One of the great myths of eating healthy is that it’s a privilege reserved for the wealthy… but as a college student, I am here to say that that is not the case. For me, eating healthy and eating well is a necessity, and without good meals I won’t make it long days walking between classes and staying up late writing papers and studying (and everything else that goes along with late nights at college). My roommate and I have found out that, in fact, having high food standards in college is very doable on a cheap budget. Here are a few college student tips on how to eat great meals that leave you feeling great after they’re finished:
- Cook! We cook every day, rather than spending extra money on prepackaged freezer meals that often come full of preservatives and skimp on the nutrients. When cooking for the whole house (even if just two roommates), it consolidates shopping lists and means lower food cost that you can split.
- Don’t eat a ton of meat. We’re not vegetarians by any stretch of the term, and love to grab a burger on the weekend, but meat is often the most expensive item on the shopping list. Occasionally, we’ll pick up a cheap pack of chicken sausage to throw with pasta.
- Items that go a long way: centering meals around items that can be used in many different dishes and that will take a long time to go through makes the most economic diet. That means planning meals around grains such as pasta and quinoa, or a protein such as lentils. One cup of uncooked pasta or quinoa will make a meal for two with leftovers, and can be added with a variety of sautéed veggies.
- Veggie-centric meals: Planning meals around a vegetable rather than a meat means that your meals will be focusing on foods with high nutritional value and will cut down on high-fat content items.
- Meal Plan: actually sit down and plan out the dishes you want to eat throughout the week, that way when you’re at the market, you won’t be making impulse buys and can plan meals that include like-ingredients, cutting down on food waste and cost.
- Get creative! All the recipes in the world haven’t been written yet, and it’s okay to break the rules. Rather than going out to buy more ingredients, see what’s still in the fridge and try substituting it into your dish. For instance, we had some leftover purple spinach, a box of spinach, but no sauce. We decided to make a vibrant pesto using the spinach that turned out great and finished off the leftover veggies sitting in the fridge.