No Meal Plan? No Problem

Are you finally off the college meal plan or you're just looking for ways to save money on groceries? Check out this post and see all the ways to survive off the meal plan in college!

Hey guys! I’m really excited about today’s post because I am proud to announce that I’m finally off the college meal plan and I’ve yet to die! Isn’t that exciting? I’ve somehow managed to budget and have three meals a day for the past four weeks. In those four weeks, I’ve really seen a change in my body in regards to my skin, my moods, and my fitness goals. If you read my latest gym post, you’ll know that one of my goals is to have abs at some point. And, I’m proud to say I saw a glimpse of them the other day which makes me very very excited.

*this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure.

Even though it’s only been four weeks since my no meal plan adventure, I’ve learned so much about eating healthy and budgeting for food. So how much am I saving anyways? Well with the lowest college meal plan being $900 or so, that works out to be $225 a month. However, at $7 a meal, that’s only good for one meal a day. So, I’d have to be supplementing breakfast and dinner with my own income. Anyways, I’m not getting into how it all breaks down, but right now I’m only spending $200 a month on groceries, and that’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Appliances

As I said before, I’m off the meal plan this year (duh that’s what this entire article is about) and I don’t really have access to a full kitchen. There’s one a few floors up, but I’m not about to hauls pans, food, oils, spices, and utensils up there every time I need food. So, I’m usually just limited to a few surface appliances that I can legally have in my dorm room. If you’re in the same situation, here’s my favorite suggestions!

George Foreman Grill
Coffee maker
Electric tea kettle
Personal blender
Mini popcorn maker

I use these on the regular, and they make having a “kitchen” comprised of a mini fridge and microwave a lot easier.

Breakfast

Alright so this is a pretty easy one. I’m not one to need a huge variety when it comes to what I eat when I get up. As long as I have my coffee or hot lemon water and an easy, consistent option, I’m good to go.

My breakfast 95% of the time is oatmeal with sliced almonds. Sometimes I get a little crazy and throw in some rains or chop up an apple and sprinkle that on top. To sweeten, I use Trivia, which is a zero calorie natural sweetener.

Are you finally off the college meal plan or you're just looking for ways to save money on groceries? Check out this post and see all the ways to survive off the meal plan in college!

Morning Oats
– 40 grams (1/2 cup) rolled oats
– 10 grams (small handful) sliced almonds
– Optional: one serving of PB2 (peanut butter powder)

If I’m not up for oatmeal and am wanting a little more “hearty” of a breakfast, I’ll opt for four servings of egg whites, a bagel thin, and two slices of turkey bacon. Okay y’all let me just tell you about how excited I am about my new toy, the George Foreman Grill. I bought it the other day, and I’ve made so much food on it. So much. It takes my microwaved eggs and turkey bacon with an untoasted bagel to something that should be featured in a restaurant or something.

Lunch

Once again, this one’s pretty simple. I stick to the same thing because I usually don’t have much time for lunch, and if I’m always having the same thing, it’s very easy to put together.

Greek & Feta Salad
– handful of mixed greens
– chopped carrots, mushrooms, and whatever other veggies are on hand
– 28 grams feta cheese
– 1/2 serving of Greek Archer Farms dressing

Related: Turkey Pita

Are you finally off the college meal plan or you're just looking for ways to save money on groceries? Check out this post and see all the ways to survive off the meal plan in college!

I have these handle little containers that I may or may not have taken five of from our housing department. I’m not sure if they’re microwave safe or dishwasher safe, but I don’t microwave my salads nor do I have a dishwasher so I’m good. I like to meal prep my salads the night before by putting a few handfuls of lettuce into the container. I chop up my “toppings” and have those in a separate container so I can just add them how I like. I wait until the next day to add the dressing and the feta cheese because no one likes soggy lettuce. Well, unless you like soggy lettuce.

Now you may be thinking, “Abigail, that’s not even a lunch. There’s no way that keeps you full.” And you’d be right, except that’s not all I usually have. About an hour before lunch, I get done with my gym session for the day so I’ll drink a protein shake to get me those gains. The protein shake usually holds me for a while, and by the time lunch comes around, I’m only just barely hungry.

