The college budget is no joke, especially when you'e a freshman living in the dorms. You’re confined to a tiny box with no toaster, a little mini fridge that I guarantee you’re filling with vodka and wine, and a microwave that’s older than your parents. You’re constantly texting your mom asking her if you can get ANOTHER $20 added for pizza. The meal plan can get boring, and you gotta balance out all those pizza nights some way. Here are the ten best foods to keep in your dorm room that are all under $5! 

Potatoes: 89¢ per LB

pasture, potato, vegetable, tuber, carbohydrate, spuds, potato onion
Caroline Ingalls

Potatoes should be a STAPLE in everyone's diet. Russet potatoes are high in vitamin C, packed with potassium (more than a banana), and extremely filling. Sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses as well, containing high amounts of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and spruce up any meal. You can make sweet potatoes in the microwave in five minutes MAX, and they are the perfect, cheap quick carbohydrate for any meal, especially since you can get more than four pounds for under $5.

Beans: 70¢ per LB

corn, garbanzo, chickpeas, pea, meat, legume, cereal, vegetable
Christin Urso

Beans get a bad rap because they’re a starchier carb. That said, they are heavy in protein, and should not be feared! Not only are there tons of options (garbanzo, kidney, black, white, etc.), but they’re INCREDIBLY cheap. At your average local grocery store (Vons, Ralphs, Kroger, Sprouts, Trader Jose- heck, even Whole Foods), one can of beans runs between 50-80 cents! For a quick meal, throw together some beans with carrots, potatoes, hummus, and hemp seeds and boom, a bowl of nutrients. Under five minutes and under $5!

Frozen Broccoli: $2-$3 per LB 

kale, cabbage, vegetable, broccoli
Jenny Georgieva

To balance out all those 1 AM pizza runs and shots of Burnasties, I highly recommend keeping some frozen vegetables in your freezer. My personal favorite is broccoli because it’s high in vitamin C and K, as well as magnesium and potassium. Most grocery stores sell microwave safe bags, so all you need to do is poke a hole in the bag and pop it in the microwave. 

Peanut Butter: $4

chocolate, butter, peanut, peanut butter
Jocelyn Hsu

Peanut butter is one of the most underrated foods out there, which simply doesn’t make sense. Not only does one serving contain 7g of protein, but it’s also been shown to help curb appetite, keep you fuller for longer (team healthy fats!), and reduce your risk of heart disease. Even better! Most stores sell jars for under $5! Make sure that when you look for a jar, you find one with no palm oil, vegetable oil, added sugar, or any BS- keep it all natural. 

Rice: $2 per LB

risotto, cereal, rice
Jocelyn Hsu

Ah, rice. It’s a broke college student's best friend! Instead of going for those pre-packaged rice mixes, I suggest investing in a rice cooker (or slow cooker) and buying large bags of uncooked brown rice in bulk. Most grocery stores sell them for around ~$1.50 per LB, which is a huge bargain. Cook up a big batch in the rice cooker, serve it with some beans and greens or make a soup, and call it a meal. Oh, and throw on some healthy fats like olive oil, butter, avocado, or hummus for good measure to balance everything out! That meal will cost you under $5 MAX- balling on a budget.

Rolled Oats: $1.50 per LB

Rolled oats, grain, handful of oats, handful, hands, barley, oatmeal, oat, pasture, corn, wheat, cereal
Jocelyn Hsu

Oats, oats, and more OATS. Rolled oats are seriously my best friend, and for good reason. One cup of dry rolled oats contains roughly 8g fiber, 10g protein, and will help curb your blood pressure and appetite. Since you can buy it in bulk, it’s an easy breakfast option that doesn’t break the bank either. Oatmeal is an extremely versatile breakfast grain, and I recommend trying this five minute chia and flaxseed oatmeal (microwave friendly!), or if you’re feeling lazy, prep these cookie dough overnight oats and sleep in an extra hour. 

Pumpkin Seeds: $4 per LB

vegetable, pasture, cereal, nut
Marina Poole

Are you familiar with pumpkin seeds? If not, then that’s about to change. Pumpkin seeds are a healthy fat source that also packs protein, magnesium, and mineral zinc. It’s definitely the most pricey item on this list, but that’s because most nuts and seeds aren’t cheap. Still, they’re about $4 per pound, and one pound goes a long way. Sprinkle them over some buddha bowls or in your oatmeal for a protein and healthy fat boost with some crunch! Oh, and with Halloween around the corner, pumpkins are everywhere, so if you carve one up and save the seeds you can spice them, bake them, bag them, and take them on the go. 

Canned Tuna: $1.50 per can

Kimberlee Bochek

Tuna gets a bad rap (well, for good reason - the smell isn't pleasant), but don’t overlook it. For roughly about $1.50-$2.00, you can get a can of tuna that will last you two meals and packs over 12g of protein per serving. It’s an easy switch up from beans and rice, and it’s still extremely tasty. You can serve it with some hot sauce, potatoes or rice, make it into a wrap, sandwich or open face melt, and you can also make a veggie bowl: cheap, quick, and versatile. 

Popcorn: $1 per LB

bowl of popcorn, popcorn, corn, cereal, salt, kettle corn, cottage cheese
Julia Gilman

Looking for a cheap snack? Get some popcorn kernels! For about $1 per lb, you can get some plain kernels. Then, take a brown paper bag, toss them in there, and cook. It’s that easy! Toss with sea salt, melted coconut oil, and nutritional yeast for a healthy, easy snack that’s also incredibly cheap.

Bananas: > $1 per LB

Market, Fruit, yellow summer squash, vegetable, pasture, banana
Amelia Hitchens

Bananas should be apart of everyone's diet, unless you physically cannot eat them. They’re a powerhouse in terms of nutrients, potassium, and natural sweetness. Most grocery stores have them at less than $1 per pound, and at places like Trader Joe’s and Target, they’re 19 cents per banana. Stock up on a bunch (or steal them from the dining hall), freeze them, and make these cute banana ghosts for a healthy treat!

There you have it! Eating healthy in the dorm room is pretty easy, and doesn't need to break the bank. So, what's your dorm room or cheap food staple in your college diet?