Cooking in College – How to Stretch the Dollars

If you’re living off-campus in college, you are already stretching your dollars to the max. Easy Mac and canned soup, however, aren’t going to cut it for the entire year. And you probably want to eat a little healthier than that, as well. Here are some ways to eat well at home without breaking the bank.

Make a meal plan. The best way to stay within your budget, but still eat complete meals is to make a food plan. Plan out the major meals you will cook that week. You really only need to plan dinners, and, if you make enough, you can eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Also, if you plan out what you will eat, you can stretch out your ingredients and use them in several dishes. For example, if you buy some chicken breasts, you can cook them all together and eat them with vegetables one night and then on top of a salad the following night. A meal plan will help you know exactly what you need to buy so you don’t waste money.

Another useful idea is to go shopping once a week, on the same day. This way you will get into the routine of stocking your fridge and following a food plan. You will also be able to make sure you have fresh produce in the house, because you will always need that in order to cook a complete meal.

To save money, you can also buy storable food in bulk. Things like pasta, rice and beans store well and are much cheaper bought in large quantities. Also, if you like to buy organic produce, try to limit that to only the produce with the highest pesticide counts. You can find pesticide counts online. To focus even more on your health, buy higher- quality, hormone-free meats and stretch them out over a couple meals. It’s also a great money-saver to combine beans and brown rice as a part of various meals. The two together serve as a complete protein and are heart healthy.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to make, try to just keep it simple. On many recipe websites you can check off the ingredients you do have and find recipes tailored to what you have in your kitchen. When in doubt, just make any kind of meant, a side of veggies and add some kind of healthy fat like nuts or olive oil. Even if it’s a random mix, it still beats Ramen.

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