College Student Eating Survival Guide (Until Spring Break)
Spring Break is around the corner but your non-existent budget is blown. As a college instructor, I see this every semester: panic stricken faces looking up at me. And it isn’t about the paper they haven’t turned in yet, it’s about not having budgeted their semester well. I was a student for seven long years. Here are a few tricks of the trade I learned. Take notes my students, and swallow your pride.
How will you survive the next few weeks until you go home to Mom and Dad with a car full of laundry and a scheme to get them to help you out until the end of the semester? Getting a job or second job will take too much time and effort away from your studies—you don’t want your grades to go south. Odds are your rent or dorm is paid for but you do need to eat…
Eating seems to be a major expense for college students not on some sort of meal plan. And even students that are on meal plans, often find they underestimated. There are other ways to eat.
•Make friends with your professors and get invited over for dinner. My friend Jennifer and I survived countless poor Friday nights by getting invited over for dinner. We stuck together and would make sure we could bring a friend--- since there are lecherous professors out there, bringing a friend helps keep everything on the up and up and you get a free meal and possibly wine or beer too.
•Art openings. You are in a college town! There are bound to be a few art openings. Find out when they are and attend. Many times galleries in an area will team up and have a bunch of openings on the same night. This way you can walk a few blocks and hit wine, bottled water, cheese, fruit, and veggies dipped in dressing at a few places so you won’t look like you are hovering over the food necessarily.
•Collect recycling. Honestly. One of my college apartments was next to a grocery store and I saved all my family’s recycling to put in the machine out front which would spit out coupons to use in the grocery store. Even today when my husband and I take in recycling we sometimes collect about $9-11 dollars worth of free groceries for our troubles.
•Work that bakesale for that cause you kind of care about. There will be leftovers and if you sample before hand you can make recommendations.
•Check out conferences and meetings on campus. 9 times out of 10 your college will put out a little catered spread at various functions on campus for people who are attending to have a snack. Dress a little nicer than usual. Odds are they aren’t going to know that you aren’t one of the attendees and they’re just going to dump that make your own sandwich tray or take it home to their family anyway.
•Open houses. Hungry on Saturday and campus options all closed? Head into the community. Granted the food will be similar to the art openings but beggars can’t be choosers and it’ll at least be fresh. Dress nicely, talk about being pre-law or pre-med and how that house will make a great starter home.
•Date someone in culinary school. My sister was the queen of dating culinary academy students. In the first four years she lived in San Francisco I don’t think she ever paid for a meal. Ever. In every kitchen in town she seemed to know someone who would at least get her and her date a complimentary appetizer. Later as a bartender, she received comp drinks from other bartenders. Even if you aren’t going to date the culinary student, by all means flirt. They work in some pretty nice kitchens and that’ll be a great switch from eating wine, cheese and grapes from the open houses and art shows.
•Speaking of flirting and desperate eating in college situations. You can always scrounge up a few pennies for coffee at a coffeeshop. Go in late at night. Be kind to the waiter or waitress. Smile. You might see a free piece of pie. I am forever grateful to the guys at the Apple Pan in Westwood down the road a piece from UCLA. Thanks for feeding me!!!!!!!
Plan for the future:
•Think about getting a part-time café job when you get back from spring break. You can survive well on just about day old anything. Your café won’t be able to sell those day old bagels or quiche but there isn’t anything wrong with them.
•Tell your grandparents to buy you gift cards to grocery stores that are near your school or to put money on your meal card for the next semester. They don’t know what to buy you for your birthday anymore—this is a great solution for them to help with college and for you not to have to wear that ugly sweater they were going to buy you.
So look at all those solutions and you didn’t have to even dumpster dive! Mom and Dad would be so proud of you. Any graduates out there with more food advice?