It's been a couple of years since I graduated from college, but I can still remember how excited I was about my first off-campus apartment. Finally having a kitchen was a dream come true. In my head I began to make plans for elaborate steak dinners and small plate parties. Of course, these daydreams were quickly dashed with the reality of bills, rent, and my lack of free time.

With some creativity and these helpful tips, I was able to make my own home-cooked meals on a new graduate's budget.

Money-Saving Tips

With many new expenses, it doesn't mean you have to limit your diet to ramen noodles and frozen pizzas. Put that college econ class to use and set up a monthly budget. Allocate a certain amount of money for food expenses.

Next, make coupons your new best friend. Pick up a copy of the Sunday paper each week and start clipping! You can also print off coupons online. Check out sites like or brand websites. Don't forget to also make the most of your grocer's weekly specials!

Budget Recipes >

Shopping Fundamentals

When you're going to the grocery store be sure to make a list, and never go shopping when you're hungry. You're more likely to buy things on impulse and stray away from the items on your list.

For dry goods, buy them in bulk. Get a membership at the local Sam's Club or Costco and stock up on rice, canned goods, and other pantry staples. When it comes to fresh ingredients like produce and dairy products, shop every couple of days to prevent spoilage.

Supermarket Smarts >

Busy Night Slow Cooker

Even though you have a kitchen, you may not have time to put together a meal. Invest in a slow cooker to help on those busy nights. Throw in the ingredients in the morning, and by the time you get home at night, dinner is ready and waiting.

Slow Cooker Recipes & Slow Cooker Tips >

Homemade Takeout

You may love takeout pizza, but it can get pricey. When my girlfriends and I moved into our own apartments, we had a tighter budget and had to be careful with how we spent our money. Instead of ordering out, we bought day old bread from the local bakery and made pizza loaves. Each person had to bring a topping and we'd spend the night making pizzas and gossiping.

Takeout Recipes at Home >

A Taste of Home

You just finished a rough week of finals or work and all you want is your Mom's signature meatloaf, but you have no idea how to make it. Give Mom a call. She'll not only love talking to you, but she'll be happy to give you the recipe. I began to keep a recipe box of my family favorites when I was away at school so whenever I had a craving, I could whip them up and enjoy that little taste of home.

How to Cook >

Graduation Gifts

Kitchen Gadgets

Gift your grad with one of these time-saving kitchen gadgets from Shop Taste of Home!

Shop now >

Taste of Home Digital Editions and Apps

Your graduate can get their favorite Taste of Home recipes on the go! Magazines and cookbooks are available now for your eReader or phone.

Learn more >

Simple & Delicious Magazine

Send a subscription! Filled with simple, quick and easy recipes, Simple & Delicious is the perfect gift for a new cook in their first kitchen.

Order now >