If you’re a student, menu planning is an essential way to save money on food. It’s easy to do, and saves not just money, but time as well.
The most valuable aspect in a student’s life, arguably, is time – and in dire situations, it may seem that skipping meals is a great way to buy time. When you feel overwhelmed with stress and lack of time, it seems that fast food is your best bet. However, it might be a better idea to invest some of your free time into learning how to meal plan.
The best part of menu planning is that it’s not a strict guideline, and you can always make changes and adjustments when necessary. Planning a menu will help you avoid those fast food runs, practice time management, eat healthier and of course – stick to a budget.
You don’t have to worry about making it too complicated, simple meal planning is better, and once you start and get practice, it will become second nature.
9 Menu Planning Tips for Students
1. Shop your kitchen
The first step to planning a weekly menu is to evaluate what ingredients you have right in your own kitchen. When you check out your current inventory, you can avoid buying things that you may already have.
2. Flip through flyers
As a student, this step might be a bit more tricky depending on your living situation, but it’s quite important. Look through the flyers to see what you can buy to incorporate into your meals during the week.
If possible, try your best to price match ingredients that are on sale at stores that you don’t shop at. If you don’t receive flyers in the mail, you can also view flyers online – and don’t forget to check out our weekly coupon matchups.
3. Use coupons
If you have some coupons, you can match up those coupons with sales that you may have discovered in the previous step. No need to be an extreme couponer, because even $1 a week will make a difference! Learning how to coupon is not a difficult task, but your ability to spot coupon match-ups while you’re shopping will improve with practice.
4. Plan your menu
After deciding what ingredients you have or will obtain, you can now plan your weekly meals! Depending on whether you are a mature student with family or you’re living like a bachelor, menu planning is important.
Websites such as AllRecipes.com can be very useful for the ingredient search function, to find recipes with food that you already have. During this step you can add items to your list that are not necessarily on sale.
5. Make a shopping list
Once you’ve decided what you’ll be making for the week, write up a shopping list to buy all the ingredients needed. Try to pick one day of the week to be your grocery shopping day to save time and effort. A shopping list will help you stick to a budget and avoid impulse purchases.
6. Dine with friends
If you have roommates that you’re interested in dining with, try making meal plans with them and assigning days of the week to specific people to fit their schedule and needs. Another option would just be splitting the cost of food and all helping each other with cooking up daily meals. It’s not only cheaper and easier, but it allows you to spend quality time with your friends!
7. Use a slow cooker
A slow cooker is an amazing appliance to be used on long days worth of studying. Most recipes should take less than 30 minutes to prepare and should be ready in 4 to 8 hours. One pot meals are also great to make large meals in, so you will have leftovers.
8. Purchase family packs
Most students find that it’s difficult to find portions (e.g. of meat) that is budget friendly as well as reasonably portioned for a single serving. You should consider purchasing a large club or family pack of meat and a pack of freezer bags.
This will work for steaks, ground meat, ribs, etc. Split the meat into single servings and place into freezer bag. Freeze until needed. Freezer cooking is another great way to save money.
9. Cook more, be creative
This tip comes in handy when you know that you’ll have a long week of studying ahead of you. For example, exam week. There are tons of really delicious casserole dishes out there that you could cook up on a Sunday and eat for the rest of the week.
I know that this does not sound like the ideal situation but there’s always room for creativity. Scramble it up with add-ons, such soups or salads that could compliment your main dish. Beware, you will need to properly store your leftovers to ensure that food poisoning is out of the question.
In most cases sealing your left overs in air right containers and storing it in the fridge will do just fine.
Living the student life isn’t easy. You have limited time and money available for your meals and other expenses – but with a bit of effort and determination, you can save money!
If you’re a student – do you plan your menus?