Article Image
Melody Lu / Staff Illustrator

Eating responsibly is a challenge when you’re a busy college student. As we trudge through this semester, breakfast might be taking second priority to your psychology group project or economics problem sets. With COVID-19 restrictions limiting dining hall access, food deliveries make for a convenient alternative, but the cost can add up. If you’re finding yourself skimping on meals or looking for ways to feed yourself on a budget, check out these tips to better plan for your week ahead.

Columbia Dining Halls

This is an obvious one. Located on campus and easily accessible from any dorm, Columbia Dining is providing takeout meal service to accommodate students given  COVID-19 restrictions. Though pictures from this year’s fall semester made their dishes look lackluster, we are hopeful as we see what new items Columbia Dining has on its menu, with taro ice cream and fusion bowls making it on the list.

Try visiting Chef Mike’s Market, an addition to the dining halls this spring semester that provides  ready-to-go entrées for every meal of the day. John Jay and JJ’s Place are still takeout only, so if you have a fridge in your dorm, you may want to get two meals with one swipe in a day and save the leftovers.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Before you go to a grocery store near campus, plan ahead. If you know that you have a take-home test due on Wednesday, take Sunday night to meal plan for the upcoming week. We suggest downloading Mealime, a free app that plans your meals out ingredient by ingredient. You can customize your portion size and specify diet preferences, with options ranging from flexitarian and pescetarian to keto and paleo. If you’re looking for a simpler but more comprehensive digital cookbook, Yummly is another free aggregate that collects recipes from food bloggers. With hundreds of recipes at your fingertips, you’ll never have to whine the dreaded statement “I don’t know what I want to eat” again.

If you don’t want to break the bank at the grocery store, keep these things in mind:

Buying organic foods is not a must. Shopping organic will bump up your grocery bill, and we’re here to shop on a budget. If you can afford to buy organic, go for it, but it’s never a necessity.

Buying in bulk might seem excessive, especially as a college student cooking for one. But if you split your groceries with a friend, your bill will thank you.

Join the rewards program of stores you frequent. Seriously.

If you’re not happy with the prices at the first grocery store, shop around. Grocery hop around the neighborhood to find the best prices.

Bring your own grocery bags! It’s environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Meal Kits

Blue Apron and HelloFresh send fresh ingredients with easy-to-follow recipes right to your “dormstep,” eliminating any possible exposure to the coronavirus that could come from shopping at the grocery store. Though they are not known for providing the most economical dinners, Blue Apron and HelloFresh are great ways to impress your friends and learn how to cook gourmet meals. Both subscriptions offer a two-person or four-person plan, with HelloFresh being the slightly more expensive option.


With roughly one-third of all food going to waste, TooGoodToGo’s mission is to save surplus food and sell it at a discount to consumers. This app launched in New York City a few months ago, and allows you to order food from local restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, and cafés that were not sold during the day and would have otherwise been thrown out. Consider opting for a “surprise bag,” which you can pick up at the restaurant or supermarket.

Struggle Meals

Frankie Celenza from Tastemade shows you how to transform both a humble instant ramen package into a rich ramen carbonara and refrigerator leftovers into paella. He makes any meal seem possible with ingredients from his tiny herb garden and struggle packets of free soy sauce from Chinese takeout. Subscribe to his YouTube or Snapchat channel for daily recipes.

Microwave Meals

Ignore the electrical waves and let your mug cake thrive while basking in the glory of the microwave light. If you have access to a microwave in your suite or on your floor, check out some dorm-friendly microwave meals here.

Staff writer Emma Cho can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @emsoojin. Follow Spectrum on Twitter @CUSpectrum.

Eating Breakfast TooGoodToGo Struggle Grocery Shopping Budget Meal Planning Lunch Dinner Food Leftovers
From Around the Web