It’s often thought that college students can not only survive, but thrive, on ramen noodles and oatmeal. Mysteriously, their young, fit bodies and hungry minds need only the bare minimum of calories and nutrients. Mad scientists theorize that their ability to survive on low-level roughage is in direct correlation with the size of their bank accounts. Thus, the smaller the student’s food budget, the more capable he or she is of surviving on marginal nutrition. Recently, this theory has been debunked by parents of college students everywhere.
If you’d like to eat well while you’re in school, but don’t want to spend a fortune on groceries, you might enjoy learning a few tricks to help you shop, cook, and eat wisely. It isn’t as hard as it sounds, and it might even be fun. The following tips can be used by any college student, but are designed for those who live in an apartment or house off-campus and away from home.
1. Buy in Bulk
Shoppers who make frequent forays to the market are more likely to succumb to temptation and impulse purchases. Instead of shopping daily or weekly, schedule bi-weekly or monthly trips to a large supermarket or warehouse store. You know what you like to eat, so stock up on those items. In the interest of healthy eating, purchase foods that are not fully prepared and ready to consume. For example, instead of buying canned soup, purchase simple ingredients such as frozen meats and veggies to make your own.
2. Cook in Bulk
As a busy student, preparing a full meal every night is probably out of the question. Instead, carve out time one or two afternoons per month to cook large batches of food at once to be frozen for later consumption. If you like meatloaf, make five of them. If tuna casserole is your thing, prepare three or four of them in freezable foil pans. Simmer a batch of bone broth and freeze it in ice cube trays for adding to soups and stews. Mix up a batch of pancakes and store them in the freezer for quick, satisfying breakfasts.
3. Share the Burden
Shopping and chopping can be an unbearable chore if you do it all alone. Grab a friend or two and turn it into a party. Whoever has the biggest vehicle drives, and the best chef gets to be in charge. If you’re lucky, you can score a minion or two to help with the grunt work. Just be sure to offer dinner in exchange. When the kitchen duty is done, hit the books together or pop in a DVD and unwind.
4. Choose Healthy Foods
Healthy choices abound, so be sure to make them. Everything you purchase and eat should have maximum nutritional value to keep your body and mind fueled. Lean protein, whole grain, and dark, leafy greens should take precedence over fried food, ice cream, and beer. Take a moment in the store to compare the prices of healthy and unhealthy foods. You might be surprised to learn that food which is good for your body is also good for your budget. The healthy food maker, hamptoncreek, produces a new lineup of salad dressings and sandwich spreads, which are deliciously good for you.
5. Treat Yourself
Yes, it’s good to be frugal and healthy, but there are times when you just need to cut loose and live a little. Smart students budget their free time as tightly as they budget their money. Don’t skip class, don’t hire your little sister to write your term paper, and don’t overdo the party scene on the weekend. Do, however, treat yourself in small portions throughout the week. Something as small as your favorite coffee drink in the afternoon can perk you up. If you nail your calculus exam, go crazy and order a pizza. Or two. With extra cheese.
6. When in Doubt, Go Home
Even if you’re not from Kansas, there is no place like home. Let your folks know you’re on your way, and you can bet they’ll have all your favorite foods ready to eat when you arrive. Offer to do the dishes, and you just might score a chance to raid their pantry, too. Just be sure to be liberal in your praise; it makes them feel good and it helps keep the goods coming your way.
Eating well on a college budget isn’t as difficult as it sounds. By avoiding temptations at the minimart or burger joint, shopping wisely, and cooking like a maniac, you can save money, eat well, and have fun too. That’s something to get excited about.