Friday, September 18, 2015

College Menu Planning 4 Low Income

One of the best ways anyone can stick to a low income budget, such as a tight college budget, is to plan ahead. How do you stretch your dollars when you have none to little income? Why does it matter? I'm in college…YOLO, right?

Let's say, you randomly spend $200 a week for hungry, impulse-prone, thoughtless grocery shopping, plus eating out, plus weekend tailgating, and/or buying beer--this will add $9600 to your student debt and college loans (or credit cards)--UGH!--for one year--UGH!UGH!UGH! Multiply by four years, provided you graduate on time, and you have now increased your financial burden by $38400--OUCH!!!

Hopefully the debt you are accumulating is paying for more than food and parties; and, remember, the interest you'll pay back on this loan is more than interest on a car loan or getting a mortgage! YIKES!!  Yes, it SUCKS! 

And, it doesn't stop there! Once you graduate and get a job, your loan repayments kick in and tug at your hard earned money,i.e. car payment, rent, insurance, utilities, cell phone, water / garbage--all on you--parents have nothing to do with it! 

Be smart right now! Buy what you need and eat what you buy! Leave no waste behind when it comes to your college budget!

Yes, this isn't fair, but this is reality!

I may not have all the solutions, but start practicing thoughtful spending and budgeting in all aspects of independent living--plan your menu, find a decent grocery store, use a few coupon apps, buy in bulk, buy only what you will truly eat, and scour the stores for sales. Most importantly, STICK TO YOUR MENU and Grocery List…even if college debt cannot be wiped out completely by frugal shopping, at least it won't be exacerbated.

Thoughts To Consider

1. Learn some basic cooking skills.

2. Set 30 minutes aside on Friday or Saturday to plan your week. 

3. Goal: use everything you buy at the grocery store--maximize each purchase!

4. Learn to estimate prices at different stores and know their SALE days.

5. Stick to your menu and grocery plan.

6. Take a look at the examples below.  Feel free to use the menu, modify it, throw it out--just make one.

7. Every so often I will lay-out different menu ideas to fit low-income living.

(The menus assume that you have at least some basic cooking skills, basic pantry items and staples, either accumulated or brought from home--things most people and kitchens always have on hand!

The Menu This Week
Approximate grocery total outside of Chicago: $65-$70
Total: 28 meals 
Cost: $2.35-2.50 / meal

  • Pancakes (Bisquick Mix) with jam, syrup, powdered sugar / 8 oz milk
  • Make additional Pocket Pancakes to freeze for later.
  • Pasta Bake with Penne / Arugula Salad with lemon, olive oil, vinegar, parmesan
  • Freeze 2/3 in 2 separate containers for later.
  • Turkey Tacos (for tacos or taco salad or tortillas) / Roasted Broccoli 1/3
  • Freeze 2/3 in 2 separate containers for later.
  • Cut up carrots and celery for the rest of the week.
  • Celery with PB for snack / 8 oz milk
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal + 1/2 cup milk with cinnamon sugar / Fruit
  • PB & J Sandwich / Carrot sticks / Apple
  • 1/3 Burger with bun, cheese, condiments / Oven-Fries 
  • Freeze one remaining burger patty / Sear one additional patty for lunch tomorrow.
  • Popcorn with parmesan
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal + 1/2 cup milk with cinnamon sugar / Fruit
  • Baked potato with 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • Quesadillas with cheese and seared red peppers / onions / Celery Sticks
  • Make extra quesadillas for lunch tomorrow / cut a few extra red pepper sticks
  • Popcorn with parmesan
  • Microwave Pancake Pockets / 8 oz milk
  • Quesadillas Leftovers / Red pepper / carrots / celery
  • Thaw one container of Turkey Taco Meat / Chips & Salsa
  • Apple with P.B.
You Did It!!!
  • Did you know that the federal assistance program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) allots for $4 / person / day in additional dollars, i.e. $28 / week or $112 / month for your food??  $65-$70 per week sounds pretty good after all!
  • Even couples making $2000 / month with a rent of $750 / month will not qualify! Are you kidding me? 
  • Did the person creating this program ever try living on $4 / day in the 21st century??
  • We should all consider ourselves very fortunate if we can afford more--stuff to think about!

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