College student gets by on a budget
It’s astounding how much money one can spend on food and not receive much more than a few meals for a $100 trip to the grocery store.
Each individual item is anywhere from $1 to $5, and as you reach for it, you tend to think that’s a pretty good deal.
A gallon of milk for $2.50? Yes, please. Bread for $2? I can make sandwiches. Grapes for a $1 a pound? I’ll take them.
But let’s keep it in perspective. Meat is generally more expensive, along with frozen meals, cereal and out-of-season fruit. If you get to the end of your 10-item list, averaging $3 per item, that’s already $30. Ten items isn’t a lot. Bread, peanut butter, jelly, cheese, milk, chicken, juice, yogurt, cereal and apples.
How long will this feed you and your family? A day? Two?
Albeit, this is much cheaper than eating out. Entrees at a sit-down restaurant average $10. For two people, that’s $20 without drinks, appetizers, desserts or a tip. No leftovers.
Even fast-food places, infamous for being cheap and easy, can be expensive. A cheeseburger, fries and drink at McDonald’s is about $5, but that’s only one meal. For all three meals, that’s half of what you just spent at the grocery store for only one day’s worth of food for one person.
Subway is a great and healthy alternative, but even their six-inch sandwiches can get pricey in the long run.
So how does one eat cheap? There is the college classic of Ramen Noodles, an item of food that’s been around since as early as 1958. At 25 cents a package, 75 cents can get you through the day.
Spaghetti has been one of the easiest and cheapest ways to eat for several days. For $1, you can get a package of pasta, and for another dollar you can get the sauce. Boil the pasta, warm up the sauce and serve it up.
Somehow, that itty-bitty box of spaghetti noodles turns into a huge pot that feeds me and my girlfriend for days. At one point, it fed us nine times — nine meals for two dollars. Sure, by then you’re sick of it, but at least you’re not starving.
At the very least, when you decide you’re too tired to cook, don’t want to fight the crowd at the grocery store or warm up those leftovers, eating out is the next option. You can be smart about that, too.
Olive Garden, for example, charges around $10 per entree and it comes with soup or salad, but their meals are huge. My girlfriend and I always split an entree. It’s more than enough to feed us, and after a generous tip to the waiter, we walk away from a very nice meal for only $15.
Buying food in bulk is also a way to save, but don’t be fooled by places such as Costco. Walking the isles of Sam’s Club is worse than going to the grocery store when you’re hungry.
Four bags of cereal in one package? Sure, that’s sounds good. A 24-pack of coke? I’ll drink them all, I’m sure of it. A gallon of barbecue sauce? Fire up the grill. A crate of beer? Well, maybe not.
You end up buying way too much. Buy dry foods in bulk, such as rice, beans and even spices. These items never go bad and supplement your meals for a very long time.
This weekend, we’re cooking up a turkey. Despite being out of season, it’s still going to feed us for a week. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey tacos and turkey enchiladas. Save some money, eat healthy.
Hopefully by the time Thanksgiving comes around I’ll be ready for turkey again.