Many college students who live away from home can attest to the fact that they are mostly never certain of where their next meal will come from. It’s true that there are numerous options on campus that you can pick from but not everyone has the money to feast in the dining hall or pay regular price for a full meal. If you’re one of those students who wants to spend little to no money on food but still wants to enjoy a gourmet meal, the following tips are for you.

1. Use your student ID card for discounts.


Many people are unaware of the magic that their student ID cards can do. There are lots of restaurants around various college campuses that will give students some percentage off of their total purchase. It’s simple, just show your card to the cashier at the location and you’ll get your deal. However, make sure that the place you’re visiting offers a discount before you purchase anything. If you’re unsure, just ask the vendors. Search for your school’s discount program to find out what you’re eligible for. I was shocked to notice recently that more than 40 restaurants around my college and beyond offer some sort of discount to students. I’m not saying I wasn’t mad that I didn’t know my favorite restaurant which I visit regularly offers 10% off purchases for students and I had to pay the regular price this whole time (notice the sarcasm). And yes, paying $7.28 instead of $8 makes a huge difference because I can do a lot with 72 cents.

2. Gather as many coupons as you can.

Okay you’re in college and you’ve got too much pride to use a coupon, so you’ll just go ahead and spend all your money on food and then starve for the rest of the semester. No, but really that’s not the way to do it. If you have an opportunity to use a food coupon, take it. You can find some of these at campus events, in newspapers, shops that are being newly opened and want customers, on receipts from grocery stores, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I was fortunate enough to save some money because I used the Chipotle coupon that my friend gave me or when I got a free sandwich from Jimmy Johns simply because I attended a comedy show on campus, or the free hot dog I’ll be getting from 7-eleven this week because I went to a welcome week event. If you take some time to search for coupons even online, you’ll find many that you’ll be surprised exists. Take your voucher to the participating location, scan it and walk away with your meal like a boss.

3. Create an account with restaurants.


Signing up with your email address or telephone number takes just a few minutes. With this, you’ll be the first to know about deals and reward programs. Raising Cane’s has a good treat where you get a free box combo (four chicken fingers, lots of fries, toasted bread, coleslaw and sauce) when you register with a raising canes card and create an account with the restaurant, hence becoming a Cane’s member. You can acquire this card from any of their locations for free, register and wait for it to set in 48 hours later and you are ready to receive your free box combo! This restaurant also gives out free food on certain special occasions. Registering to receive information is one of the few ways you’d be able to know about good food deals. Most of us don’t like junk mails but it doesn’t hurt when they’re offers from our favorite restaurants.

4. Download restaurant apps.

This option is like the one right above but quite different. There are a few fast food places that reward patrons who simply download their apps. For instance, throughout September, Chick-Fil-A gave out free chicken nuggets to customers who downloaded the Chick-Fil-A app and created an account with this business. Wendy’s also has several deals for their app users, and which includes getting a free single Dave burger when you purchase any item, regardless of what your total purchase amounts to. This is easy to do, just scan or present the code on your account at the respective restaurant and you are good to go! If you are unsure of what deals are going on, google to find out or ask around and you’ll be surprised at how many you find.

5. Buy large meals and split with friends.


This is an option for the individual who has a decent number of friends and who does not mind sharing something like food. Each person simply contributes a small amount of money geared towards a meal and divide it among yourselves, or one person pays for the whole meal and let the others pay the person back. If you’re one of those people who can’t finish a large pizza at one seating, gather three to four friends to pay for one Domino’s pizza that costs $7.99 if you order online. You’ll roughly pay $2.25 for your lunch instead of a whopping $8.65 with taxes. Yes, you could pay the regular amount and make the pizza last for days but we all know how hard and not-so-appetizing a left-over pizza tastes and you don’t want that. Not only are you saving money, but this will also be a good time to bond with your friends.

6. Go to events where there’s free food.

Most events on campus are bound to be free, but the icing on the cake is that there is a 98% chance that food is always provided for free. Coordinators of such events know that without something like free souvenirs and food to attract attendees, there’s a slim chance of people showing up. Not only do they advertise their events, but they make it a priority to include what other services they will be providing because that’s what draws students to the programs. You should actively search on your school website, email, notice boards of events coming up, go to those, grab your food, wait a while and walk out like you were not there solely for the food. However, it would do you a lot of good if you stay to know what the occasion is about because most of the time, these events are organized to benefit you and the rest of the student population.

7. Cook.


This is the method not only for the student who knows the way around the kitchen, but for everyone willing to try new food that’s not from a fast food joint. Every individual can cook, provided they are willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to do it. If you don’t have the money to buy a recipe book, Google the steps for preparing the meal you want. There are lots of options online that you cannot get enough of. I spent less than $30 on grocery some time ago and used just half of those items to prepare three different meals that lasted me almost two weeks. Spending approximately $15 on food for this number of weeks might seem impossible but it works, and you should give it a try. Cooking is an essential skill that comes in handy when you no longer want that restaurant food because it upsets your stomach, or when you want to go on a diet and want just a kind of food. You get to have your nourishment the way you desire it, not how someone else deems it’s best for you.

As a student, there are many occasions where you are required to spend huge sums of money, but you could save some of this by cutting down on how much you spend on food by developing the tactics listed above. 

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