How to Save Money on Food – Tips for College Students

Hello, I’m Josh, a beginner student food blogger and ex-college student. I know It’s easy to overspend your living budget and find yourself scrimping towards the end of the month, because I’ve been there like you. I learned quite a few tricks on how to eat well without draining your wallet. From my experience, it’s better to be proactive about your food spending. Here’s how you can save money and still enjoy tasty meals.

1. Stick to a budget

Creating a budget might sound tedious, but trust me, it’s a lifesaver. When I was a student, I found that knowing exactly how much I could spend on food each month helped me avoid impulsive purchases. Start by listing all your expenses and then decide how much you can afford to allocate to food. Remember, the goal is to stick to this number.

There are many ways to budget, and not all involve spreadsheets or apps. I tried simple methods like using a notebook to track my spending, which worked well. You might also consider setting weekly limits to keep things more manageable throughout the month.

Another approach is the 50/30/20 rule—spend 50% of your budget on essentials, 30% on wants, and save the remaining 20%. Apply this to your food budget by ensuring your essentials don’t consume more than their allotted percentage. This will keep your spending in check and your stomach full.

2. Shop smart

Shopping smart is all about making informed choices. Always be on the lookout for sales and bulk deals, especially on staples like rice, pasta, and canned goods. These items are not only affordable but also have a long shelf life, ensuring you always have something to cook.

Another tip is to embrace generic brands. During my college days, I quickly realized that store brands often offer the same quality as national brands but at a fraction of the cost. Don’t let labels fool you!

Lastly, make a shopping list and stick to it. Impulse buys can quickly derail your budget. Apps can help organize your list and even alert you to store-specific discounts, which is a great way to save both money and time.

3. Cook more meals at home

Cooking at home is undoubtedly cheaper than eating out. I know cooking might seem daunting, especially if you’re a beginner, but there are countless simple and quick recipes that can turn you into a home chef in no time.

Batch cooking is another fantastic way to save. Prepare large portions of dishes like chili, pasta, or stir-fry, and store them for the week. Not only does this method save money, but it also saves time, allowing you to focus on your studies or social life.

I understand that sometimes you may not have enough free time for cooking. However, you have a choice: either delegate your homework to writing experts like or spend time solving it yourself and buy ready-made food at a supermarket.

4. Brown bagging lunch & dinner leftovers

Taking leftovers to campus for lunch is a no-brainer for saving money. It’s also a healthier option compared to fast food. If you’re tired of the same meal, get creative with condiments or pair it with different sides to keep things interesting.

This strategy extends to dinner too. If you cook a large meal at night, you’ve got lunch ready for the next day. It’s a quickly solution that keeps your belly and wallet full.

5. Get creative with ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are a staple for many students, but they don’t have to be bland. I tried various recipes to spice up my ramen—adding vegetables, an egg, or leftover chicken can transform it into a hearty meal.

You can also experiment with different seasonings or sauces to elevate the flavor. Remember, ramen is like a blank canvas; a little creativity can turn it into a gourmet experience that feels like a treat.

Consider making a large batch of upgraded ramen and refrigerate it for future meals. This approach is both time-efficient and economical.

6. Take advantage of campus dining halls

If you have a meal plan, make the most of it. Dining halls offer varied menus, which means you can enjoy different cuisines without spending extra. Plus, it’s a convenient option between classes.

Sometimes, dining halls allow you to take out food. This means you can grab an extra piece of fruit or a sandwich for later, maximizing your meal plan benefits and saving you a trip to the store.

7. Drink lots of water

Staying hydrated is important for your health and your budget. Water is free and much better for you than sugary drinks or expensive coffee from campus cafes. Carry a refillable water bottle and use it throughout the day.

Not only does drinking water help with digestion and energy levels, but it also saves money that you would otherwise spend on beverages.

8. Bring snacks with you

Snacking can be a huge budget buster if you’re buying food on the go. Instead, pack your own snacks. Items like granola bars, fruits, or nuts are perfect for long days on campus.

These snacks are not just cheaper; they’re healthier. Preparing them at home also means you can customize them to suit your tastes and dietary needs.

9. Cut down on alcohol & energy drinks

It’s common to spend on drinks, but they quickly drain your budget. I learned to enjoy social outings just as much without indulging in expensive beverages. When you start tracking how much you spend on alcohol and energy drinks, the numbers might surprise you.

Consider cheaper or healthier alternatives like homemade smoothies or teas. They can be just as satisfying without the hefty price tag.

10. Join forces with friends

Buying in bulk and cooking with friends are great ways to save. Pool your resources, shop together, and share meals. It’s a social way to manage your budget and ensures you won’t waste food.

This method also introduces you to new recipes and cooking skills, making each meal a fun and educational experience.


The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.