OPINION: Students should cook on a budget

Skip the fast-food or nice restaurant, cook cheaply at home

Food+is+expensive%2C+especially+for+college+kids%2C+but+there+are+easy+and+cheap+hacks+to+make+dinner+affordable.+

ANISSA CHAK

Food is expensive, especially for college kids, but there are easy and cheap hacks to make dinner affordable.

JOEY FRANKLIN, Evergreen columnist

Cooking on a budget can be tough but having a game plan can really help you keep a healthy and consistent diet.

“When you’re trying to buy [groceries], think ahead,” said Dan Aherin, associate manager of Southside Cafe at WSU. “Ground beef you can use for more than one meal, either cooking it all at once and using it in a couple different ways or cooking part of it and saving another portion to cook a different way.”

Rationing the use of ingredients to get the most usage is a great way to keep costs down. Making portions of each ingredient and dividing them out over the course of the week can keep your meals unique. Buying ingredients in bulk and rationing them out can help fill you up without breaking the bank.

“A lot of it starts with cooking at home,” said Alice Ma, dietitian at WSU. “It’s attractive to eat out … going out is a reason to spend lots of money.”

Eating at a restaurant, or even a fast-food drive-thru, gets very expensive very quickly, and often you do not realize how much money is being spent until the tab comes due.

If you take the money you could spend on going out to eat and focus that budget on groceries, you can get more bang for your buck.  Spending upwards of $20 or $30 is very easy when at a restaurant, and that money can go towards your weekly grocery budget.

Finding items on sale at the grocery store can also help your budget while shopping. Keeping an eye out on deals and not buying name-brand foods is a great strategy to watch how much money is being spent. Most of the time, generic-brand foods taste the same as their pricier name-brand counterpart.

Planning out meals for an entire week at a time can help you with shopping. Casseroles, tacos and pasta dishes are very easy to plan out and take very few ingredients to prepare. Being able to customize those dishes can help keep the rotation of meals fresh, mixing in a fresh combination of veggies and meat can make any meal unique as well as healthy.

Shopping for fruits and vegetables that are in season is a crucial component when cooking on a budget.

For example, strawberries grow in the spring, and taste better and are less expensive because of their availability. Buying fresh strawberries in the winter is not the best choice because they cost more and are not as good. Buying frozen fruit when possible often costs less than fresh.

Sticking with fruits and vegetables is ultimately the best way to stay healthy, but they are usually expensive.

Knowing how to look for deals and to extend the ingredients’ usage if you can is crucial. Throwing food away is the same as throwing away money, and cutting down waste can help you save money in the long run.