by Rebekah Baughman
Student at Emporia State University
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our reality upside down, and that is especially true when it comes to the college student community. With the shutdown of colleges, universities, and businesses comes the loss of many student jobs. On top of that, if you are like many college students across the nation, you did not receive a stimulus check to help with expenses during this time. If you were lucky you may have received something to help from the CARES Act. Due to these unexpected circumstances, you have probably found yourself even more broke (is that possible?) than usual as you enter the fall semester. You may not be able to lower your school’s tuition, but we can do something about that grocery bill. So let’s talk about 5 tips to help you save more on your food so you can afford those textbooks.
1. Know what you have, and use it!
Taking inventory of your pantry and fridge will help you to get an idea of what you already have to work with. It’ll also let you know what you still need to get at the store. Keep your inventory displayed on your fridge during the week, and cross out what you use up. You can then add the items you crossed out back to your grocery list.
I’ve attached a printable inventory sheet to help you get started.
2. Go meatless!
Meatless Mondays are good not only for your body but also for your wallet. Choose recipes packed with flavor, and you won’t even miss the meat. There are many dishes to choose from that have affordable protein alternatives, including red beans and rice, broccoli fettuccini alfredo, and black bean quesadillas. Beans, eggs, and even bananas all have protein at a reduced price. Choosing to go meatless even a couple times each week can significantly decrease your grocery budget.
3. Frozen versus fresh
Fresh produce can put a deep cut in your budget, so bypass buying everything fresh and head over to the frozen aisle. Unlike canned products where processing removes many of the nutrients, frozen produce still contains most of the vitamins found in its raw counterparts. (Learn more about nutritious eating at EatRight.org) In addition to maintaining nutrients, frozen produce tends to be pre-chopped. That means you can toss a bowl in the microwave and add it to any meal. Quick, easy, and cheap!
4. Make a meal plan
Time is money: we all know that’s true, but taking a little time to plan out your meals for the week–or even for the month–can save you a ton of money once you get to the store. Without a plan, it’s easy to go through the aisles picking up what looks good at the time. With a plan, you’ll know exactly how to use each item throughout the week. Planning can also help you see which ingredients you can use in multiple dishes, ultimately cutting down on food waste and optimizing your grocery budget. Make meal planning fun by incorporating new recipes and cuisines into your week that you have never tried before!
5. Use your resources
Sometimes at the end of the day, there is just not enough money left. If you find yourself in this situation know that you are not alone. A survey from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that more than 60 percent of students experienced food insecurity within the last thirty days. Try your best to research or ask around about local food pantries and community gardens in your area. There may even be one on your campus! Take advantage of these resources. Please do not let the stigma associated with food insecurity keep you from reaching out when you need help. A balanced diet will allow your body to provide you with the energy you need to succeed in and outside of the classroom. Having food on the table is essential to your success!
Editor’s note: As someone who goes to a university where many of us are either food or housing insecure, I know that it can be all too easy to feel like you’re not struggling enough to warrant help. If the pinch isn’t resolved by some feasible budgeting, it’s okay to ask for relief – regardless of whether there are those out there who have it worse than you.
I hope that these tips help to lighten the financial burden that is weighing on many of us this fall. Going forward, there are so many things that are out of our control, but know that there is hope! Remember that you are important and your health should always be your first priority!
Join XX and Other LifeSpace Contributors and Members
- Download LifeSpace
- Watch this Student Success Quickstart Video
- Join our Facebook Student Success Group
- Contribute Articles for LifeSpace Student Success