If you want to know how to eat cheap in college, you need to be prepared to do a little research. There are several factors involved that can get you the best deals if you pay attention to them.
- Department stores. While not exclusively grocery stores, Wal-Mart and Super Target offer excellent prices on food. Food is their “lead loss” item, meaning they’ll cut grocery prices to “lead” you into the store and hope you’ll buy something else while you’re there. This results in better deals than what you would get from local grocery stores.
- Bulk stores. Sam’s Club or Costco give you more food for less money by allowing you to buy in bulk. But beware: You need to buy a membership to purchase from these stores. Compare the savings and decide if it’s worth it, especially if the store is farther away than a local store, which will increase gas consumption, time involved, etc.
- Aldi. Aldi is a grocery store that helps you eat cheap in college by offering lesser-known brands for huge discounts. From snack food to dairy to meat products, Aldi has it all. If you have an Aldi store nearby, you should be able to shop for two to three weeks’ worth of groceries for $20-30.
- Flyers. Get your hands on weekly fliers for up-to-date deals on food. Some flyers also have coupons inside, which add to the savings. If you don’t subscribe to a grocery store or bulk store circular, you can usually sign up at their website or at the store itself. That way you’ll have the latest deals delivered right to your campus mailbox on a regular basis.
- Multiple flyers. If you go the flyer route and you have more than one grocery or bulk store in your area, it’s a good idea to subscribe to as many flyers as possible. This way you can compare the deals being offered every week and decide where best to shop.
- Grocery store discount cards. Most grocery stores nowadays offer discount cards that can help you save extra money on purchases and eat cheap in college. Certain food items can cost an extra $3-5 without a discount card. Most local stores offer these discount cards for free.
- Mac and cheese. Buying generic mac and cheese can save you anywhere between 20-50 cents more per box and give you around ten meals for $5-6. Mac and cheese can also be made with water instead of milk, saving extra money by cutting the need for additional food.
- Ramen. Ramen noodles come in many forms, but nearly all of them help you eat cheap in college and are quick and easy to make. Stores like Aldi offer Ramen so cheaply you can usually buy them by the shelf display instead of individual packets.
- Frozen pizza. Go for the generic or lesser-known brands of frozen pizza. You can typically find them as low as $2 per pizza and will net you two to four meals. Most stores will bundle lesser-known brands in three-for-two, four-for-three, or five-for-four deals, which keeps more money in your pocket.
- Bag cereal. Consider buying bag cereals instead of boxed. Bag cereal has generic imitations of the most popular flavors and saves $1 or more than boxed cereal while giving you more food per ounce.
- Make sandwiches. Sandwiches are one of the best ways to eat cheap in college. Buy generic bread, a pound of the cheapest sandwich meat from the deli (don’t buy prepackaged meat unless it’s on sale), and the generic version of your favorite condiment. A few slices of meat for every two slices of bread will last you more than a week (less if you eat more than one sandwich per day).
- Coffee. If you drink coffee, consider buying a coffee machine instead of stopping at a local café every morning. Some coffee machines are priced as low as $20 but will save you tons of money in the long run. Shop the grocery stores for lesser-known or generic coffee.
These are by far the best ways to eat cheap in college. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be saving money and keeping a well-stocked supply of food in no time.