10 Tips for Reducing Food Costs When You’re Buried in Student Debt

Someone recently asked a popular frugal community forum, “How can I start living cost-effectively when I’m buried in student loan debt? I’m going to finish university with approximately $90k in debt. I have one year left and would like to make it count by living as minimally as possible.”


“What tips do you have for groceries, beverages, and anything else? I struggle with the groceries part, and I’m always hungry. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.” Here are the top-voted suggestions.

1. Add Filler

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“I recommend you add beans to your food. Rice with beans, ground meat with beans. It will add more volume, and your food will last a couple of extra days rather than just the meat itself,’ shared one.

I love adding beans to meals that would ordinarily be all meat. It’s a great way to save money and be healthier too!

2. Embrace Indian Recipes

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Another replied, “When I was in grad school, I made a small investment in spices and then taught myself a few Indian recipes. Chickpeas and lentils are cheap but dressed with the right spices, and they taste like a million bucks.”

Chickpeas and Lentils get a bad rap, but they taste delicious when prepare correctly. Buying spices is a cheap way to make them yummy. You can also make some great lentil soups that fill you up cheaply.

3. Do Some Research

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Someone suggested, “Check out resources your university may offer. For example, sometimes, they have food assistance programs or food distributions. If not, depending on what state you are from, you may be eligible for an EBT card which would help with groceries.”

There is no shame in getting help when you need it.

4. Meal Prep

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“Learn to prepare and freeze meals, so they are ready ahead of time, helping you avoid ordering fast food. Look up on YouTube plenty of cheap meal prep options. Try oatmeal for lunch and add protein powder,” another replied.

Being organized and having food in the freezer will keep you from impulse-buying expensive fast food.

5. Use Everything

woman holding chicken in both hands
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One expressed, “Use everything. Vegetable scraps can go in the freezer until you have enough to make broth, stir fry can incorporate unexpected leftovers, and freeze leftovers if they are likely to spoil before you can get to them.”

Get creative! A simple Rotisserie chicken can be used all week to make good and filling meals before using the bones to make stock.

6. Have Small but Filling Meals

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“Instead of eating, you can always do a shake to fill up. Get the classic noodle meals under a dollar and look into making energy balls, which are also oatmeal and protein and are generally cheap,” answered another.

Look for ways to keep your costs down low but your health intact.

7. Replace Your Meats

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“Replace meat with things like chickpeas, lentils, and beans. It’s about 1/10th of the price and often the same amount of protein per meal. These kinds of foods also pair well with another cheap staple, rice. Buy rice in bulk to save money. Asian markets are the best place for bulk rice,” one stated.

Meat and chicken are expensive and not necessary for a healthy diet. Cutting down on the amount of animal-based proteins you eat will save you a lot of money, and it’s healthier for you!

8. Start With a Common Base and Change it Daily

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One shared, “Hot oatmeal makes a nice breakfast. You can make it more filling with peanut butter, frozen fruit, and nuts. The nuts are usually cheaper if you buy them in the baking aisle. I like almonds, but walnuts tend to be a lot cheaper.”

Another added, “This works well because you can start with a staple and change the fillers daily to make it different.”

I love making building blocks for meals at the beginning of the week. Not only does it save me money, but it makes my week easier!

9. Dress Up Some Burrito Bowls

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“One meal we’ve been loving is a burrito bowl. We do rice, beans cooked with spam, and salsa on top. If you have cheese or sour cream on your hand, throw that on top,” said one. “Look for marked-down items about to go out of date. For example, sometimes I find meat marked down because the date will expire in a day or so.”

This is so smart! Don’t forget to sign up for cashback apps, like Ibotta, to take advantage of those deals as well.

10. Get Creative With Soup

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“Soups are nutritionally optimal, and you can create great flavor and get a lot of nutrients with what you add. For example, you can make a giant pot of chicken noodles, beef stew, or veggie soup that lasts a few days. Even more, if you freeze it for later,” a final user commented.

I love soup! I make soup all the time, and not only is it a perfect meal any time of year, but it’s a great way to save money and fill up your freezer.


We hope you enjoyed this Reddit list of tips for reducing food costs if you’re buried in student debt.


This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved. 


Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.