By Spencer Donovan
Max Kaufman, a senior sport management major at the University of Georgia, used to prepare his weekly meals every Sunday. Now, the Plainfield, Illinois, native has an unlimited meal plan at the university dining halls, which he said is convenient for his lifestyle.
“I feel like the best part about eating healthy is I feel like I don’t spend money on, no offense, kind of crap food, like chips and sweets and stuff,” Kaufman said. “The best part about having that mindset and just wanting to live that way, is that it’s definitely kept costs down, wanting to eat healthy.”
It’s cheaper in the long-term to eat fresh foods at home and limit meals out, said Jessie Moore, a family and consumer science agent with the UGA Cooperative Extension Service for Hall County. At home, students also can control their fat, sugar and sodium intake when they cook their own meals.
Moore recommended students track their spending habits when it comes to food.
“That’s not to say never go out to eat or do fun things or go out with friends, but kind of the day-to-day stuff can really add up over time,” Moore said. “So doing some of those calculations can really help you see what you’ve got or what you’re spending and can also help you know where you can make cutbacks.”
Moore acknowledged that being a student can be a busy time and comes with a variety of living situations. Some students only have access to a microwave in their dorm, while others have a full kitchen in an off-campus apartment.
She said students can keep snacks around as one strategy to avoid a midnight drive-thru run. For students in the dorms, non-refrigerated fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges, make healthy snacks. Nuts, nut butters and tuna provide protein, and crackers and bread can offer carbs.
Kaufman, who only eats out once or twice a week, chose the unlimited meal plan for its convenience factor. He works out at Ramsey Student Center most mornings and heads over to Joe Frank Dining Commons to eat. He has a parking spot nearby, which means he can drive from his apartment on the East Side to Joe Frank, which is open seven days a week.
The meal plan is overpriced, Kaufman said, but he had the money for it. He pays for his living expenses besides tuition, which is covered by his parents and some scholarships.
The national weekly average that college-aged men should pay for a nutritious diet is between $62.50-64.50, and for women it’s between $50.10-51, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Moore noted these are averages, so some individuals will spend less on food while some will spend more.
The UGA Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program provides recipes for microwave meals, which can be helpful for students living on campus, Moore said. Moore recommended having 10-15 meals on rotation to avoid burnout.
“I just think that it’s important to make what you enjoy because if you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, you’re not going to keep doing it,” Kaufman said.
Spencer Donovan is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.