This year I am living off-campus and it is the first time in my life where I don't have my mom to cook dinner for me every night and I don't have the dining halls to go to for dinner. Being a student who not only is taking classes but also works and has an internship, I have found that most of the time I do not feel like cooking. I have also found it hard to try to plan meals ahead that I can take with me for my longer days on campus. After half a semester of trial and error and a whole lot of takeout from Panera Bread, I feel that I have finally found some tricks that work really well for the college lifestyle. Here are my tips!

1. Create a meal plan

Everyone says that going to the grocery store hungry is a bad idea, but have you ever tried going with absolutely no idea what to buy? Putting together a meal plan helps you to figure out where you can reuse ingredients or where you can use foods that you already have. This helps you buy only what you need and not spend a fortune every week grocery shopping.

2. Do some meal prepping

If you have some spare time, cook a bunch of food that you can freeze for later in the week. You will thank yourself later when a night comes around that you really don't feel like cooking, all you have to do is heat up the food you already made!

3. Buy smaller/individually wrapped items

I wasted a lot of money in the beginning of this year because items like eggs and milk kept going bad, or my chips would go stale. However, I've started buying half gallons of milk and packages of individually wrapped chips. How much you eat varies by person but when your feeding one person it definitely isn't necessary to buy family-sized portions.

4. Shop sales

Pay attention to what brands are on sale when you are in the store to save money on foods you are planning to buy. I also love using the app Ibotta because it gives you money back when you buy items that are on sale in the app when you scan your reciept.

5. Buy frozen

While fruits and vegetables may taste better fresh, they also go bad faster when they're bought fresh. If you know you're going to eat it quickly, fresh can be okay, but when you are buying ingredients that will end up in a smoothie or a stir fry and you don't know exactly when you will use them, you are better off to buy frozen so you don't have to worry about using them by a certain date.

6. Think small

My first couple trips to the grocery store cost me a lot because I never realized how little food I ate just by myself. Think about each item that you are buying and whether or not you will actually be able to eat it before it goes bad.