Updated: Jan 30
Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little bit of planning, you can cook nutritious meals on a budget. Here are 5 helpful tips to make your grocery shopping and cooking more efficient and cost-effective. These tips will help you create tasty, nutritious meals without having to spend a fortune.
Eating on a college budget can be challenging. The average cost of food per month for a college student is $667, with an estimated $410 of that being spent on eating off-campus. The remaining $257 goes towards meals cooked at home. This means that if a student has 84 meals in a month, 18 of those meals are eaten off-campus. 66 meals are left to be cooked at home – which would average $257.
Students must become savvy shoppers and meal planners in order to save money while still getting the nutrition they need. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks available to help them navigate the grocery store and stretch their dollars further. Eating off-campus can be a costly expense for college students. By cooking meals at home and avoiding added costs from restaurants and fast food chains, students can save money and still enjoy delicious meals throughout their college experience. The ultimate goal is to severely reduce the cost of eating off-campus and minimize the amount spent on cooking meals at home.
So, how can we cook nutritious meals on a budget? Here are 5 tips that we found to be effective:
Tip #1 - Plan Ahead
Plan your shopping. Shopping without a plan can lead to overspending and impulse buying. To help save time and money, it is important to plan your shopping trips in advance. Knowing what you need before going to the store will help you make better decisions when selecting items and avoid purchasing unnecessary items. By planning your shopping, you can ensure that you get all the items you need while still staying within your budget.
Tip #2 - Reduce Waste
Consider the amount of meals one recipe can make. Did you know that one recipe can make multiple meals? It's true! By considering the amount of meals that one recipe can make, you can avoid wasting food and money. Not only will this save you time in the kitchen, but it will also prevent food wastage. If there are any leftovers, they can be frozen or used to make a completely new meal. For example, a roast chicken dinner could be used to create delicious sandwiches or wraps the next day. With careful planning and consideration of the amount of meals one recipe can produce, you can reduce your food waste and save money in the process.
"The average American eats at a restaurant 4 to 5 times a week." – Education Data Initiative
Tip #3 - Freezer-Friendly Food
Buy freezer-friendly foods. Buying freezer-friendly foods is a great way to save money on fresh produce. Not only can you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season at a much cheaper price, but you can also keep them for a longer period of time by freezing them. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy fresh produce all year round without having to worry about spoilage or waste.
Tip #4 - Check Expiration Dates
Do a quick scan of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to check the expiry dates. Staying on top of the expiry dates of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer can help you save time and money in the long run. Doing a quick scan of your kitchen staples will help you identify which items need to be used up first so that you don't have to worry about throwing out food that has gone bad. This can also be a great way to get creative in the kitchen by looking for recipes that include those ingredients.
Tip #5 - Don't Overcomplicate It!
It is always a good idea to skip recipes that require special ingredients. Before buying it, consider the cost and availability in other recipes. Buying an ingredient that you may only use once may not be worth the expense. If you don't have a particular ingredient for the recipe, you can either omit it or substitute it with something that you already have in your kitchen.
Hanson, Melanie, and Fact Checked. “Average Cost of Food per Month for a College Student: 2023 Analysis.” Education Data Initiative, 2 Jan. 2023,