The Off Campus Living Guide to Meal Plans

During any residential college experience, the move from on campus to off campus living happens eventually.

Whether that means finding an apartment once you graduate or living in a house with five other people during the school year, the transition forces an adjustment towards a totally different lifestyle.

One of the main adjustments students endure throughout the off campus living process is accessing food. When living on campus, meals are an included package and just a short trip to your preferred dining hall, where your choice of food is provided.

Unless you decide to spend the extra money and purchase a separate meal plan, this is not the case for off campus students. Really, there are two options for these students: one, invest in weekly groceries and cook from home, or eat out.

If you’re like me, and your attempts to cook means burning everything you touch along with your schedule not allowing time to always leave the house to buy food, then the adjustment to make food for yourself will be a tough one.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to live in a constant state of hunger. There are plenty of ways to find quality off campus meals that you will enjoy without having to completely empty your bank account.

From time to time, you will find yourself eating outside of the house, that is pretty much a given. Some students even decided to invest in a commuter meal plan through their school. This tends to work better with schedules that strictly have you on campus 24/7.

However, the majority of the time, making meals at home will be the source of food for off campus living. Thankfully in this day and age, websites like Google and YouTube can assist you with cooking and provide you with different recipes.

For all of you students that are about to begin your off campus living adventure, take a look at this essential “college grocery list” that will fit your budget and set off your adjustment to living off campus on the right foot!

College Grocery List

  • Breads or other wheat/multi-grain items (like bagels, hotdog/hamburger buns, etc.)
  • Easy breakfast foods like cereal, oatmeal, English muffins, etc.
  • The infamous Ramen noodles
  • Deli meat (turkey, roast beef, bologna, etc)
  • Fruit
  • Chip items like pretzels, tortilla chips, etc.
  • Frozen chicken breasts
  • Microwavable veggies
  • Canned and not canned vegetables for dinner and/or lunch sides
  • Instant rice
  • Snack items like fruit snacks, trail mix
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Ingredients for different types of pasta (spaghetti noodles and tomatoes, mac and cheese, etc)
  • Dairy products like yogurt, string cheese, regular shredded and non-shredded cheese
  • Eggs
  • Butter and/or butter spray
  • Tortillas for quick quesadillas or burritos
  • Milk
  • Crystal Light packets (just add water and voilà! instant fruity drink!)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Frozen pizzas and/or pizza rolls
  • The occasional dessert treats like chocolate or ice cream
  • Seasonings (like lemon pepper/garlic salt) for hamburgers, chicken, some canned vegetables

Both of these articles from and a blog called Small Kitchen College  are great sources of info for college kids looking to switch to off campus living, yet are lost when it comes to cooking and providing a daily meal for themselves.

Ultimately, the benefits that arise from transitioning into off campus living meals is extremely beneficial. Not only does it prepare you for the adult world, but if you play it smart and stick to your budget, you can learn a ton about the cooking world, and experience all kinds of new and different foods; whether that means cooking them yourself, or heading out to a new restaurant down the road from your apartment.

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Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson is a junior at North Central College in Naperville, IL pursuing degrees in journalism and interactive media studies. When she is not in the classroom, she balances her time playing for her school’s softball team and working at a local frozen yogurt shop. Jordan enjoys watching movies, thumb wars, and occasional trips into the windy city.
Jordan Johnson

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