No meal plan? No problem. As freshmen, most people buy meal plans because it is convenient, especially when you are still adjusting to college life. Not having to worry about feeding yourself makes your freshman year much easier, which is important since you are still learning how to balance your schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and social life. Personally, I was not fond of being on an overpriced meal plan so this year I decided to try living without one. Here are my tips on how to survive in college without a meal plan.
The microwave is your new best friend.
When you are short on time and your stomach is growling, microwavable meals will save your life. Although frozen meals and canned soups are usually high in sodium and full of preservatives, the brand Amy’s Kitchen does a good job of producing organic, microwavable meals without any preservatives. I personally love their canned soups, especially the black bean vegetable and cream of mushroom soups. Of course, microwaves aren’t only for heating up premade meals. Why not try making this three-course meal with your microwave?
Learn how to cook.
I mean, you’re going to have to learn eventually, right? Check out these 19 easy recipes every college should know. Not only is cooking for yourself much cheaper than eating in dining halls, but it’s also healthier.
Cook once a week, not daily.
If you are too busy during the week to cook, try setting aside some time on the weekends to cook all your meals for the week. Store your meals in tuperware so that you can easily grab-and-go when you are rushing to class or heat up your meal later during the week.
Have a potluck night with friends.
Getting tired of your usual dinner? Organize a potluck with your friends. It’s a fun way to try different foods and exchange cooking tips with your friends. Not sure what to bring? Try making this easy four-ingredient taco dip or this delicious vegetarian chili.
Buy foods that you eat often in bulk.
Not only will this save money but you also won’t run out of your basic necessities before you have time to head to the grocery store again.
Eating a sandwich for lunch everyday is not that bad.
Be flexible with the food that you have in your mini-fridge. For lunch, I have a sandwich almost everyday because it is easy and fast to prepare. I always make sure I have the basics (bread, cheese, low-sodium deli meats, etc.) but I mix it up by using different vegetables and hummus flavors.
Avoid buying too many perishable items.
Especially items that you do not eat that often. Dairy products and fresh produce generally spoil the fastest, so buy these items in small quantities unless you eat them frequently.
Stock up on healthy (nonperishable) snacks.
Sure, ramen is cheap but it is not doing your health (or waistline) any good. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, which includes your snacks. Nuts are heart-healthy and convenient. My favorite granola bars are Kind bars because they are gluten-free and all-natural. Greek yogurt is packed with protein and calcium. Raw vegetables taste delicious with hummus. And if you are craving something sweet but healthy, eat some fiberous fruits.
Get your groceries delivered to you.
To busy to go grocery shopping? Find out which grocery-delivery services delivery to your zipcode. Although it is slightly more expensive than grocery shopping yourself, sometimes you simply do not have the time.
Save money when eating at restaurants.
Many restaurants have special deals during certain days of the week and even discounts for students. Also, finding coupons and discounts online is a piece of cake thanks to websites such as Groupon.
Attend free food events on campus.
College is probably the only time in your life when you have (easy) access to free food. Most club events will provide free food, and it doesn’t hurt to check out a club that you never thought about joining. You will meet new people and get free food. What could be better?