Jake can be found at Dollar Commentary writing about investing, home ownership, and frugal living.
It seems people in America like to eat. They like to eat a lot. I like to eat a lot. Thus, they (and I, unfortunately), spend a lot of money on food. However, it is possible to eat lots of good food and not break the bank, as being a college student will force you to discover.
Eating Cheap for College Students
Here are some ways I’ve found that work out pretty well:
- When you and one other person eat out, order a small appetizer, 2 waters and one meal to share. Not only is this healthier, you’ll walk out for about half the price of a normal dinner, and considering you probably don’t finish an entire meal on your own, you’ll still feel full (does not impress potential girlfriends, by the way).
- As far as pizza goes (and a college kid knows their pizza), consider skipping the brand-name pizza Hut or Papa John’s in favor of Little Caesars or Papa Murphy’s. One large pepperoni pizza from Little Caesars will set you back only $5 dollars, and one huge, very filling large pizza from Papa Murphy’s runs about $8 dollars.
- Visit your favorite restaurant or convenience store’s website to check out what freebies they have available. For example, an awesome gas station/convenience store in the Midwest, Quik Trip, sends you coupons for one free item every month, provided you give them your E-mail address. Many restaurants will provide you with a coupon for a free item on your birthday, such as Coldstone Creamery… and let’s just say that it can be your birthday several times per year if you work it right.
- Simply Google “grocery coupons”, and site after site will appear, all full of various types of coupons available for printing and taking to your local grocery store.
- The way to save money on food that nobody really likes: Leftovers.
- Grocery stores usually have severely discounted holiday-specific food items the day after a holiday. The day after Halloween, my local Wal-Mart had all Halloween candy and accessories 75% off.
- Make meals at home. Yes, I’m suggesting you actually cook something. Try to make it fun though by cooking with a girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse, or your children. In the end, by buying cheap ingredients rather than the name brand ones, a complete meal at home can be much cheaper than going out to eat.
- Don’t order soft drinks at restaurants, no matter what. You can always find a vending machine for at least half the price of what they charge you at a restaurant. You know all those free refills you get? They aren’t exactly free when you’re initially charged $4 for a soda.
- Buffets are always cheap for the amount of food you receive, which is usually all you can eat.
- Restaurants that offer free food are the holy grail of cheap meals. For example, Olive Garden gives you an unlimited amount of free breadsticks and salad to munch on while you’re waiting for your meal, and trust me, you can fill up on just breadsticks and salad. Some others include Texas Road House, On the Border, Playa Azul, and Outback Steakhouse.
Your Take on Eating Out
What do you do to save money on your food bill? Do you have any tips on eating out? Do you set a budget, eat whatever you want, and just stay within the limits?
Photo Credit: lucianvenutian