college budget

Hey guys,

So I'm a college student on a college budget. Fast food seems to be the only food I can afford. I would like to start grocery shopping but I feel like it's out of reach. Does anyone know of a daily/weekly meal plan that can accommodate my kind of budget? My daily cal goal is 1700. Thanks in advance.


  • segacs
    segacs Posts: 4,599 Member
    Grocery shopping should be cheaper than fast food, if you do it right.
  • Emilia777
    Emilia777 Posts: 978 Member
    I can’t go so far as a meal plan, but I agree that making your own food is cheaper than FF if you plan things.

    I usually shop the sales for lean proteins, either chicken, fish, or pork (I don’t like beef much). Liver is also usually inexpensive, if it’s your thing. For veggies, I like the frozen stuff, unless something is cheap because it’s in season. Finally, I love beans, especially lentils: buying the dry rather than canned can save you a lot of money. Lentils, especially, are extremely inexpensive and high in both protein and fibre.

    This is just what comes to mind. Good luck!
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,426 Member
    You can buy ingredients that will make several meals for the cost of a single fast food meal.
    Look at things like oatmeal, potatoes, rice, pasta, dry beans or lentils, apples, carrots, spinach, peanut butter, bread, eggs, cheese, yogurt. Buy whole things instead of paying someone to cut, shread, bone or skin things for you. Buy generic or store brand items. Frozen vegetables can be good because you can take out a smaller portion without worrying about the rest going bad before you can finish it. Soup is easy to make and a good dollar stretcher.
    Pool your money with friends and share a meal.
  • segacs
    segacs Posts: 4,599 Member
    edited April 2015
  • StaciMarie1974
    StaciMarie1974 Posts: 4,138 Member
    What were you buying/how much were you spending before?
  • MonaLisaLianne
    MonaLisaLianne Posts: 377 Member
    Canned albacore tuna and sardines are cheap, low-calorie and high in protein. Rice is cheap - and dirt cheap if you buy it at an Indian grocery store. Eggs are an inexpensive choice, and full of nutrients.
  • chivalryder
    chivalryder Posts: 4,391 Member
    Fast food is the most expensive food you can get.

    Research going vegan (because meat is expensive). I've made up a simple recipe that has most of the micro nutrients you need (Vitamin B12, Calcium and Selenium are the only things I'm short on) and 1 days worth of food is less than a Value Meal at McDonalds.
  • JenAndSome
    JenAndSome Posts: 1,908 Member
    Part of this depends on what your living conditions are. Are you in a dorm or do you have an apartment/house? Do you have roommates who are willing to share food costs with you?
  • exstromn
    exstromn Posts: 168 Member
    Divide and conquor! Its worth it to take some time and plan something out. When I was in school (looooong time ago) I portioned out everything I could so I could make something "fresh" for myself when I cooked. I either froze it, like taking a pound of ground beef and making 4oz HB patties between wax paper in a zip lock, or roasted it like a whole chicken, which I deboned and divided into weighted portions in the freezer. I also bought fresh produce and learned to cook things I liked like sauteed veggies or tortilla pizza and kept staples on hand like rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, eggs (cheap and easy).

    Follow these simple steps to get something going: Plan, Do, Check & Adjust. It doesn't have to be a perfect plan in the beginning, you will naturally adjust as you check your results to get things right for yourself. Good luck!
  • segacs
    segacs Posts: 4,599 Member
    If you don't know how to cook, try getting a good beginner cookbook. There are a bunch out there written specifically for college students.
  • Silverstar721
    Silverstar721 Posts: 33 Member
    Have you checked out Dollar Tree...they have food in the freezer? Use Bouillon for flavoring, just one cube is not so bad and the cubes are very salty. They do have canned beans and sometimes dried beans in a package. It's hard on a budget to get fresh fruits and veggies you almost have to shop every couple of days. Since I only have 2 to cook for, I almost always buy frozen stuff except in the summer. Hope this helps.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
    Dried beans, potatoes, frozen vegetables, pasta, canned vegetables, rice, flour: these things are all your friends on a budget. I have fed myself on $25 a week or less using these items as the staples of my diet. Figure out the spices you like and spice the heck out of stuff -- keeps it interesting (someone suggested Dollar Tree above, I've gotten some spices there).

    Do you like soup? You can make a giant pot of soup for very little money and eat it for a week. Beans and rice can be done so many different ways. If you have a farmer's market near you that is targeted for "normal people," you can pick up fruits and vegetables for less than a grocery store and add some freshness to your diet.

    Don't buy anything pre-packaged or cut for convenience (unless it is actually cheaper, sometimes I've seen bags of pre-cut veggies deeply discounted just before expiration, or you are doing a deliberate splurge).

    Write down the flavors that work for you and the foods that keep you feeling full.

