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Eating on a budget

One of the responsibilities that many students find themselves now in charge of when they get to college is cooking. Sure, there are three dining halls on campus and many places to buy food but some students find that they prefer it if they cook their own meals. This way, you can make family recipes, experiment on your own and make more nutritious dishes.

However, many students are shocked when they find out the actual prices for food when they begin shopping. Now they have to budget for your groceries and find the cheapest way to get the best ingredients. They also have to make sure that your meals are suitable for their lifestyle and new dorm kitchen.

Here are some simple ways to get the best food and shop inexpensively.

Dollar store for basics

While the dollar store won’t have everything you need, especially not produce, you can find many dry goods there for just $1. This will significantly cut down your overall food bill. If you don’t mind sacrificing quality a little, you can get food items such as pancake mix, spices, condiments, baking mixes, canned goods, pasta, ramen, milk and rice at the dollar store. If you’re looking for something lighter, they also sell snacks, juices, soda and candy. Not to mention, you can get your utensils, cups, mugs and plates there as well. You can walk into the dollar store with $20 and leave with almost everything you need to stock your kitchen.

Farmer’s market

One place you can get your produce from is a farmer’s market. There are quite a few in the Tampa area but not close enough to the campus where you can take a Bull Runner or walk. If you don’t have a car, maybe carpool with a friend who is also interested in going. Farmer’s markets are great for many reasons. You get to support local businesses, it’s cheaper to buy produce straight from the supplier and you cannot get fresher food unless you grow it yourself.

Meal plan

One of the best way to save space in your dorm room and save money on your grocery bill is to meal plan. Take a moment once a week to research recipes, write what you want to eat every day of the upcoming week, make your ingredient list and where you can get each of them for the best prices. You don’t have to make something every single day. As college students, we do not have the time to do that. Try making meals that last a couple of days each. That way, you don’t have to cook more than three times a week. Also, you can take into account eating out or any frozen foods you would rather supplement a cooked meal with. It’s all about what you feel is the best for you, time, ease and nutrient-wise.

Ramen and pasta are your lifelines

You will come to find that the easiest and cheapest things to cook are ramen and pasta. They are perfect for a quick meal if you don’t have time or if you’re tired. That being said, you should not depend on them for sustenance. You might end up finding yourself eating a lot more of these than you should but make sure to monitoring yourself and your food intake.

Coupons and sales

While you probably won’t become an extreme couponer any time soon, you can start clipping coupons and keeping an eye out for supermarket sales. You can also research to see which supermarkets honor coupons or prices from other supermarkets. Some places, like Publix, only allow you to clip coupons online and then you provide your phone number in store to apply the discount to your bill. You can take coupons and sales into consideration while you’re meal planning. Some people meal plan around what deals are available in their area at that time.