$20 Challenge: Downtown Dining

1.22.2016

By Cassidy Ritter

After eating home cooked meals over break, it’s tough to face microwave ramen or the dining hall menu again. But as a college student, you have the ultimate superpower: thriftiness. Time to dust off that budget sheet and see how far you can make your dollar stretch. This weekend, we’ve got a brand new $20 challenge to keep you from going hungry or going broke.

On average, KU students say they spend $10 to $30 eating out on the weekend. College students’ time is spread thin and their wallets are even thinner. With an average meal costing $12.75 according to The Simple Dollar, it is often a challenge for college students to eat out. So, I left my credit card at home and hit the streets of Lawrence with only $20 in hand. My goal was to eat out all weekend, a total of six meals, on a $20 budget.

Bagel-meal1

I spent $3 at Einstein Bros Bagels on a plain bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. For lunch I enjoyed two chicken tacos at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop totaling $4.34­­– my most expensive meal of the day. Spending only $9.84 on Saturday, day one, I felt I was off to a good start.

For Saturday’s dinner, my roommates and I went to McAlister’s Deli. We used our student football tickets to get $5 off our meals. With the coupon, the Stud Max, a baked potato, cost $2.50. This meal was a large portion of two loaded potatoes that could easily count for two meals.

potato-meal3

Student Money Management Services employee Deanna Ambrose, a junior from Frankfort, Kansas, says if students are going to eat out they are better off paying more money for a filling meal that can result in leftovers for a second meal.

On Sunday I knew I needed to be picky about where I ate if I was going to make it through the weekend with $10.16 left in my pocket. My roommates suggested I indulge in fast food restaurants. Andrea Fogarty, a junior from Chicago, and Abbey Leis, a senior from Leawood, Kansas, say they eat at Wendy’s or Taco Bell when they need to save money. I steered clear of fast food restaurants because in my eyes, they were a cop-out.

Choosing not to eat breakfast at a fast food restaurant, I spent $1.72 on a strawberry knot and glazed doughnut at Munchers Bakery Sunday morning. For lunch I enjoyed two slices of pepperoni pizza and free honey at Pyramid Pizza. The pizza cost $6.01. For dinner, I ordered a single burger at BurgerFi where add-ons like cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato are free. I paid $5.95 for the burger, borrowing $3.52 from my friend to cover what was left to pay when my $20 bill ran out.

burger-meal6

Over the course of the weekend I spent $23.52 on meals in Lawrence. After looking at receipts from the weekend, I talked to students at Student Money Management Services who had a few suggestions to other students eating out on a budget. Alex Alexander, a sophomore from Shawnee, Kansas, says if students can wait to eat dinner after 9 p.m. they should go to Chili’s for half price appetizers.

   Tips to Save $$$
Ask for a Student Discount: Though not many restaurants in Lawrence offer them, it never hurts to ask.
Drink water: Most places charge $2 to $2.50 for a soda, so always ask for a water cup.
Choose Carry-Out: Get meals to go to avoid adding a tip to your bill.
Use coupons: Whenever you can! Look for coupons in the student coupon book or planner, with football tickets, and through apps like Eat Street.

Ambrose recommends students to use the app Eat Street. “The more you use it to order food, the more coupons you get,” says Ambrose.

While it is nearly possible to eat out in Lawrence on just $20, it’s not the healthiest option. After six meals of doughnuts, pizza and any other bready delight Lawrence had to offer, I was ready to eat a homemade meal. My body and mind were sluggish and in desperate need of a detox. I ate bad meals because they were the cheaper option. I probably would not have made it through six healthy meals at restaurants on a $20 budget.

 

 

 

The Breakdown:

Saturday:

1)   Einstein Bros Bagels: Bagel with smear, water cup = $3
2)   Fuzzy’s Taco Shop: Two chicken tacos, water cup = $4.34
3)   McAlister’s Deli: baked potato (Spud Max), water cup = $2.50 (w/ $5 coupon from football ticket), could have counted as two meals

Sunday:

1)   Muncher’s Bakery: strawberry knot (.90), glazed doughnut (.60) = $1.72
2)   Pyramid Pizza: Two slices of pepperoni pizza (walk in), water cup, free honey = $6.01
3)   BurgerFi: single cheeseburger with onions, lettuce, tomato (all free add-ons) = $5.95

Total weekend costs = $23.52

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