Affordable meal-planning tips that make sense for college students
Operation: Don’t Go Broke is devoted to bringing readers helpful tips on ways to save in college.
When Central Oregon Community College students start calculating how much money they spend each term on food and drink, it becomes clear eating out is eating up many students’ hard earned cash. These affordable menu planning tips will help students looking to make their dollar stretch:
1. Drink plenty of water. Water keeps minds alert, energy levels up and is available on campus for free. Invest in a few different water bottles so you can cycle them out daily. Try to cut out sugary drinks or at least follow them with a bottle of water to rehydrate yourself. If plain water just isn’t quenching your thirst, try serving it with lemon slices or adding them to your ice cube tray, it’s a refreshing form of vitamin C.
2. Snack on fruits and vegetables throughout the day. This can be as easy as grabbing an apple, stalk of celery or handful of blueberries. The key is to make these readily available by taking them out of the plastic grocery store bag and storing them in reusable snack size containers. Stock your backpack, purse and lunch box with healthy fruits and vegetables you can munch on between classes.
3. Non-perishable snacks are perfect for stashing in your car, desk and gym bag. Foods like energy bars, trail mix, dried fruits, nuts and seeds won’t go bad if they sit in your glove box for a week or two. Another thing you may want to consider squirrelling away in your trunk is a cup-of-soup or easy mac for the days you forget your lunch.
4. Don’t forget your lunch. If you skip your lunch, you’ll be famished by 5 p.m. and more likely to end up hitting the drive-thru on your way home.
5. Save your leftovers, they save you from having to put any thought into packing your lunch the next morning. Stir fry, pasta and most prepared meats taste great reheated the next day.
6. If you’re rushed in the mornings and just don’t have time to make a lunch, the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich takes two minutes to make. If PB & J isn’t sophisticated enough, try peanut butter and honey or maybe something more taboo, like Nutella. If you have 15 minutes, you have time to boil an egg for an egg salad sandwich.
7. For many college students there’s just not enough hours in the evening, with homework, families, pets and other obligations, dinner is often put on the back burner; but dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are four affordable dinners any college student can make:
1. English-muffin pizza – Spread red sauce on an English muffin, top with cheese and other toppings of your choice and bake in the oven until cheese is melted.
2. Bagel sandwich – Turn a bagel into a meal by adding your favorite cheeses, veggies, meats or scrambled eggs.
3. Brinner (Breakfast for dinner) is cheap and easy. For those who don’t have a lot of time in the mornings, sometimes making breakfast for dinner is the only chance you have to enjoy a big plate of waffles, hash browns and bacon.
4. Pasta is so simple, and with all the varieties, spaghetti, penne, fettuccini, linguini, just to name a few, it’s easy to come up with your own pasta dishes on the fly. Jarred sauces are no-brainers or you can skip the sauce and simply butter the noodles. Experiment with different meats and vegetables and consider throwing together a simple green salad to round out the meal.
Anna Quesenberry is first year COCC student pursuing a degree in nursing. The wife and mother of two is passionate about saving her family money and is hoping to spread some money-saving tips to readers.