Eating on a College BudgetNot every college student has the luxury of an extravagant meal plan when it comes to his or her culinary choices.  Money can be tight when you’re away at school, and with tuition costs constantly on the rise, books easily running into the hundreds of dollars, and rent due every month, the idea of a big, hot, satisfying meal, can seem a distant mirage, hanging on the edge horizon, seemingly just out of reach.

If you find yourself in a quandary when it comes to balancing your education with a square meal, here are a few food items that can help stave off hunger while making your dollar go farther when you’re eating on a college budget.

Assorted pastas are often the staple of starving students.  Everything from Ramen noodles and spaghetti to mac ‘n cheese and noodles with butter can be filling, not to mention easy choices when it comes to stuffing your gut.  Consider adding cheap and healthy veggies to make pasta sauce go farther, and maybe changing it up once in a while by using alfredo sauces.  If you have an extra buck or two, you could add hamburger meat to the pasta sauce or chicken to the alfredo for a special treat.

The great thing about pastas is that they are cheap, filling, can be frozen and reheated, and can be great comfort foods in times of stress.

Peanut Butter
A staple of childhood menus, white bread and peanut butter, possibly smeared with a bit of jelly or jam and with a side of chips, pretzels, or crackers, can make for a budget meal that can leave you surprisingly full.  Peanuts are a good source of protein, and while this snack can become addictive, don’t blow yourself out on it by overindulging.

Toast with Butter
While toast with butter might not be the most exciting item on the list, it can put something in your stomach and is cheap and reasonably low in calories.  I wanted to lose a couple of pounds during my senior year in college and found that this snack, accompanied by a glass of water, managed to placate my growling stomach.  My wife also found this to be a great way to lose weight and still feel full.

As with toast and butter, I found that pretzels were another great budget food to keep my snacking urges satisfied, but not overindulge when it came to other fattier, snack type treats.  Perfect to crunch on while studying, pretzels can keep the hunger pangs away, last quite a while, and aren’t super expensive.

Rice and beans
Rice and beans are other great food “fillers” that can make your meals go further and last longer.  While not exactly a fulfilling meal on their own; mixed with a bit of meat or in a soup, they can be fantastic budget foods — and healthy ones too!

Breakfast for breakfast, lunch or dinner
Some people can eat breakfast at just about any time of day or night.  Eggs, toast, and ready to eat waffles can be a gut washer of a meal when you’re on a tight budget.  Bisquick or Jiffy mix can also be cheap and easy when preparing biscuits or pancakes.
By skipping the bacon, you can save money, and if you have to have meat, consider substituting sausages or using ham and frizzling it in the frying pan in place of bacon.

Hot Dogs
While hot dogs might not be the healthiest of foods, they can do the trick in a pinch.  A pack of hot dogs can get you through a tight patch in your budget, and if you don’t have the money for buns, consider using white bread.  You can prepare your hot dog, fold a piece of white bread around it, and voila — a makeshift hot dog bun!  Add a piece of melted American cheese for a special treat!

If none of the above sounds enticing there’s always the option to attend an online college. Today, many traditional schools like University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University and others are offering online degree programs in fields ranging from business to psychology to health care. You can earn a degree from the comforts of your home, get started by browsing and requesting information from the colleges. You can find a complete directory in our online education channel.