While some students living off campus for the first time may be
more inclined to eat fast food, some say it is not a cost-effective
or healthy choice.
Jeff Fowler, a graduate student studying computer science, tries
to save money when it comes to food.
“I try not to eat out a whole lot,” Fowler said. “It seems
that’s where it racks up costs.”
When shopping for food at the supermarket, Fowler said there are
things he tries to avoid.
“I try to avoid junk food that costs more,” Fowler said. “(I try
to) go for the cheaper, healthier stuff.”
It’s Patrick Doyle’s first year living off campus, but he has
found an alternative to eating fast food or home cooking.
“I live off campus, but I have a meal plan,” said Doyle, a
sophomore studying construction management.
Doyle said he usually eats in the residence halls twice a
Sarah Byington, a sophomore zoology student, said she has
considered getting a meal plan as an option to help her eat more
“It’s been hard,” said Byington about eating healthy on a
budget. “I think it’s a really good idea to have a meal plan. I’ll
probably just start with 20 (meal passes) and see how much I use
For students with a meal plan, Dawn Clifford, a registered
dietitian at the Hartshorn Health Service, has a
“To-go boxes can get filled for two meals-worth of food,”
She also recommends students shop at large stores that may have
cheaper prices and product in bulk.
“Shopping at super-center types of stores is often cheaper,”
Other cost-saving options can include bringing a lunch to school
instead of eating fast food.
“Prepare a lunch the night before,” Clifford said. “Save money
by bringing lunch like you did in high school.”
Cutting coupons, looking for sale items, shopping with a
specific list of food items, buying generic brands and looking at
per ounce of food can help get the most food per dollar.
Planning meals can be a good way to save money.
“Meal planning is an important strategy for saving money,” said
Sarah Morales, coordinator with Food Stamp Nutrition Education
Program. “But I think it’s probably unrealistic to think that
college students will plan all their meals.”
Clifford also recommends planning meals for the week and cooking
extra for another meal.
“Cook enough for three or four meals and then freeze it,”
Planning meals and using a grocery list when shopping will help
cut down on impulse buying, Morales said.
Looking for fresh foods while they are in season means the cost
will be lower and buying in bulk can help cut costs as well,
“Buy different fruits and veggies in season,” Morales said.
“Steer clear of convenience foods like Rice-a-Roni. Buy some bulk
rice instead. (Students) can learn to make their own mixes from
Morales coordinated a free program for students looking to
improve their diets while saving money.
Amy Schmidt is the contact for local program. Students can call
Eat Well for Less at 498-6000 and will be forwarded to a nutrition
“Our classes focus on nutrition, food budgeting and food
safety,” Schmidt said. “We target limited income (people).”