Food adventures: Planning ahead

15 09 2010

I’m a college student on a budget. I am also a college student with multiple food allergies and the list of foods I cannot eat is slowly becoming longer than the foods that I can eat. Since I’ve been living in my house in June, I average about $150-200 a month on groceries. Most people are pretty impressed with this, and I do it through a variety of ways.

I am a born bargain shopper. My mom has always been one, and since I was a young adult I helped her find sales and cut coupons from the circulars on Sundays. When she stopped cutting coupons (I was probably in high school), I started cutting coupons for her so I could get food that I wanted because they were on sale. At my most recent shopping trip to Stop and Shop, every item in my cart, besides two boxes of store-brand cereal, a necessity, was on sale. I saved $30 in just one trip.

This isn’t to say that I don’t eat well. I eat the veggies that I can and am not stuck eating ramen and eggs; on the contrary, I am quite pleased with the amount of meals I can come up with with my limited diet. I actually find it pretty fun to see what kind of meals I can come up with for the least amount of money.

To organize my thoughts, I keep a recipe binder with any recipes that I’ve found. I find a number of recipes online, jot some down, and most recently found a recipe from the magazine Real Simple. I keep track of everything I’ve made, and on the front of the recipe binder, I have the following post-its:


I got the idea of meal planning from my parents – they’ve been doing it for over a year, or maybe even longer than that. Another great meal planner is my friend Tina, who does her meal planning electronically. I’m a little more old fashioned and since I already had these post-its, this is what I use. I fill in my schedule for the week, plan out when I can actually eat my meals throughout the week, and try to have at least two or three different entrees per week, and two or three different lunch options. Lately, I’ve even been planning how many servings each meal I cook will get, and that way I can keep track of how much food I actually need to cook.

Some say this is boring, but this is what works for me. The hardest thing about living on a tight budget is not letting any food go to waste. Making sure to portion meals correctly and having a detailed grocery list helps me keep track of all my food while still being able to enjoy it all.

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