How far can $20 in food get you on campus?

A first hand experiment in getting a full meal on a tight budget

Being a broke student is one thing and being a broke student who aspires to live off of more than a ramen noodle diet is another.

If you’re like me, budgeting is probably not your strong suit. When I was challenged to see how long I could eat on campus with 20 dollars I was skeptical, but determined to stretch it out for as long as possible, willing to do (almost) anything for free or extra food.

I didn’t get much.

I started out my day in the depths of Botterall Hall, searching for the iconic “Big Breakast Tuesday.” Upon finding the most important meal of the day, I explained my situation to the lovely ladies behind the counter. They were very generous with their portions, leading me to eat more eggs than an Olympic weightlifter.

In terms of payment, I was able to somehow negotiate my whole meal (the copious amount of eggs and all) for $5 and random sticker I found in my backpack.

I started on my way to class feeling proud, stuffed. and optimistic about how far I could get with the $15 left in my pocket.

The day went on and wasn’t until around 2 p.m. when the hunger growls returned after a (pathetic) trip to the gym. Being the lazy person that I am, I decided to grab a pita from the conveniently-placed Pita Pit in the ARC.

Standing in line, I had a massive smile on my face, excited for my Buffalo Chicken Pita — seriously, Buffalo Chicken is what my dreams are made of. This excitement was quickly halted when I found out the price: $9.35.

I felt like my dreams of a $20 day had been shattered. I tried my best to barter with the cashier, but she just wouldn’t budge — she told me I wasn’t at a market.

At the “filling station” I made sure that I got as much lettuce, olives and feta as possible in my Pita with the hopes of being full until dinner.


                          A $20 trek across campus.

This was not the case. With only $5.65 left in my pocket I had to think of something quick and cheap for dinner. While not ideal, I decided my best bet would be at good old Timmy Ho’s. I’m not proud of what I ate.

I guess you could say a donut, a strudel, a bagel and 4 timbits could count as a meal? I managed to sneak an extra timbit with the nice worker’s help, so that was good.

With $0.10 left in my pocket I worked my way back to Goodes to do some studying when, to my surprise, saw that my favourite barista was at the Starbucks. Seeing that the line wasn’t busy, I decided to make a last ditch effort and charm myself a 10 cent drink.  

Luckily, I succeeded. I got a very necessary Grande True North and an ice water (score) all for a mere $0.10.

Reflecting back on this event, I’ve now realized that there’re a lot of awesome people on campus (who are willing to give you free stuff) and that you should always look before you leap, a.k.a. check the prices on a menu before ordering.

I hope to try this again someday, but maybe with a little more planning and strategy. 

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