Healthy Eating on a College Budget
By Colby Madison, PHE
A healthy diet is extremely important, but as most college kids can tell you, so is saving money! Is there a way to keep both your bank account and stomach full? Thankfully, there are plenty of simple and effective ways to spend less and eat well.
When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, your best strategy is to plan ahead. Even though planning ahead might not be one of your strengths (perhaps you’re reading this article while procrastinating on a paper), it is definitely worth fifteen minutes of your time. If you have an established budget for your food, start by planning your meals and snacks in accordance. Try writing down what you think you’ll eat for the next 4-5 days, and see what items you already have and what you would need to buy. Alternately, you can try making a list of what already is in your fridge or cabinet, and then search for recipes that continue items you already have on hand. Websites like Food Network, Pinterest, and AllRecipes are my personal favorites! You’ll soon find that recipes with a few simple ingredients are delicious, with the added benefits of saving you money and the extra trip to the grocery store.
While at the store, do your best to stick to your grocery list. When deciding between brands, keep in mind that the store brand is usually cheaper and don’t be afraid to compare prices. Also, foods packaged for convenience, like oatmeal or “snack-sized” chips, are usually more expensive than their bulk counterparts. You can always dole out portions into ziplock baggies for taking snacks on the go. Plus, for many of your favorite conveniences there are simple ways to replicate them (see below for links to home-made easy mac and home-made instant oatmeal!). As for your fruits and veggies, select those that are in season. Strawberries in December are going to be a lot more expensive than in May, when they are in season. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also a great option as they don’t spoil as quickly and are usually lower in cost.
Now for the fun part: cooking! A great way to utilize the items you smartly bought in bulk is to make double or triple recipes of your favorite meals. Eat one for dinner tonight, and then freeze the rest in meal-sized portions for later. Before preparing your meals, make sure that it will freeze and reheat well. Soups and casseroles are usually a safe bet, but definitely get creative and search “ healthy freezer meal recipes” to find more options. If meat is a standard part of your diet, mix things up and try making a meatless meal, swapping meat for less expensive protein, like beans or peas. And if you’ve already eaten all you can of your delicious, healthy meal, pop those leftovers in the fridge and start brainstorming on how to incorporate them into tomorrow’s meals. Did you overestimate your love of steamed broccoli while cooking your dinner last night? Add the leftovers to your omelet the next morning! Not only did you start your day off with a filling, nutritious omelet, but you didn’t waste a thing.
Sound do-able? Hopefully, soon you’ll start to notice that both your tummy and your wallet are feeling fuller! Good luck and happy noming!
Need a recipe?
Not ready to give up your favorite conveniences? Try these swaps!
Oatmeal packets: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/05/09/making-your-own-homemade-oatmeal-packets-a-visual-guide-and-cost-analysis/
Microwavable Mac and Cheese Packets: (try it using whole wheat noodles, skim milk, and low fat cheese) http://picky-palate.com/2012/02/20/5-minute-homemade-mac-and-cheese/
Want to give freezer meals a shot? Check out these recipes! http://claireshealthyhome.com/easy-delicious-healthy-freezer-meal-planning-cooking/
For more information: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-on-budget.html