Dinner

Dinner is one of my favorite meals because there’s just so much that you can eat! From pasta to vegetables and breakfast to dessert (yes dessert for dinner is a real thing), the options are endless! For me, I like to make dinner my meal where I finish getting in a majority of my protein for the day. I tend to have chicken every night flavored in a different way.

Chicken & Vegetables
– 4 oz chicken breast
– 1/2 cup rice
– endless vegetables!!

Related: Chicken Stir-Fry

When you’re making dinner, make extra. If you’re going to cook one chicken breast, why not cook four or five. If you’re going to make one serving of rice, why not make five. By cooking extra, you’ve already prepared yourself some meals for the rest of the week or the month!

Creating your own “freezer meals” are a great time-saving tip when it comes to living on your own and being off the meal plan. You can either make extra servings of your entire meal, divide them up into ziplocks, and toss those into the freezer for later or you can divide up a massive pack of chicken breasts into servings, season them, and toss those in the freezer. Then, you can pull them out whenever you need them and you’ll have fresh, seasoned chicken that you can make!

I love meal prepping because it’s an easy way to save time in the long run. Plus at the end of the day, I don’t have the energy to cook full meals every night. I’d rather dedicate a few hours on the weekends to meal prepping and pulling food out of the freezer whenever I want.

Snacks

Snacking is one of my favorite hobbies. If it was up to me, I’d snack 24/7. I try to keep my snacks as protein packed as possible because your girl is trying to get in at least 110 grams of protein a day. I rarely keep unhealthy foods on hand because I will eat them and then will feel bad about it later. Some of my favorites are:

– Rice cakes and peanut butter
– Nature Valley Protein granola bars
– Greek yogurt
– Fresh fruit
– Chips and salsa
– Hummus and veggies or pita chips

Like I said earlier, I have a protein shake at least once a day. It’s easy, fast, and convenient. Plus, it’s where I throw in my daily dose of creatine which has really helped me with my workouts. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll just throw one serving of protein powder, 5 grams of creatine, and one serving of unsweetened original almond milk into a shaker and go on my way. If I have a little more time, I like to throw a banana in the freezer ahead of time, and then blend that up with almond milk, protein powder, creatine, and maybe some frozen strawberries. Nice and healthy!

Related: Go-To Smoothie

Other Helpful Tips & Tricks

Alright so I was chatting with a friend the other week about this post, and he shared a bunch of wisdom with me when it comes to not having a meal plan and shopping on a budget. I thought I’d share what he told me because the advice was great and also because he begged me to include it…

– Always consider your schedule. Will you be home all day, going home for the weekend, only going to be home for dinner?
– Scan grocery store apps for deals before shopping to find the best prices
– Plan out your meals
– Religiously use your freezer. Buy items on sale and freeze them
– Rice, rice, rice. Cheap, easy, and decently healthy

Related: Healthy, Budget-Friendly College Grocery List

See, you too can survive off the college meal plan without much trouble at all! Getting off of that campus food has truly done wonders for me mentally and physically, and I urge you to get off that meal plan if you can.

I hope you enjoyed this uber long post! What are some of your ways that you survive off the meal plan? Let me know in the comments below!

~abigail gray

  • Love this! As mentioned last time, it is so hard to find info on eating well in college on a budget. It sounds like you have definitely maximized your dorm room “kitchen”. Can’t wait to read more fitness/health posts!

    Colleen | Buckeye Bliss

  • I always find it so difficult to plan meals, but I also am not on a college meal plan so this post is very helpful! I have a small grill…I’ve never thought to make a breakfast sandwich on a bagel using it…mmmm…I’m definitely doing that tomorrow haha
    paige // eyeliner wings & pretty things

  • Katlyn

    How do you make your protein shakes? Do you just shake it in a blender bottle, or do you put it in a blender? I put protein powder in my oatmeal every morning but I’m struggling to find a way to make protein shakes that aren’t clumpy! These are my healthy and cheap dorm room grocery essentials: http://www.collegiatecents.com/2016/12/17/healthy-and-affordable-college-grocery-list/

    • It depends! So if I know I’m not going to make it back to my room in time to make a proper “shake”, I use a blender bottle and mix it with almond milk. If I have more time, I’ll use it in a blender with almond milk and a frozen banana and blend it up.