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Ten Ways to Cook in College Without Going Broke

Don’t Starve in College. With just a few tips, learn how to cook on a budget.

08/01/2011 // New York, NY, USA // AndreaLynn // Andrea Lynn

College is an amazing experience — a time for making new friends, broadening horizons, and stepping out on your own. It’s also the first time a student is in control of managing their own finances. So it’s no surprise that good nutrition often gets pushed to the back burner in favor of fast food. While tackling meals seems like a hassle, if you know what to do, it can be incredibly fun and inexpensive. And this can all be done without going broke. Yes, cooking on a budget in college is possible if you follow a few tips.

“You don’t have to eat badly, just because you’re in college. Why be forced to sustain on dining hall duds when there are so many other options out there,” says Andrea Lynn, author of The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook. Here are 10 tips you can get to cook great meals without going broke.

— Figure out meals ahead of time. Draft out a plan, complete with a shopping list. This minimizes impulses buys.

— This is always said but that is because it’s true: Never shop on an empty stomach because items you don’t need will end up in the shopping cart.

— Grocery stores put newer items at the back of the shelf, so reach for the back when you buy. The fresher items will last longer and that translates into more time to use it.

— Plan your meals around produce that’s in season. Not only is it tastier, but seasonal produce is cheaper.

— Do your own slicing, chopping, shredding, etc., opposed to buying the pre-chopped packages, which cost a tremendous amount more.

— Use up those leftovers, even transforming them into new dishes. For example, to use up that small amount of veggies lingering in the fridge, mix into scrambled eggs or toss into with pasta.

— Pay with cash. It’s too easy to swipe the plastic and not think about how much you just spent. Cash holds you accountable for what you’ve spent.

— Frozen fruits and veggies work great as a thrifty option when fresh ones are out too expensive.

— Portion out what you’ll realistically eat in the span of its freshness. For example, if you buy a whole loaf of bread, but realize you won’t be able to eat it all before it gets moldy, seal half the loaf in a plastic bag and store in the freezer.

— Use simple recipes without too many ingredients. You don’t want to be having to buy obscure ingredients that you’ll barely use.

Follow these tips and you’ll be eating well without breaking your budget. The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook: 150 Cheap and Easy Gourmet Recipes by Andrea Lynn is full of easy, delicious recipes that fit perfectly within a college budget. The cookbook is available on or at Borders, Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters. For more information, email

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