Eat Great on a Budget

Nothing we all do is more important to our health, or more ignored in American culture, than the simple act of eating.
I understand that we are college students; we are not in any way wealthy. Eating healthy is expensive…right?
It doesn’t have to be. You can eat healthier for less than $50 a week. That’s right, you can eat better all week  for less than a night out at The Bear, and have meals like this:

Looks good, huh? Here’s how to do it:
The List
I made the commitment to eat healthy and took a trip to the store. I was drawn to the tortilla chips, Oreos, and canned chilli that have so far been the staples of my diet, but I refrained. What I bought was almost enough to require two trips:
  • 2 Avocados– $1.16
  • 1 Bunch of Bananas– $1.40
  • 1 Broccoli Crown– $.26
  • 5 Carrots– $.46
  • 1 Head of Lettuce– $.99
  • 4 Apples– $2.29
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus– $1.44
  • 1 Red Onion– $1.06
  • 4 Oranges– $.89
  • 4 Red Potatoes– $.94
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes– $.70
  • 1 Bag of Brown Rice – $1.16
  • 1 Bag of Lentils– $.86
  • 2 Cans of Tomato Sauce– $.50
  • 1 Package of Pasta Sauce Seasoning– $1.29
  • 1 Package Pasta (Vermicelli)– $1.79
  • 1 Tub of Yogurt– $2.48
  • 1 Dozen Organic Eggs– $3.48
  • 1 Package of Chicken Breasts– $9.91
  • 1 Package of Steaks– $9.71
Grand total: $42.76

Not bad, and it got the cat intrigued:

There is a lot you can do with this list. You could grill up a few chicken breasts with some steamed veggies for dinner. Then, for breakfast the next day, you could throw in a few leftover veggies into an omelet with some salt and pepper, and use the leftover chicken in a salad.
As a snack, take a banana and an apple with you to school. When you’re ready for lunch, bust out the chicken caesar salad you made with the leftover chicken and veggies. Then for dinner, make a beef stew with potatoes, onions, carrots, and lentils and start the whole cycle over again.
It’s actually kind of fun to cook your own meals and taking the time to plan your meals will make you happier and healthier. Check out Epicurious–which has a fantastic iPad app that allows you to search by ingredient–and Gojee’s food section for solid recipe ideas.
Here’s a few tips I’ve learned:
1. Shop at FoodMaxx
FoodMaxx has a great selection of produce for cheap, and their meat is not that bad. If you’re broke like most of us, this is the place to shop.
2. Buy just what you need
You don’t need a whole flat of strawberries. While wholesale shopping might seem like a good way to save money, for a college student it could end up costing when food starts to go bad. Instead, try to plan your meals and buy just what you need for that week.
Except nuts. Always buy nuts in bulk.
3. Keep it simple
Shop for things that hit all the major food groups, but don’t get carried away. Limit what you buy to what you actually plan to eat. Sure, that sack of grapes looks good, but are you really going to eat all of them? Put them back.
4. Cook with leftovers
This goes without saying, but a lot of people forget that you can use last night’s extras in today’s meals. Throw some of that leftover chicken in some pasta and diced tomatoes to create a great dinner dish that’s done in eight minutes.
I hope this helps get you started. Look up some recipes online and go to town, I promise you won’t regret it.
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