A common misconception about “being healthy” is that it’s expensive. While this may prove true when it comes to a jar of Skippy’s peanut butter from Walmart vs. the fancy almond butter from Whole Foods, it isn’t always the case. Here are some tips on how to stay healthy on a student budget.
1. Buy frozen. This saved my bank account when I was in college!
a. Packets of frozen berries – way cheaper than buying each individual pack of berries fresh, plus they could be used in smoothies, or as cold, crunchy snacks
b. Frozen seafood – usually cheaper than fresh seafood. I love to buy frozen cod, tilapia, and shrimp because it lasts a while and (in my opinion) tastes just as great as if I had bought it fresh
2. Freeze leftovers.
a. If I buy a container of raw chicken and know I won’t use it all, I can freeze the remains and use it another time
b. Same goes for salmon, I usually have salmon once a week, but when I buy it I get 2-3 pieces, so I freeze the remaining pieces til the next week
c. Freezing leftovers can apply to bread too. I usually freeze a loaf of bread as soon as I get it, and then toast a slice whenever I want bread
d. Also, I always make sure I have a frozen meal in the freezer, so I usually make a batch of ground turkey or ground beef chili and freeze it in Tupperware containers, that way I have a quick go-to if I’m pressed for time or in the unlikely event that I ran out of food
3. Figure out what essentials you need.
a. Go to Costco or a place that sells in bulk and get your basic necessities
iii. Mixed nuts and seeds
vi. Boxes of pasta
vii. Cooking oils
viii. Cooking sprays
ix. Tupperware containers
x. Aluminum foil/plastic wrap
xi. Honey/peanut butter
4. Don’t buy organic.
a. Organic items are usually more expensive than non-organic items, and if you’re making the decision to have spinach, then buying organic spinach isn’t going to suddenly be a healthier choice. Spinach is spinach. Buy the cheaper option.
5. Meal prep.
a. If you plan out what meals you are going to have for the week, then you can buy your groceries accordingly and not splurge on unnecessary items
b. This applies to going out too – if you know you’re going out for dinner on Friday and Saturday, then cut back on the groceries and save some money
6. Give yourself a fun food adventure each week!
a. For me that means trying out a new recipe, whether it be a cake, a pastry, a savory dish, or a different flavored stack of pancakes. I always do something fun on the weekends related to food
b. For you that could mean trying out a new restaurant, or going to your favorite restaurant, or getting pizza delivered to your doorstep!
c. Or it could mean getting froyo, icecream, dessert, boba, donuts, or whatever makes you happy
7. Make smoothies out of your leftover greens.
a. I always have leftover spinach or kale, or even cucumbers and carrots lying around, so I chop them up and make smoothies with other fruits so as to not waste anything
8. Look into what’s in season and buy accordingly.
a. Year round: apples, avocados, bananas, lemons and papayas are generally the same price
b. Winter: clementines, dates, grapefruit, oranges, pears, and tangerines are in season
c. Spring: apricots, cherries, honeydew, limes, mango, lychee, oranges, pineapple, and strawberries are in season
d. Summer: basically everything
e. Fall: grapes, guava, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate and cranberries are in season
f. Generally if a fruit isn’t in season, it will be more expensive, so plan accordingly
Lastly, some basic tips on staying healthy:
- Lean proteins: ground beef/turkey, chicken, steak, tilapia/cod/shrimp
- Dairy: eggs/milk/yogurt/cheese
- Whole grains: brown rice/pasta/bread/bagels etc.
- Healthy fats: avocados/nuts/seeds/salmon/peanut butter
- Greens: broccoli/asparagus/zucchini/spinach/collard greens/peas/edamame/kale
- Colorful veggies: carrots/bell peppers/tomato/eggplant/beets/squash/corn
- Fruits: apples/bananas/oranges/mixed berries/mango/guava