College Connect: Eating healthy on a college student’s budget

By Natalia Almandari

For most college students, living on your own for the first time also means cooking and grocery shopping on your own. Between classes, work and friends, it can be easy to resort to eating out every day or whipping up a quick bowl of ramen noodles. Even eat at fast food places can mean you are spending $25 or more on food per day! Multiply that times 30 days, and it can top $750 a month, and that’s before the beer tab!

It’s obvious that a daily Chipotle run can demolish a college bank account, and your body needs more nutrients than what’s in ramen or microwave macaroni.

Are you struggling to eat healthy while also saving money? Here some tips I’ve picked up over my four years of undergrad:

  • Take advantage of your freezer: Notice chicken is on sale at the grocery store? Buy extra and freeze it. (Cook it first if you really want to save time.) Have more vegetables than you can eat? Freeze them. You can even use your freezer to help meal prep healthy meals. Make a big batch of breakfast tacos, or throw ingredients for a Crockpot meal into a big plastic bag.
  • Stick to the outer edge of the store when you shop: You might not have noticed how most grocery stores are organized. Items like fresh produce, meats and dairy tend to line the edge of the store. Inner aisles will have more processed foods like sugary drinks, cookies and chips. Try and avoid those inner aisles — not only are processed foods unhealthier, they’re also more expensive than fresher options.
  • Beans and grains are your best friend: Meat is filling, but it’s also pricey. Replace that protein with beans and grains. Not only are they good for your wallet, but they’re good for your body, too. Some healthy grains like quinoa go great with black beans and roasted vegetables. Remember to add spices when you cook — healthy food doesn’t have to be flavorless.
  • Make a list. When you go to the stop, make a list.  And a list is most if you plan your means.

To do that planning, you don’t really need a cook book. The internet is full of free recipes, such as, which also is available as a smartphone app. Take a look at their Top 10 recipes for college students. Yum!

Natalia Almandari is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Missouri.

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