Dinner on a College Grad Budget

When you’re a new college grad living in your first apartment with your first job’s paychecks going directly to your student loans, “what’s for dinner” can be a tough question to answer. You probably don’t have the funds to head to your nearest grocery store and stock your fridge with fruits, vegetables, breads, and meats with a list of your favorite recipes in mind. In fact, after four years of having your choice of foods already prepared and simply waiting for your selection, you may have been left with no patience for cooking! Check out these tips on how you can still eat well on a college grad budget without wasting away your wallet or your time.

Prepare Large Quantities

You may be hesitant to spend an evening making lasagna and garlic bread if you’re the only person living in your apartment. Why spend all that time making that much food when you can just go to the drive-thru? Taking the time to make dishes and storing several portions of it allows you to prepare many meals at once that you can heat up at a moment’s notice. It’s going to taste better and be better for you than the nearest fast food restaurant. It’s also going to be cheaper overall!

Utilize Your Friends

The more people who chip in for things, the cheaper things get. If all of your friends are over and it’s nearing dinner time, instead of everyone ordering their own thing from the take-out place next door, suggest that everyone go in on a pizza.

Look for Coupons

Pay attention to coupons you find in ads or online. Being able to save a few dollars might mean getting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream instead of the off-brand, or having enough extra money in your food budget to buy fresh fish instead of the frozen stuff.

Buy in Bulk

There are some things you will always, always need. If you’re buying apple juice every three days, or frozen dinners for weeks in a row, you may want to consider purchasing these things in bulk. You’ll get a lot more for a lower price than you would at your typical grocery store.

Stock Up on the Staples

You should always have a good supply of quick and easy foods, such as Ramen, cereal, granola bars, canned fruit, canned soups, tuna, peanut butter, jelly, and a few frozen personal pizzas in the back of your freezer that may not be the best, but would satisfy your hunger. There may be a week you have car trouble and the money you were planning to spend on groceries has to go to the mechanic. There may be a time you’re two days away from your next pay check and there’s nothing in your bank account. Always make sure you have a few backup meals floating around your cabinets and freezer just in case.

Call Home

If you’re lucky enough to have your parents nearby, they probably won’t mind you stopping in for a home-cooked meal!


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