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Surviving without a meal plan

 
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Dinner was a breeze Thursday night and lasted me for two more meals after that; this is a dish I would definitely recommend.  Low-cost and easy preparation!

The Joy of Cooking: Evansville Edition

 
Yum!

I know it sounds contradictory, but one of my favorite favorite parts of college is my ability to educate myself. I'm on my own, nobody's holding my hand, and so this independence can be used to learn all sorts of new things.

More Than Ramen: How To Survive Groceries on A College Budget

 

It's a pretty common joke, and something we all like to talk about; college students don't have a lot of spare money to buy organic free range chicken and red bell peppers (those are the expensive ones, I would know).

But all joking aside, it really is hard to maintain a diverse diet on a budget that allows for maybe $40 a week on groceries or so. And while some of us have meal plans and get a copious amount of food for that, not everyone has or chooses that option.

So what do we do to survive eating on a college budget without consuming strictly ramen and peanut butter and jelly?

My roommate and I both have become experts at this, and here are some of my tips from our many conversations about this topic.

1) Have A Smartphone? USE IT

There are a TON of coupon and cash back apps available on both iPhone and Android, so if you happen to have a smartphone, you've got a resource for saving money and getting money back for your groceries. That's right, groceries. A few examples are Ibotta and Checkout51, which give you cash back incentives for certain products, Target's Cartwheel, which gives you an extra percentage off on certain products, and Shopkick, which gives you "kicks" for walking in to certain stores, which can be reeemed for gift cards.

2) Make A List

A lot of people tell me they just go to the grocery with a vague idea what they need and grab stuff off the shelves. It makes me feel panicky, because it leaves entirely too much room for impulse buys. Instead, plan out what you're going to need for the week. I usually plan some meals, snacks, and desserts, and get all the ingredients I need for those. That way, I only buy what's on the list, and have already planned out how much I can spend. That's not to say I don't occasionally grab an extra package of cookies or chocolate, of course--you only live one, after all.

3) Sales Sales Sales

Sales and specials are your friends. Sign up for your grocery's weekly ad email and stock up on things while they're on sale (Gina and I, for instance, watch Target's Diet Pepsi prices like hawks). Additional tip: combine store sales with coupons or cash back offers.

4) Take Your Time

Comparing prices and quality of products in the store takes a little extra time, but sometimes it's worth it. The store brands are often--but NOT ALWAYS--cheaper, and often they're just as good as the products you lean towards out of familiarity. Plus, sometimes a certain brand is on sale at the store and has a coupon, like mentioned above, so you can get extra savings that way as well.

5) But Go Easy On Yourself

Do you really, really love artisan bread? Or cupcakes from an actual bakery? Leave a little wiggle room to spend an extra buck or two on something you really like, even if it's not the chepeast option. Treating yourself will make your budget seem less depressing and awful, and thereby make it easier to stick to it.

























5 of the Best Places for a College Student to Eat

 

Okay, let's face it, being in college is a balancing act. You have to juggle homework, sleep, work (for some of us), and social time. And then there's the money versus social activities versus food and clothes. But every now and again, you get sick of what the dining hall has to offer or you really just need to get away from campus for a little while.

Over the years, I've gotten the chance to try a lot of places in Evansville, and here are my favorites for an affordable off campus meal.

1. Jeanne's Gelato and More

Admittedly, this one is basically on campus (across from the Lincoln Parks apartments, near Lincoln Garden and The Slice), but it's still a great place to grab a quick bite. They sell sandwiches, soup, salads and, best of all, gelato! Plus, the prices are great and the people who work there are always incredibly friendly and cheerful. All in all, a great atmosphere to de-stress before that exam.

2. IHOP

By no means an Evansville exclusive, IHOP is still a great choice for a college student, mainly because they're open 24 hours. Ours is located on Burkhardt, behind WalMart. Freshmen year, 3 am and I knew each other really well, and sometimes that sounded like a great time for some pancakes. IHOP never let me down. Plus, again, the prices are great--an omelette AND a stack of pancakes for $8? Yes, please.

3. The Smiling Moose Deli

This place is tucked away down the road from the Walmart on Burkhardt and they have some delicious sandwiches and wraps going on. It's a nice, quiet atmosphere with some more interesting sandwich choices than you might find at Panera or Subway.

4. Los Bravos

This place has a few different locations depending on which area of town you're the most comfortable with. But if you're in the mood for Mexican and a little bit nicer of a meal than you get at Taco Bell, this is my recommendation for you. The service is always quick and the prices aren't bad for a place where you get to sit down and have the food brought to you (remember that luxury?).











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