Being an off-campus student has its perks. For example, I don't live in a dorm or share a bathroom with 300 people. However, it does have flaws—like the commute is literal hell (especially for us in Florida)—and worst of all, I don't have thousands of dollars dedicated to a meal plan.
So as an off-campus student, I'm stuck with a major dilemma. I'm starving because I'm too broke to buy food and way too lazy to cook, and yet, I'm always hungry.
To solve this problem, I asked myself: how can I eat (good food) without spending more than $50 a week? Below is what I came up with—a few ways that will get food into my belly while taking the weight off of my wallet.
Know What You Want and Budget It
The worst part of always being hungry is never knowing what you want to eat. It also doesn't help if your college, like mine, is perfectly located right across the street from a plethora of (expensive) eateries. The endless food options literally causes me stress and anxiety because I want to eat everything available, even if I can't afford it.
I like to alleviate the stress of decision making though this simple question: Which is cheaper? I honestly apply this ideology to everything, especially food. I do this by simply making a list of restaurants/cafés near Rollins along with my favorite foods and their prices. It ends up looking something like this:
- Venti Strawberry Açaí Refresher $4.53
- Plain Bagel w Cream Cheese $2.40
- Breakfast Sandwich $3.68
- Banana $1.00
Now that the hard work of deciding what you want is out of the way, you can focus your attention on what you can actually afford. So when I'm craving a gourmet five-course meal, but only have enough to purchase a single french fry, I know where to get it from.
Pack a Lunch
You’re probably thinking: packing a lunch sounds great, but I’m too lazy and really do not have the time to actually stay up all night preparing it. I don't actually mean slaving in the kitchen whipping up some crazy elaborate meal. I'm talking about just throwing a microwavable meal into your bag as you run out the door.
I survived off of easy and cheap microwavable lunches for the past semester and have loved every second of it. But beware! These meals do come with their cons, like their artificial flavoring along with whatever other processed items they contain. However, it’s honestly a small price to pay for delicious, easy food on the go.
My go-to lunch is the Kraft Mac and Cheese cups (you can buy a pack of 8 for like $7). All you have to do is fill the cup halfway with water, microwave it for 3.5 minutes, add the powdered, cheesy goodness and enjoy. Sometimes when I’m feeling fancy, I’ll sprinkle some extra cheese on it or even hit it with a little pizza sauce to spice it up.
#SpoonTip: Make the most out of your “packed” lunches by scheduling them out. For example, my heaviest classes are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I'll bring my Mac and Cheese on those days. Since Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty light, I usually just grab some fruit and a granola bar to save my Mac and Cheese cups for the other days.
(If All Else Fails) Ask A Friend With a Meal Plan to Get You Food
At Rollins College, students have approximately $2000 on their R-Card solely dedicated to on-campus food. Students are expected to spend all of this money in a single semester, and the money won't roll over to the next semester if they decide not to spend it all. As surprising as it may sound, it can be difficult to spend that much money on food in the span of three months.
Sometimes I, as a broke off-campus student, will say to my friend with a meal plan, “I’m hungry—I might go to Starbucks and get a bagel just to hold me over for the rest of the day.” Nine times out of 10, they will go, “Are you sure? Let me get you something from Dave’s Boat House... I know you want that burger.”
Sometimes I don't even say I’m hungry, they literally just offer to get me food: burgers, chicken tenders, sushi, sandwiches, snacks, practically anything. If they can use their R-Card to buy it, they'll get it for you.
#SpoonTip: DON'T BE A MOOCH. Try not to constantly ask your friends to buy you food, they'll get annoyed with you, I promise. So, if you’re in a position where you can afford a quick lunch for yourself or can bring your own from home, do that.
I've personally been able to save well over $50 in the past couple of weeks through these tips and tricks. I highly encourage you to consider them the next time you find yourself broke, lazy, and hungry both off or on-campus. Happy saving.