Eating Cheaply

A dozen ways to fill your stomach without emptying your wallet

Odds are that food is one of your top expenses. To minimize this expense and help balance your budget, try these tips:

  • Cook your own food. You can make a gourmet meal from scratch for much less than you’ll pay for a second-rate meal at the cheapest restaurant in town.

  • Eat rice. It costs next to nothing and it will fill you up. For extra nutritional value, eat brown rice.

  • Eat pasta. Spaghetti noodles and sauce are dirt cheap. You can make a huge pot of delicious and filling pasta for under $4.

  • Eat ramen noodles. Only have a dollar? In some places, that will buy you four packages of this delicious (although not exactly nutritious) treat.

  • Eat off the dollar menu. Unless you have a superhuman will, you’re going to cave in and eat fast food from time to time. When you do, be smart about it. Go to places that offer super-cheap food on a value menu. At some places, you can get a burger for only a buck.

  • Stop drinking bottled water. Bottled water costs way more per gallon than gasoline, yet we complain about the price of gas and never that of water. Plus, bottled water is actually subject to less strict quality standards than tap water, so you’re paying through the nose for a product that may be less pure than what you can get for free.

  • Make your own coffee. Pennies a day vs. $3.50 a day for the exact same thing at Starbucks. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

  • Plan your shopping trips. Only buy what you have written on your grocery list. Avoid impulse purchases. Avoid convenience stores and their inflated prices. Only shop in grocery stores (and preferably low-cost ones).

  • Get invited out to eat. This may not be the easiest tip to accomplish, but if you can somehow find a way to make yourself so appealing to others that they are constantly offering to buy you lunch and dinner, you’ll have found the holy grail of the starving college student.

  • Smuggle food out of the dining hall. Technically, you may be prohibited from bringing food out of the all-you-can-eat dining hall on your campus (or any off-campus buffet restaurant), but you may want to consider bending the rules a bit and brining in re-sealable plastic bags that you can use to carry food out with you. Just don’t get caught.

  • Never turn down free food. Go to every meeting and conference on campus that offers free food. Even if you aren’t a member of the club or don’t have a ticket, find some excuse for being in attendance.

  • Steal. If all else fails, obtain food through unethical means. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and rob a grocery store, but you may want to consider “accidentally” eating some of your roommate’s leftovers.

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