The Hidden Fee of Dining as a College Student

There are a lot of expenses when it comes to going to college. Tuition. Books. Commute, or paying for your dorm, and with that comes the expense of living; everything from basic needs like hygiene products to pleasantries like a small TV and a Playstation. But one of the hidden fees of going to school? Food.

Think about it. You’re at school for probably two-three classes a day. Chances are, you’re eating at least one meal at school every day. If you’re going to school five days a week, eating one meal at school every week, you could be spending about $60-$70 per week just on food. That adds up to be a lot of money, and a lot more money than things like books and commuting. 

There are ways to save. The easy answer is bringing your own lunch, but that gets hard, right? It takes time to prepare your meals, time you may not have with classes and work, plus you’re limited because certain foods aren’t good out of the fridge for more than an hour. Sure, there are thermoses you can invest in, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of prep time and having to resort to ham-and-cheese sandwiches every day. Who wants THAT all of the time?

There’s a happy medium of being content with your meal, getting the right nourishment, and saving money that can be achieved here. It just takes a little bit of thought, and some extra planning out.

  • Understand what portions you need. Eating the right portions can not only save you money, but a lot of time, as well. It’s not necessary to have an overflowing plate of fries, on top of a double cheeseburger and a large soda. Save the extra dollar or two and get something smaller. That extra cash adds up!

  • Split a meal and save for later. Restaurants give out huge portions, which can be great value-wise, but if you’re smart about it, you can save some of that food for the next day.

  • Make your own meal plan so you can have variety if you decide to bring food. Don’t know what to bring? Here are some ideas:
    • The Classic Sandwich: When in doubt, make a sandwich. PB&J? Ham and cheese? Turkey and cheese? Turkey and ham and cheese? Don’t make the same thing every day, of course, or you’ll get sick of it really fast.
    • A Filling Salad: No, not a chunk of lettuce covered in croutons and caesar dressing, that’s beyond basic. Throw in some nuts (as long as you’re not allergic). Bring some shredded chicken. Sprinkle in some dried berries. Make it a fun salad! Salads can be fun, too!
    • Rice n’ Things: Rice is easy to package, it’s filling and it’s good for you. It also goes well with, well, everything! Pork? Chicken? Veggies? It’s easy to create variety with some rice n’ things, so you won’t get bored of your lunch anytime soon.
    • A Daily Smoothie: Pick some of your favorite fruits, and plan out five different fruit smoothies to make every day. Come on, who doesn’t love a good fruit smoothie!?

Lunchtime in between classes should never be a huge expense. It’s supposed to be when you’re able to relax, enjoy a nice meal and hang out with some of your friends. You don’t want to break the bank just to eat, but you also don’t want to eat the same boring lunch all of the time, resulting in envy while you watch your friends devour their filling meals from a nearby restaurant or the dining hall. 

Oh, a final tip? Bring a few snacks with you throughout the day, especially if you’re only taking a class or two outside of dining hours. I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m on campus, I always feel the urge to want to go and eat. A couple of granola bars or a bag of pistachios in your backpack can always solve that sudden hunger.

Best of luck on your upcoming semesters, everybody!