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Frugal Food Ideas for College

Food is expensive there is no doubt about it (well, besides ramen noodles, but who wants to eat that everyday). This is especially challenging for college students who typically have a tight budget. Even if you have a meal plan, sometimes you can get hungry after the dining commons close. So what are your options? Well for most students, they do not have a kitchen to cook in so they really can’t have a gourmet meal (No, soup does not count and neither is that banana that has been sitting there for weeks. Eww. You should really toss that out). After you wash your hands from throwing that out, eww again, we can do an 80’s high five and celebrate because there is a frugal way to have a decent meal. Check out ACCC’s frugal food ideas.

If you're trying to avoid credit card debt for food, check out ACCC's ideas.

If you’re trying to avoid credit card debt for food, check out ACCC’s ideas.

Most college dining halls are all you can eat. This allows you to go up as many times as you want and grab as much as you like (Within a reasonable limit. I would always be the kid in line for pizza when the kid in front of me takes an entire pie). This is the perfect time to take some extra food for your dorm room. Grab some Tupperware (or anything that you can properly store food in) and bring it with you to the dining common. After grabbing your food and sitting at your table table, fill up the container with something that you can eat later. Taking advantage of all you can eat is great for avoiding credit card debt for food. You should check what your school’s policy is on taking food from the dining halls.  Some do not allow it.

Another way to get some good food for nothing would be to look around campus for social events and clubs to join which offer free food (And it’s usually food that was ordered from a restaurant, so it’s probably a cut above the typical cafeteria offering). You could also volunteer to help at these events. Volunteers usually get first dibs to the food before others do, so helping out may be a better idea. Plus if you volunteer enough you could end up putting that on your resume. At the end of these events, the staff usually has no place to store the food so they end up throwing it out or giving it away. Now you could be walking out of the event with an entire pizza at no cost to you. Not a bad deal.

Lastly, is there a fast food joint on your campus, see if they give away food at the end of the night. When I was at school, Dunking Donuts used to put the rest of the unsold donuts in the dining commons for students to take for free. We hope these frugal food ideas help.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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