25 ways to eat healthy on a [college] budget

So, you want to eat healthy but you’re strapped for cash? Here are some tips to help make healthy eating affordable on any budget. Some highlights include making a list, buying inexpensive protein-rich foods and avoiding packaged snacks .

Most of this list pertains to grocery shopping — with some bonus tip on preparing food.

  1.  Make a list.  Nothing feels better than crossing something off your list.  Keep a piece of paper the fridge so when you’re running low on something, you can write it down immediately. For the tech savvy, smartphones have a multitude of list-making apps you can get [for free!]! I love Todoist. Before food shopping, do some additional meal planning to guarantee #5.

    Stay Healthy, Stay Happy

    Meal planning inspiration for you.

  2. Stick to your list. Unless it’s something necessary (like toilet paper), don’t buy it — it didn’t make it onto your list for a reason.
  3. Buy in bulk. You might not eat 5 lbs. of chicken this week, but why not buy it and portion it out? Separate servings into separate plastic bags, storing this week’s portions in the fridge (maybe marinated) and anything you won’t eat in the next few days in the freezer.
  4. Buy “plain” foods: You can do anything with chicken or tofu! Bake it, broil it, sear it in a pan, boil it, and the best part? There are a million and one ways to season them! Other plain foods to buy are plain Greek yogurt, unflavored milk, etc. Add cinnamon, vanilla or natural sweeteners yourself.
  5. Use everything possible. Do you have a bunch of stuff left over from other meals? Combine them! Stir-fry is always an easy go to because you can throw anything and everything into it.
  6. Don’t buy junk food. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. Plus, it’s a waste of money and calories.
  7. Sugar cereals aren’t worth it. Sugary cereals don’t keep you full, so you end up spending a lot of money with little gain. You’re better off purchasing whole grain cereals with low sugar, then adding fruit for better flavor.nutty granola
  8. Use savings cards. The difference is huge! A lot of markets even give you things in return, like cheaper gas. Some stores don’t have or have recently done away with store cards (i.e. Shaw’s/Star Market). Know what to buy at which stores. Trader Joe’s has reasonable priced snacks, nut butters and raw nuts, while Whole Foods had a large variety of organics and whole sale grains. Plus, Whole Foods now has a savings app!
  9. Pre-packaged snacks are a waste. Again, this is where buying in bulk is cheaper. Rather than buying 100-calorie packs, make your own! All you need is a baggie — which can be reused!HUMBLEhoney.COM
  10. Drink water. Forget the sports drinks and other prepared beverages.
  11. Make your own food! There is no need to buy frozen meals. When cooking, make extra to freeze and consume later. I have a few posts on meal prep.SAMSUNG CSC
  12. Pack your own lunch. As obvious as this one may seem, a lot of people don’t bother. Pack it the night before as you’re putting away dinner.

    Desk at work

    Check out my “What I Eat at Work” post.

  13. Buy seasonal. Produce is cheaper when it’s season, because it doesn’t have to be shipped from other parts of the country before it’s ripe and ready. Here is a great list of produce in season.
  14. Coupons, coupons, coupons!  For more tips on couponing, check out this article.
  15. Go to the supermarket. Avoid convenience stores and gas stations. They are often overpriced and the product isn’t usually as fresh.
  16. Give yourself a realistic budget, and stick to it. If you’ve tried this and haven’t been successful, try shopping with cash only; you can’t spend it if you don’t have it.
  17. Keep a running total. Use your phone calculator and if it’s $1.85, round up to $2.00. You’ll get to the register and feel good when the total is less that you calculated.
  18. Store versions are just as good. Compare the ingredients on some of your favorite products with the store versions. Odds are the ingredients list will be identical, but the prices will vary.
  19. Beans are cheap. Canned bean are inexpensive, but dried beans are even cheaper. All you have to do is soak them over night. The skinny: ½ a cup of black beans has 20 grams of carbs, 7.5 grams of protein, 7.6 grams of fiber (that’s 30% of what most people need per day) and only .5 a gram of fat — all for 114 calories. Here are some bean recipes:

  20. Dairy. It’s cheap, filling and chances are you’re not getting enough calcium. Not into milk, try dairy alternatives like nut milks, soy, coconut milk, etc.
  21. Nut Butter. Nut butter is full of healthy fats — and there are so many different kinds (PB, almond, sunflowerseed butter, etc.).
  22. Tupperware. It’s reusable and great for meal prep. I recommend getting durable, microwave-safe glass tupperware.
  23. Soy. Easiest and most obvious form? Tofu. Here’s a recipe and tips for cooking.
  24. Potlucks. At a potluck, everybody brings a dish to share which means you get a lot of variety without spending a lot.  Plus, you hang out in great company.
  25. And the golden rule? DON’T GO SHOPPING HUNGRY!

20 thoughts on “25 ways to eat healthy on a [college] budget

  1. Alisha says:

    I was pretty disappointed with this list. I agree that it is all good advise, but a huge portion of it is not applicable to a collage student. I know there are some collages that have kitchens for their students to use, but most do not. Most college student (especially undergrads) only have a fridge and microwave. I was hoping to find more relevant information for a student like me that only has access to a mini fridge and a microwave.

    • Stay Healthy, Stay Happy says:

      Sorry you didn’t find this helpful! You’re right in that most students do not have kitchen (until Junior/Senior year off-campus housing). My advice for the college student only utilizing a microwave is to stock up on oatmeal and superfoods for toppings (hemp hearts, chia seeds, cacao nibs, etc). Find local farmers markets and stock your fridge with fruits and veggies to snack on. Also stock up on nuts, nut butters and maybe consider investing in a NutriBullet for smoothies. For those with a stocked dining hall, take advantage of the salad bar! Eat your veggies!

  2. Anonymous says:

    For college students – ask mom and dad for a slow cooker then you can make big batches of meals and microwave the leftovers. : )
    Or try to find a used slow cooker at a thrift store and clean it out before using it.

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