5 Budget-Beating Tips for Dining on a Shoestring

August 16, 2013


Dorm-room life is tough. For many young people, it’s the first time they confront the challenge of planning meals and keeping a budget. Students don’t have parents around to lend them a few bucks then they need it, nor to provide hot meals throughout the day.

It’s no wonder that college students find themselves broke and hungry – and surrounded by other students who are facing the same predicament.

There is a common misconception that healthy eating means you have to shell out more than you can afford. This is the reason college kids resort to spending their meager funds on junk food. It’s cheap, right?

Never mind that it’s full of preservatives and other unhealthy stuff. Healthy dining doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips for college students and others who find themselves living on a tight budget:

Tip No. 1

If you’re living in a dorm without a proper kitchen, invest in a mini-fridge and a portable stove. This will allow you to create simple meals. A microwave will do in a pinch, but a real stove offers more flexibility – and eliminates the temptation of packed ready-to-heat meals.

Tip No. 2

Hungry for fresh produce? Good for you. Check out farmers’ markets near or around your university. They offer produce that comes straight from farms, generally at a lower cost compared to those available at the grocery store.

You’ll eat better and spend less.

Tip No. 3


For meats, chicken is the smarter choice compared to beef and fish. Why? Because you can get the highest quality of meat without spending too much on it.

You’ll find thousands of simple recipes for chicken online. Chicken has lower fat content compared to beef, it’s more flexible, and it cost less – it’s a winner.

Three or four chicken breasts can go a long way as long as you store them properly in your fridge. Save even more – and boost flavor – by opting for thighs instead.

Tip No. 4

As for drinks, don’t let yourself get used to drinking sodas and energy drinks. You’ll end up crashing and burning during exam season if you’re running on sugar, caffeine, and artificial flavors.

Stock up on water, tea, and fruit juices so you can let your body cleanse. If you’ve got a blender, you can make delicious juices and smoothies out of slightly overripe food that is marked down for quick sale at the grocery. Bananas aren’t appetizing when they get a little mushy, but they’re at the peak of their sweetness when overripe. So save some money and make yourself a delicious smoothie for breakfast.

Tip No. 5

Discipline! It’s easy to celebrate the arrival of funds with an indulgence of unhealthy junk like pizza and beer. A single night’s indulgence can erase weeks of frugal living. It’s not a bad idea to reward yourself now and then, but find an inexpensive, healthy way to do it.

Eating well on a budget requires a little creativity and discipline, but if you stick to it you’ll develop habits that will serve you well throughout your academic career and for the rest of your life.

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