Adventures of college students always make the best stories, but in reality, things aren’t always that simple and funny. Though we gladly think about parties, friends and all the fun we had, being in college teaches us about life and its less fun sides too, like learning how to save money and prioritize correctly. If you’re a student on a tight budget, you know that every cent counts and how important it is to learn to spend money wisely.
Meal plans in colleges can cost a small fortune, which is why they’re not always an option for frugal students. Thankfully, dorms are equipped with shared kitchens that can be abundantly used for honing your cooking skills, which will not only save you money, but will help you learn how to feed yourself on your own. That’s a big deal! If you’re still finding your way around how to cook in your dorm, these 5 tips will help you stay on a budget.
1. Shop in Bulk
Whether you’re living with a roommate, or you’re lucky enough to have your own apartment, when you’re buying food, you need to know how to do it right. What are the ingredients you use the most and what is their shelf life? One of the go-to strategies when it comes to saving money is to buy food in bulks. Not all food, naturally, but things like flour, rice, pasta and tomato sauce can stay in the cupboard for longer periods of time and you can save a whole lot by buying them in large quantities. It would be wise to organize one big shopping trip every month, when you can restock your fridge and set a foundation for what you’re going to be cooking in the next several weeks. There’s no excuse not to cook when you’ve got all the ingredients at your fingertips and buying in bulk will save you money, time and energy.
2. Don’t Go to the Supermarket Every Day
This is a big one, even though most college students don’t realize it. If you don’t go on a food shopping spree once a month, you risk ending up at the supermarket every other day, buying foods you need and spending more money on less quantity. Besides, when you go to buy a couple of things, you usually come back with much more than you predicted and that alone can cost you a lot. If you truly want to save and cook real food in your dorm, forget about running off to the store every day. It helps you to steer clear of temptation and your bank account will be grateful.
3. Know What You Eat
College is the time when most of us are running around winging it as we go, but this shouldn’t be the case when it comes to our diet. It’s wise to learn the basics when it comes to the nutritional value of different kinds of food and how you can make them work to your advantage. Chances are you’re not a cooking wiz, but you’ve got the World Wide Web at your disposal and you can learn pretty much anything you set your mind to. Also, learning what foods are good for you and what you should avoid is essential because you want to eat well and stay full longer. If you have a roommate, split your cooking tasks and “specialize” in different things – healthy meal prep, baking, meat preparation, veggie preparation – you don’t have to learn it all on your own and at once. The key here is not to recoil from cooking, which is infinitely cheaper than having a meal plan, but to have a constructive approach that will allow you to learn a new skill and save a pretty penny too.
4. Don’t Go Overboard with Dishes
You need to be smart when it comes to buying dishes, because a) they’re quite expensive and b) you don’t want to have bunch of dishes with you every year when you have to move. Less is definitely more in this case, so don’t burden your kitchen with unnecessary gadgets and gizmos that you barely use. Know what you need and how much of it you need, otherwise your student budget will suffer and so will your kitchen, as it will be packed with stuff you have no use for. When you know you’re going to use something often, like a frying pan, buy a high-quality one that can be used for just about anything – it will take up less space and you will spend less money in the long run.
5. Don’t Do Frozen Meals
Frozen meals might sound like a great idea when your exams are around the corner and you can’t sleep well, let alone cook, but you really shouldn’t go for it. Not only are they expensive, but they are also packed with sodium, fats and extra calories, so that they can keep you full longer. If you know you’re going to have a hectic couple of weeks, prepare. Cook extra batches of your favorite meals and pop them into the freezer. That way, not only are you saving some serious money, but you’re eating healthy food and you know exactly what’s in it, which can’t be said about frozen dinners.
Being good at saving money isn’t something that comes overnight, and you will need experience and practice to make it work. Cooking in your dorm has many benefits when you develop the habit of doing it and that way, you take your diet into your own hands, which is all the more reason to be responsible about it.
This article was contributed by guest author Vanessa Davis.