How To: Eat Well On A College Budget

Eating well on a campus like JMU is hard enough as it is with all of the decadent options.  From Auntie Ann’s being ON campus, to Chick-Fil-A being right on the quad.  Its hard to choose the healthy options.  Another reason why I personally had so much trouble getting into the healthy swing of things through college is because it’s certainly not cheap.  Buying organic foods, and fresh produce can really add up and make a casual grocery trip turn into a very expensive quest. I’m here to tell you that is it very possible to eat well on a tight college budget.

Buy in Bulk:

Costco, Costco and more Costco.  Make this place your best friend.  I know it can seem very expensive, but when you add up the numbers, if you buy things in bulk you can end up saving a lot of money.  My favorite things that I get at Costco every trip include: Frozen Chicken Tenderloins (boneless, skinless). This giant package comes with 6 pound of chicken. That’s A LOT of chicken.  I have had this package since moving in August 22nd and still have plenty left. Keep in mind I am an avid chicken eater. While at $17.00, it may seem expensive but it is much cheaper to get these rather than buying a small pack of these at Martins every other week. K-Cups are very expensive to say the least. If you are like me and need that cup of coffee in the morning than getting a 72 count of K-Cups from Costco is the way to go.  It may be intimidating to drop 40 bucks on coffee but I can promise you, it is cheaper than buying 16 counts for 12 dollars at Walmart. Now that I live off campus, I have started to make my coffee an even cheaper way using ground coffee from Costco.  These things come in a huge container and it is so easy to do! The other benefit to this is that you’re not just limited to an 8oz cup of coffee.  You can make it as big as you want, and for only 10 dollars at Costco! The last thing that I am dependent on at buying at Costco are Cliff bars.  These things are super expensive as well but buying them in bulk makes the most sense! They are protein packed bars that literally get me through my crazy long Tuesday, Thursday days.

Breakfast:

I’ve learned to make this meal delicious and affordable from the comfort of my off-campus house.  A 12 pack of eggs can be as cheap as $1.23 at Walmart.  Pairing that with an English muffin and a banana is a healthy, delicious and cheap way to get your protein in before tackling a hard day of classes.  Another go to breakfast for me is oatmeal.  I’m not talking about the sugary apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal that comes in little packages.  I get the Old Fashioned Quaker Oats in a 42 oz barrel that are not sweetened. This comes out to be just 4 dollars. Making it yourself saves you money and gives you the opportunity to be healthier.  I flavor mine with ground cinnamon, a dash of maple syrup and either a banana or blueberries.  It takes about 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave and gives me the energy I need to conquer each day. My final tip for breakfast, is to stop buying sugary cereals. They are not good for you, and can be very expensive.

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Lunch:

I usually eat lunch on campus because I have a meal plan that gives me 5 punches a week.  For tips on healthy eating on campus check out my other article about the best dining hall options!

Snacks: On those days that you know you are going to be on campus from 8am-8pm, you may find yourself needed a snack. I recommend bringing a cliff bar or making a sandwich.  A simple nut butter and jelly sandwich can satisfy you and give you healthy proteins you need. I also like to pack a bag full of carrots.  Another thing that I always keep in my backpack to keep me from going to the vending machines in carrier are chickpea snacks. These are super healthy and help with my salty cravings. The bags are big to serve as a snack for weeks and are only about 3 dollars.

Dinner:

This can be a challenging meal for me because it is always tempting to make a big bowl of pasta after a long day of classes, which isn’t always a bad thing! Pasta is very cheap and keeps you full! I like to make my pasta with steamed broccoli and season everything with some garlic salt. Its important to save money on food where you can, so you can buy all the produce you want.  I am a huge fan of broccoli, mainly because I can just season it with garlic and find it delicious.  Pick a couple staple produce items that are a necessity in your diet and make sure on your grocery trip that you have enough money for it. If that means cutting out the tortilla chips and salsa, then do it.  The healthy veggies packed with fiber will keep you so full that you don’t even reach for the snacks.  I love making chicken in a fry pan and throwing some vegetables in and making a side of rice. Rice and Mexican beans can be a very filling meal on a low budget as well. I also recommend soups that are super filling.  Amy’s Soup, found at Martins can be slightly expensive but when I tell you it completely fills me up for dinner, it really does. So to me it is worth the money!

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Don’t be intimidated by eating healthy because of a limited budget.  It is very possible to eat healthy for cheap and to actually enjoy the meals you’re eating! Eating out is way more expensive than cooking a meal yourself, so skip those chipotle runs three times a week and you will have plenty of money to spend on produce at the grocery store!

Peace, Love and DDP,

Paige Epstein

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