There isn’t much that’s better than great food. Yet that seems to go out the window during college, when gross dining halls and cheap junk food (we’re looking at you, Cookout) are constantly within reach. Striking the balance between gourmet and affordable can be a tricky task, but we’ve got some ideas to help you out.
Rather than going to your usual chain restaurant or cafe, you can usually find something of comparable price and higher quality. Substitute Subway for a local sandwich shop, Starbucks for a family owned coffee shop.
Hit up your local farmers’ market
Not only is the food fresh and often homemade, much of the produce is cheaper than you would find in grocery stores. And you can always find something unique!
Go to a fancy restaurant, but order from the bar menu or appetizer menu
You can often eat for less than half the price of the specialty entrees, and still be satisfied.
Substitute processed snacks with more natural options
This doesn’t mean you have to spend tons of money on fancy organic treats–a container of nuts can last you ages, and don’t forget the farmers’ market for fruits and veggies!
Try different ethnic foods and restaurants
Often times, you can find very inexpensive options, especially going for lunch specials. Branch out. Try a hole-in-the-wall Pho restaurant, or an Indian buffet.
Cook for yourself more
Get your friends to chip in and make a big family meal. Try out a recipe from Pinterest, or ask around for family favorites–ingredients from the grocery store are often cheaper than eating out, and you’d be surprised what you can create.
Try to hit all the food groups while eating in the dining hall
Don’t be afraid to mix and match foods, and add different sauces and toppings to make the food better. Try these dining hall hacks for ideas.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try new things and take chances
Try something you’ve never ordered on the menu, or go somewhere you don’t ordinarily go. You’ll never know what college budget bargains are out there until you go and find them.