Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grad School Secrets: Delicious Food on a Budget

Food is a widely variable expense as it not only depends on what types of food you eat but also if you cook for yourself, warm up microwave meals or go out to eat frequently.  I think cutting down on food costs is often the quickest way to keeping more cash in your wallet.  Here are some things I do to keep food costs down.

  • I cook.  I know, everyone is busy but cooking doesn't have to be elaborate and it's almost always  healthier.  Taking care of my health is a huge priority for me.
  • I pay attention to the prices in stores.  I know which stores generally carry the best prices on things I buy often (I can tell you the price of bananas, fresh spinach and mushrooms at several neighborhood stores.  It can take a while to remember the costs of various things but it really helps you pay a good price!)
  • I use coupons (occasionally - this is an area I could improve on!)
  • I shop sales.  I absolutely love when my freezer is stocked due to a sale on frozen vegetables or something similar!
  • I keep fast and easy-to-prepare meals on hand.  A couple of boxes of pasta and pasta sauce in a jar.  Frozen vegetables in the freezer.  One of the quickest meals to make and reasonable healthy (load up on the veggies, get whole grain pastas and pay attention to serving sizes and you are set!) 
  • I budget.  Each week a have a certain amount of money that can go towards food (groceries AND any eating out and coffee trips) and I try my hardest to stick to it.  I try to make sure I allot extra money for special events, but they are planned for ahead of time.
  • I make cooking fun!  By turning it into a social activity with friends.  Everyone has to eat!
  • I shop with a list.
  • I meal plan.  I find this saves time and money because I don't have to ask myself what I can cook or run to the store last minute.  A thirty minute conversation with the SO (we usually eat together) plans the weekly shopping and eating needs.  These conversations tend to go better after you've just eaten a meal...
  • I don't shop while hungry.  Any time I break this rule I promise you I'll either have chocolate or five layer dip in my basket by the time I hit the checkout line.
  • I cook large batches of food at once and then freeze dinners in meal sized portions.  This provides a quick dinner that is both cheap and healthy.  My favorite food to cook and freeze is lasagna! Delicious!
  • I bring my lunch to work.  And my drinks (usually a soda and tea) and snacks (a banana and some nuts or a granola bar).  This helps keep lunch costs down.  I make large batches of burritos and freeze them which gives me a quick and easy lunch when I'm in a rush.  Usually I'll bring left overs or make a sandwich.
  • I shop at farmers markets for in season vegetables.  Fresh vegetables just taste better, but you can also get good deals this way.
  • Free food on campus! (Might just apply to graduate students and not those in the real world...)


  1. Great tips! I do everything you do too, though I use a lot of coupons. This week I bought 40 bags of frozen veggies for 50 cents each, so my freezer is full :-)

    1. I love it when my freezer is full of good food! I should be paying more attention to coupons, I just haven't found a good (aka not time consuming) method of doing so yet...