It’s no secret that the cost of going to college has skyrocketed over the years.
Tuition has risen at nearly 5 times the rate of inflation over the last 50 years, textbook prices have continued to increase year over year, and the list of expenses goes on.
And now, to worsen matters, students are having to spend more than ever on groceries and meals thanks to rapid inflation over the last year.
According to our most recent analysis, the average college student will spend $294.06 per month on groceries this school year. In some states, that number is over $500 a month for a single student.
Not only that, but students will also spend an additional $369.36 each month eating out.
Read on for the full details of our report.
Monthly Grocery Spending by Month for College Students by State
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of groceries increased by 13.1% from August 2021 to August 2022. That was the largest annual increase since the year ending in March 1979.
That means the average individual American now spends about $402.64 per month on groceries. However, college students tend to spend about 27% less per month on groceries than the average adult.
With that in mind, we were able to calculate that the average college student will spend $294.06 per month on groceries this school year. That works out to about $2,352 for a full, two-semester school year, about $270 more than they spent last school year.
Furthermore, we were able to identify the amount college students will spend on groceries each month depending on which state they’re going to school in.
Here’s what we found:
|STATE||MONTHLY GROCERY SPENDING FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS||ESTIMATED GROCERY SPENDING 2022-23 SCHOOL YEAR|
|District of Columbia||$349.48||$2,795.84|
Monthly Cost of Eating Out for College Students
While college students will be spending more than ever on groceries this semester, they’ll still be eating out off-campus on on a fairly regular basis.
From the time period of August 2021 to August 2022, the cost of eating out has risen by 8%.
On average, most Americans eat out between 4 to 5 times a week. That means college students will spend on average $369.36 a month eating off-campus this school year.
Average Cost Per Meal for College Students
Between the cost of groceries and eating out off-campus, students will spend $663.42 per month on food.
If you assume a typical student eats 3 meals per day, that works out to a cost of $7.37 per meal and $22.11 per day over the course of a 30-day month.
What about Meal Plans?
Of course, not all college students shell out for groceries and eating out. Many students are on meal plans through their university that give them access to 3 meals per day on campus.
At first glance, it seems obvious that meal plans would be the cheaper option for students. However, that’s not might not necessarily the case.
The average meal plan is about $4,500 for an eight-month school year, according to the Hechinger Report at Columbia Teacher’s College.
Averaged out, that tallies up to $6.25 per meal or $18.75 per day. While that is a little cheaper than the $22.11 per day cost of groceries and eating out, it’s important to remember that many students on meal plans still eat out occasionally and may still need to spend a little bit of money on groceries.
When you factor that in, the cost of a meal plan and eating out/groceries is probably about the same.
Food is Eating Up Students’ Budgets
Of course, the cost of food is just one part of the equation when it comes to college expenses. Students also have to worry about tuition, books, rent, and other necessary costs of living.
When you add it all up, college is getting more and more difficult for students to afford.
At a certain point, something has to give, and for some students, that means making some tough choices when it comes to food and their education in general.