Want to eat healthy but don't feel like you can afford it on your measly college student budget?
First of all, I understand your frustration. I was a college student not too long ago, and understand all too well what it’s like to have no cash and no healthy food handy. But don’t worry -- having meager dough in your wallet does not mean you have to go hungry, or settle for junkfood! Let’s see if I can help you out…
#1 Rule: Buy in Bulk!
If possible, buy whole fruit whenever you see it -- can you get to the grocery store ever? Even if it’s only every once in a while, try to get to the store to buy simple whole fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and grapefruits. Whole fruit such as these makes the PERFECT snack, do not need refrigeration, can be easily taken to class with you, and honestly don’t cost very much! (For instance, 4 lbs of apples will last you for almost 2 weeks, and will cost less than $5. That’s less than the cost of a meal at McDonald’s!)
Additionally, raw veggies such as carrot sticks and celery also are very cheap, and make for very easy, portable snacks as long as you have a fridge to keep them fresh. These go great when dipped in hummus or natural peanut butter (these are not very expensive when you buy in bulk, and will last a long time!)
If you don’t have access to a grocery store, be sure to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis from your alternate sources. Where do you usually eat your meals? I assume at the campus dining hall? Again, wherever you eat, load up on fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible!
In addition to fresh fruit, below are a few of my favorite low-budget snacks from when I was in college:
- Dried fruits - such as apricots, prunes, and dried peaches.
- Roasted mixed nuts - these are much less expensive if you buy them in bulk! AND, they go a really long way! I buy the “Great Value” brand of roasted mixed nuts from Wal-Mart (34 oz) for $8. Seriously, this will last you over a month!
- Dark chocolate chips (2 handfuls) or two 1-inch squares dark chocolate (aim for 90% cocoa dark chocolate if you can find it), with two handfuls of raisins.
- Fat-free popped kettle corn popcorn (about 2 cups popped)
- Whole wheat crackers with 1 T. peanut butter (get the all-natural kind with no hydrogenated oils… the added health benefits are worth the extra pennies!) and topped with 1 T raisins
- Cereals such as KASHI brand Go-Lean, Cheerios, and other cereals with whole grains listed as first ingredient make great snacks, and are also price efficient.
- Cereal is also great when sprinkled atop 8 oz low-fat yogurt -- you can buy yogurt in bulk too (if you have refrigerator storage) to save costs. I buy my yogurt in the big “tubs” (16 - 32 oz) and then pack in little washable Tupperware containers to take to work with me.
- Granola bars (KASHI brand, FiberONE brand, or any flavor/brand with whole grain oats or whole grain flour listed as the first ingredient!)
- 8 oz. Low-fat chocolate milk (actually makes a perfect post-work-out snack -- high in calcium, protein, nutrients, and very satisfying!)
- Canned tuna (packed in water or light oil)
And there you have it -- proof that eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive. In fact, if you shop smart (buy generic and in bulk whenever it makes sense), you will find that eating healthfully is actually going to SAVE you money (not to mention make you far healthier and happier) in the long-run!