You’re moving away from home, maybe for the first time. Money is tight and your stomach is empty, and your parents aren’t even around to cook you dinner. Here are some hints on how to eat a diet that is healthy both for your body and for your wallet.
1. Eat at home.
It might be exam time, you might be stressed, and you might not think that you have time to make dinner. However, eating out (particularly if you grab a bite to eat on campus) can be very expensive. So, ask your mom, your dad, your aunt, your brother, or your friend to teach you how to cook. Learning how to cook will make it much easier for you to save money and impress people when you bring them back to your place for a date.
2. Be prepared.
Like any good boy scout or girl scout, you are going to need to do a little bit of planning. This means freezing one or two good meals (chili, lasagna, soups, and pasta sauce all freeze really easily) so that you will be able to have a quick meal when you are in a rush.
Some people find it easiest to make one big meal each week and then to eat leftovers for the rest of the week. If this works for you, go for it! You can also be prepared by sharing the cooking responsibilities with your roommates or friends, so that you don’t take too much time off of your studying.
Planning ahead also means packing a lunch to take with you to campus. It might be easier for you to make your lunch the night before, or it might be easier for you to make your lunch in the morning when you go to school.
3. Use your freezer.
You are going to want to use your freezer, not just for the meals that you are planning for those tight times. If you buy some food (particularly meat) in bulk, you will save yourself a lot of money. So, buy the large package of chicken tenders, and then freeze it. It’s not going to go bad, and it costs much less in the long run.
4. Don’t forget your drinks!
When some people budget for groceries and food, they forget how much money they spend each week on coffee, juice, or going out. With coffee and juice, you can save a ton of money by making your coffee or tea and bringing it with you. You will also be saving the environment because you will have an environmentally friendly reusable mug. Invest in a good mug that won’t spill and that will keep your drinks warm. You’ll be glad you did in the winter.
As with food, the best place to have a few drinks is at home. It is much cheaper to have a few drinks at home before you go to the pub than to drink a lot there. So, consider having your friends over for a few happy hour drinks before you go out for a night on the town. And, when you do go out for an evening, only bring cash with you. Once this cash runs out, you will no longer be buying drinks.
5. Eat in season.
Although you might think that you want strawberries in December, you probably don’t. Fruits and vegetables when they are out of season are much more expensive than they should be. Not only will they be expensive, fruits and vegetables out of season don’t taste as nice because they have been imported thousands of miles. Try to eat fruits and vegetables that are being grown locally. In the winter, this might not be possible. In that case, use your judgment to pick food that is healthy. Sometimes a good sale can do you wonders. And remember: bananas are almost always the cheapest fruit on the shelf. And the potassium in them will do you wonders while you study!
6. Watch where you shop.
Don’t get your groceries at the corner store. Stopping by convenience stores, even once a week, can be a drain on your wallet. Go to a grocery store to stock up. You might even find it cheaper to visit a few different shops: a market, a deli, and a bakery. However, check the prices at each place to see which is the best. Then you can plan your shopping route accordingly.
7. Spice it up.
Spices are the best way to add flavour to any dish. If you buy the cheapest can of tomato sauce, you can easily make it into a gourmet sauce by adding a variety of spices. Try having it with red pepper flakes one day, and oregano, basil, and garlic the next. Be sure to buy your spices in the bulk aisle as well, which will save you even more money.
Eating healthily and eating cheaply do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts. As a student, you will need to save as much money as you can, and being smart about the food you buy can help with your budget.
Morgan James is the editor of The Guide to Student Loans . The Guide to Student Loans contains all the information that you need to get ready to go back to school without breaking the bank. Check out our pages on budgeting, loan consolidation, and studying abroad.