduce your food waste, and hence, financial waste.
3. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and veggies can pretty much drain your bank account. Yet, they provide essential nutrients that you shouldn’t skip. By buying frozen produce, you’ll be able to strike that fine balance between price and nutrition.
4. Give yourself a spending limit. Decide on a realistic amount for you to spend on groceries on a weekly or monthly basis. This will help you gauge whether you’re overbuying, overspending or overindulging. Of course, you shouldn’t regard this limit as law; it should be a flexible target point to help manage your life and finances.
5. Brew your own coffee. A coffee a day can add up to more than $90 per month. So instead of picking up a “fresh” brew from your local Starbucks, make your own coffee at home.
6. Have snacks ready. Nothing will get you to spend like being stuck on campus without food. Bringing portable snacks and/or a meal with you to classes will help prevent you from that all-encompassing intense hunger that so often causes poor financial and health decisions. Have a bag of almonds, whole fruit, cut veggies or anything else handy to avoid buying that (very average tasting) $6 croissant at the campus coffee shop.
7. Limit your meals out. Going out to eat with friends is a fun way to spend an evening, but those meals add up quickly. Refrain from going out for food on a daily basis, but don’t hold back completely—give yourself one or two meals out per week.