College Eats: Some Tips On Dining With A Budget
It’s that time of year again when students have to go back to school and money is tight, especially if you are far away from home. If you don’t hold a job and money isn’t coming like a rushing river from the ‘rents you need to find some way to sustain yourself. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been a starving student but here are a few survival tips I learned along the way to keep me full and somewhat healthy.
Dollar Menu at Fast Food
I know what you’re thinking. McDonald’s has the worst stuff for you. A .99 cent McDouble is 380 calories. There are alternatives. They have side salads for that price (some areas may be up to 2 dollars) but it’s a cheap meal and it will fill you up if you coordinate properly with the rest of your meals in the day. You can do creative things like get a .99 cent chicken sandwich and add buffalo sauce to make a buffalo chicken sandwich.
99 cent only store or similar markets
You are kidding yourself if you think only the “poor” people shop here. You are really overlooking a treasure trove of goodies from brand name candies (Nestle and Hershey) to name brand frozen foods (Swift Brown N Serve, Superpretzel, and Pillsbury). You can find fresh veggies, even soda brands like Coke and Pepsi products; all this and more for under 5 bucks or less.
Ethnic and Farmer’s Markets
This may seem expensive because the labels may be foreign and the food may be fresh but if you are a diligent shopper and do your research you can have a bountiful meal from these places every day and not put a dent in your wallet. It pays to look in local papers and magazines for coupons for free or discounted items from these places. Sometimes they may offer free samples. Walking through a farmers market and sampling each fare from the many different stalls will curb that voracious appetite. In a foreign supermarket you can try new things and learn about different ways to make an expensive meal when you’re on the “budget”.
Groupon and Living Social
The hot new thing these days is these types of sites that have heavily discounted prices for expensive areas to get people to try new things. I overheard someone at Goldman Sachs say that these sites were the food stamps for the poor. Sorry sir. The poor just happens to make up the majority of the population and the rich are the minority. You lose! You can find wonderful deals like sushi that would normally cost 50 dollars for a meal for only 15 bucks. You can also select your city on these sites when subscribing so you can get deals that relate to you.
College is also the time to meet people. Your college campus activities (clubs, admissions night) will put on various events that you can grub on and meet new people. Networking is the key to success so take the plunge and a hamburger while you’re at it. You never know if you will meet the next Oliver Stone or John C. McGinley.
No don’t go and buy a card. Go eat there. With hot dog meals (hot dog and soda) for a buck and fifty cents you really can’t go wrong. Also the other stuff is hearty like the chicken bake. If you love desserts, there is a churro and ice cream that will put the pounds on your body but not on your wallet.
These tips will also apply to those who aren’t in college but sometimes we forget when the dough starts rolling in. Be sure to share this article with all you buddies and if you have more tips for dining on a budget comment below!