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Dumpster diving for dinner - and other savings tips for students

Just like a big steaming bowl of Commander Ork, some advice can be hard to swallow, especially when it comes to university students looking to stretch their budget. In response to last week's column about how post-secondary students can make their money go further, dozens of Globe and Mail readers weighed in with tips of their own. Some will serve students well. Some, not so much.

Jobs with benefits

"Get a job," said one. Not exactly creative, but simple and to the point. Still, if you must find work, follow the example of commenter Ek Balam and get a job with fringe benefits. He worked for the university driving a meal service truck and "I got to eat all I wanted from any of the school restaurants during shift." Don't just think about a paycheque; think about perks, too.

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Food for thought

Got your garbage goggles on? Let's hope so, because more than one commenter suggested dumpster diving as a way to get food that grocery stores and restaurants have just thrown out. "This is particularly fun on the way home from boozing," one commenter said. Others pointed out the savings to be had from buying food in bulk and buying fresh vegetables rather than loading up on KD and other processed foods. "Post-secondary is about growing up, and part of that involves learning to keep yourself healthy," one commenter said. Indeed.

DIY Drinky-Drinky

Sure, not all university students see the world upside down because they're constantly doing keg stands, but for those who do like to drink once in a while, the costs can be staggering. Plenty of commenters suggest making your own beer and wine. It may go down like a tall glass of dirt, but after number five all you'll taste is savings.

A low rent existence

Winter can be cold, but nothing will give a university student the chills like a huge utility bill. "Nothing wrong with sweaters, blankets and lots of socks," one commenter said. Others pointed out the virtues of space heaters. The smart money, as one commenter suggested, is on finding a place where the utilities are included in the rent. That way, there won't be any surprises in the mail. And remember that there's savings strength in numbers. "Look at houses for rent and get 5+ into one of them, one per room," one commenter said. "I've had many friends do it, and you pay much less than doubling up in a 2-bdrm or tripling up in a 3-bdrm. Plus, they all went in on food together and saved a lot by buying in bulk."

Things to avoid

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It's probably best to stay away from "genteel prostitution," as one commenter suggested. Also, do not rip out your copper pipe plumbing and sell it for liquor money. You're in university, not an episode of Trailer Park Boys. And on that note, don't "take" toilet paper from local restaurants, because "taking" is actually "stealing."

One last burning question

What is Commander Ork, exactly? One commenter provided the recipe: "Boil macaroni. In a separate pot, warm ketchup and whatever else is left in the fridge. (HP Sauce, hot sauce, Lea and Perrins, etc.) Drain macaroni. Top with Ork. Eat."

Then again, there's always the dumpster.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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