There are times when being a college student can lead to some unhealthy eating habits. Most of the time it’s easier, and may seem cheaper, to grab some late night pizza or live off ramen for weeks at a time. However, there are easy ways to maintain a healthy diet while still sticking to a budget.
Tip #1: Think Ahead and Shop Smart.
Sometimes it seems like after grocery shopping there’s still nothing to eat in the house. One way to avoid that is to plan out meals in advance. Find good quality recipes and set out a week of meals, planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner also allowing for snacks. Feel free to tinker with this routine as different things work for different people. As for getting things from the grocery store, there are a lot of ingredients that are not super expensive and can be used for multiple meals. Eggs, dried beans, and rice all are reasonably priced and can be stretched out for many meals. All of them require a little work to prepare, but it is well worth learning because of their versatility. Chicken and ground turkey are cheap sources of proteins that do not run up a budget and can be used in many recipes. Also, try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables if possible. Frozen alternatives are sometimes more economical, but the flavor and freshness cannot be matched.
Tip #2: Cook for More than Today
Cooking is a lot of work. Not to mention all the dirty dishes to do afterwards. One way to combat this is to cook enough to have substantial leftovers in the refrigerator and freezer. Whether it’s making “freezer burritos” or making dumplings, the trick is to having meals ready on hand that are easy to heat up. We could also apply this tactic to prepping and cooking individual ingredients to have them on hand and ready to throw in a recipe. For example, cooking a batch of chicken and leaving it in the refrigerator until it’s needed to make chicken fried rice. Little things like this often make a big difference.
Tip #3: You Don’t Have to Do It Alone!
A lot of this may seem overwhelming, but there are a ton of resources out there that are tremendously helpful. Leanne Brown, graduate of NYU, created a free PDF called “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” that is filled with great recipes and advice. This can be found at her website www.leannebrown.com. Another great resource is a page on Reddit that is dedicated to this very topic of eating cheap and healthy. Users post there with recipes they have had success with and it is also a helpful forum for questions and concerns. This can be found at http://www.reddit.com/r/EatCheapAndHealthy. There are also a million of blogs out there where people are sharing recipes and advice. One of the better ones is Boston Chef Melody Polakow’s blog where she features everything from Ramen recipes, hummus recipes, and even how to make homemade coconut milk. Her blog can be found at melodypolakow.wordpress.com.
Remember also that it is ok to splurge once and while! There is nothing like having a great meal at a nice restaurant or just getting pizza with friends. Keep a solid foundation, but don’t be afraid to deviate every once and a while.