  • pshour1
    pshour1 Posts: 2 Member
    Thank you soo much for the info and help guys. I'm going to try out these ideas at my local trader Joe's. I heard their prices are good, and the food is good. Any thoughts on Trader Joe's?
  • taunto
    taunto Posts: 6,420 Member
    pshour1 wrote: »
    Hey guys,

    So I'm a college student on a college budget. Fast food seems to be the only food I can afford. I would like to start grocery shopping but I feel like it's out of reach. Does anyone know of a daily/weekly meal plan that can accommodate my kind of budget? My daily cal goal is 1700. Thanks in advance.

    I have been a college student. Fast food is definitely NOT cheaper than home cooking. While I was living in Flint, MI I used to eat 6 meals a day averaging $0.80 or so per meal. Not gonna find fast food that is nutritious and filling for less than $6 a day.

    I suggest you look into ethnic foods. Start thinking ahead. Here's some recipes in my blog (you kinda have to dig through other crap to find it)

    You can easily buy a few staple Indian spices to last you for months. Chicken drumsticks are very cheap. I used to buy them in bulk and they would cost me like $0.69/lb.

    Remember to buy things in season. Fruits and veggies from farmers market are extremely cheap. I used to hit the farmers market with my friends. It was nice outing and we saved a bunch while chilling and having fun.

    hope this helps :)
  • katinutt101
    katinutt101 Posts: 6 Member
    I had heard Trader Joe's was actually pretty good, but the one time I went I found it actually pretty expensive... They had good prices on frozen premade foods, though. +1 to everything here except maybe going vegan though? when I went vegan even without processed meat replacements my meals cost about the same. eh, just my experience. Anyway, I would highly recommend finding a local fruit and vegetable market... they often sell things for cheaper than a lot of grocery stores. Something like Save-A-Lot or Price Rite (I think they often get extra stock from nearby grocery stores) are cheaper than walmart for many things (I go there every week). If you like Asian food, the local Asian market is usually cheap as well, though you might want to make sure its not too shady before going... haha.
  • kpkitten
    kpkitten Posts: 164 Member
    I'm in the UK so prices might be different (I know fruit and veg were much cheaper in Germany than here, whilst fresh meat was much more expensive) but I lived on a student budget for 3 years in UK and Germany.
    Buy as much as you can frozen - meat, fish and veg should all be available frozen and it's much cheaper than buying fresh, plus easier to store because you don't worry about expiry dates as much.
    Cook meals in big batches if you can. A bolognese can have chillis added and go with rice instead of pasta so it doesn't feel as boring. You can freeze portions so there's a "ready meal" at home when you get in (even if you use frozen meat, if you cook it, you can then freeze it again). Buy cheap range beans, chopped tomatoes etc. because it's not really any different to the branded stuff.

    For an idea of what I ate on a budget:
    spaghetti bolognese - 500g pack of lean mince (can put turkey/chicken breasts through a food processor for cheaper/leaner meat), couple of onions, tin of tomatoes/passata, tomato puree, garlic clove, then add things like carrots, baked beans (might be a UK thing only), aubergine/courgette to bulk it out and get more nutrients in - makes 3-5 servings, can serve with any pasta, or rice, or just bread for variety
    Tuna pasta bake - bit of flour and butter, pint of milk, as much cheese as you can have for your calories makes a cheese sauce, tinned tuna, onions, other veg (sweetcorn/peas are cheap), pasta - probably 2-4 servings
    pork/chicken with cajun, new potatoes and veg
    stir fry - can use whatever you've got in and no need to buy a sauce - make your own from garlic, chilli, soy sauce and maybe some ginger and lemon
    roasted veg and couscous - aubergine, courgette, tomatoes, red onions, peppers, bit of stock for the couscous - lasts for ages and makes a good "packed lunch"
  • r5d5
    r5d5 Posts: 219 Member
    Trader Joe's has lots of great items, often some different ones that aren't found at other typical grocers, but they can also be pricey....I'd do some looking around, see what prices are at other places. Comparative shopping is helpful! Also, coupons if you can get those!
  • ObtainingBalance
    ObtainingBalance Posts: 1,446 Member
    Fast food is not cheaper...

    I buy quick oats, nuts, ramen noodles, fruit, canned things, etc.
    I don't have a mini fridge right now so I have to watch -- I also eat in the cafeteria because I'm on a meal plan. But I work and have classes so I can't always make it to the meal time (thats why I buy food now and then)



  • Liftng4Lis
    Liftng4Lis Posts: 15,150 Member
    Groceries are WAY cheaper than fast food-Plan!
  • D_squareG
    D_squareG Posts: 361 Member
    Look up your local markets online to see what they have on sale and try incorporating those fresh foods into your diet. Shop around for the best prices. It may vary from week to week. Don't know where you are, but I know Publix has a good website for their weekly sales. I bet Trader Joes does too.