Life can get crazy for a college student, and between work, classes, or little obligations here and there, important things like self-care can accidentally get missed.
College can be expensive, and one of the first things we sacrifice is a decent meal. It’s no surprise that a 25 cent pack of ramen that’s ready in three minutes is a college go-to. Not only is it not nutritional, it’s not very filling. Late night bowl of cereal anyone? Believe it or not, unhealthy eating habits can lead to a lot more than the freshman 15.
The Student’s Guide to Nutrition outlined that students who gain the most weight in college tend to eat fattier foods, less vegetables, and sleep less than those who don’t gain weight. Poor eating can also affect grades, as well as immune and mental health.
It’s important to know how to balance a healthy diet. It’s not all about caloric intake anymore, and new research shows that not everyone needs 2000 calories every day. The Student’s Guide to Nutrition outlines a balanced diet for men and women aged 19-30, and includes the basic food groups necessary for healthy eating.
It is not impossible to eat well on a budget. To prove this, I took $5 and set out to shop locally with a goal of getting three meals.
First, Giant Eagle. This is as local as it gets, being that it’s about a seven-minute walk from campus. Although, it did pose a bit of an issue with the budget. I stayed away from typical college meal items such as ramen, Easy Mac, and other prepackaged meals, and tried to buy as healthy as possible. While shopping around for healthier items, prices ranged from two to three times more than other stores such as Walmart or Aldi. Store brand items were a little cheaper, and I found myself able to get two meals, or even one good meal, out of the $5, but not the full three.
Next was Walmart. This is a large store with many options, but I was running into a lot of the same pricing issue as with Giant Eagle. Two meals were easy, but the third was tricky. Fresh produce is generally weighed by the pound, so that 85 cents for a bunch of bananas can trick you and cost more.
Finally, I tried Aldi. It’s a bit of a drive, but so worth it for competitive prices and a wide selection of natural, organic foods. I ended up getting six items, all for under a dollar, and spending a total of $4.39 on three good meals.
First was breakfast. Being that I’m normally not a big breakfast eater, I decided to go small, incorporating fruit and dairy. I got a single-serve cup of coconut and vanilla flavored greek yogurt for 65 cents, and two bananas for 36 cents – one for breakfast and one for a snack later in the day. Both of these are a great start to the day, with bananas being loaded with fiber and potassium and greek yogurt being full of protein and probiotics.
Next was lunch. For this meal I got a bag of garden salad for 89 cents and a pouch of sweet and spicy tuna for 85 cents. Combine the two and you have a healthy, quick lunch between classes. Tuna, whether in a pouch or can, is a great way to add protein to your meal, and contains less sodium than other processed lunch meats. Just ask the Tuna Diva!
Finally, dinner. I was able to purchase a 24-ounce jar of pasta sauce for 85 cents, and a box of pasta for 79 cents. The amount of food from these two items alone – $1.64 total – was enough to feed four people.
Eating healthy on a budget is not impossible. It might take some extra effort, but your body, mind, and grades hang in the balance of a well-rounded meal.
Total: $4.39 – Success!