The Cheapskate’s Guide to College Eating
For a college student, money and health are constantly at odds. The cheaper foods are worse for you, the healthier ones cost too much, and skipping meals entirely is just a terrible idea in general. Health should always come first, of course, but for those cheapskates among us who are determined to save a buck, there are many ways to keep a decent grip on your health as well. I spent last summer buying and preparing my own food, an experience which taught me a bundle of tips for the common cheapskate.
1. Buy a skillet.
Seriously. Skillets are shallow enough to fry things in, and deep enough to boil things in. It’s the spork of dishes. Also like a spork, it’s not the best at either of the two things it can do, but if you can only afford one dish, you should go for it.
2. Skip the non-essentials.
Bread, meat, peanut butter, and vegetables are essentials. Chips, pop, and donuts aren’t. It’ll be tough to break your addiction, I know, but your wallet will thank you. That’s hyperbole, by the way. If your wallet actually talks to you, you may not be experiencing hunger hallucinations.
3. Buy BBQ sauce.
Ok, there’s one non-essential that you might want. BBQ sauce goes with everything, and vastly improves the taste of almost everything. BBQ sauce is to food as black is to fashion.
4. Don’t use coffee coasters.
College notebooks work just as well, and actually look better with coffee rings on them. It’s more decorative.
5. Don’t bother shelving your dishes until you have to.
They’re just as clean on the drainer as they are in the cupboard. Why waste energy? There’s only two excuses: if you run out of room for the wet dishes or if your mother is visiting.
6. Learn how to substitute.
This is an art form, so I can’t teach you everything. Here are a few examples. Flour and sugar can stand in for powdered sugar. Doubled-over tinfoil works as a cookie sheet. Empty two-liter bottles function fine as pitchers. Mugs make great soup bowls, and eliminate the need for spoons to boot. I once used a broken can opener as a makeshift wrench to tighten a loose bolt on a second can opener.
7. Cut down to two meals a day.
Social norms are the only reason why we all eat three meals a day. And if you’re like a lot of college students, you skip breakfast anyway. Just shift your lunch into a brunch, to keep the nutrition evenly distributed over the day. Caveat: you need to keep on schedule. Eat your meals at the same time every day, or your stomach will have a tough time keeping up. This is a good idea in general, but is more important when you’re keeping a low calorie intake.
8. Avoid the okay deals.
Stores will give you meh deals all the time, and usually, they’ll make you pay a good price for something that you wouldn’t have bought otherwise, therefore making you pay more in the long run. You don’t need to pay for three-dollar Cheez-its when you get twice the amount of animal crackers for half that price, even when Cheez-its normally cost four dollars. It makes sense when you think about it, I promise. Caveat: there are a few great deals out there. My local Sheetz store sold me three hotdogs for a dollar last month.
9. Don’t waste anything.
Are you one of those people who leave the pizza crust? Nonsense. You need to lick up every last sesame seed. Don’t avoid the fatty butter dips, either. If I learned anything from high school chemistry, it’s that fat equals energy. Note: I didn’t actually learn anything from high school chemistry, so take that with a grain of salt. Salt’s good for you, too.
Ok, I admit that we’re devolving into rat behavior here. But sometimes the opportunity to get food arises when you’re not actually hungry. Free doughnuts at work, or leftover pizza from a friend, for instance. Save it for later, and save a meal. You may want to consider corrective surgery to fix your lack of cheek pouches.
11. Don’t go too far in your quest for savings.
The other day, I opened up my cabinet and briefly considered composing a breadcrumb sandwich. I’m not even kidding. Cooler heads prevailed, I gave up, and I ordered pizza. Everyone needs to stop saving money and eat food instead sometimes. You probably don’t need to be reminded of that, though, as the thought no doubt crossed your mind around points 7 or 10.