Eating healthy…on a budget?!

So you’re standing in the checkout line of the grocery store, thinking you probably got about $30 worth of food.  However, as you watch the cashier scanning your items, you quickly notice that your total is already $40…$45…and growing.  Ouch!

If this has happened to you before, you’re certainly not alone. As college students, we are typically faced with the challenge of sticking to a tight budget.  However, if you are conscious of your health, trying to keep the grocery bills down can be a tough skill to master!  With many of the whole, nutritious foods out there becoming more and more expensive – and with “junk” foods typically costing less than things like fresh produce – is it even possible to eat healthy and save money? Definitely! Here are some tips for cutting costs on food without sacrificing your health:

  1. If you enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, avoid buying the prepackaged varieties.  Besides containing a fair amount of added sugar and calories, have you noticed how little actual oatmeal is contained in those packets? Instead, purchase the larger bulk containers of quick oats or old-fashioned oats and then add fruit, cinnamon, nuts, or a teaspoon of brown sugar.
  2. Buy eggs.  They are a cheap, nutritious source of protein, contain many vitamins and minerals, and are a very versatile food!  Boil ahead of time and eat one with breakfast, have an egg sandwich for lunch, or make a veggie-stuffed omelet for dinner.
  3. Buy frozen vegetables.  They are typically just as nutritious (if not more nutritious) than their fresh counterparts, and they will also last longer.  Since fresh produce can have such a short lifespan, it is often forgotten and left to rot in our crisper drawers.  Who likes throwing food (and essentially money) into the trash?
  4. Portion your own snacks.  It’s hard not to love those little 100-calorie packs of nuts, crackers, or cookies. They are great for portion control and are easy to grab-and-go, but typically you are going to pay more for these prepackaged treats.  For the penny pinchers out there, a better option is to buy your own pretzels/nuts/whole wheat crackers and then portion servings into Ziploc baggies.  This way, you have snacks that are easy to grab and you aren’t paying for extra packaging and less food product.
  5. Buy canned (or dry) beans.  They are packed with protein, fiber, and all kinds of other nutrients – for around $0.75 cents a can, you can’t beat it! Throw onto a salad, mix with salsa and shredded cheese and wrap them up in a whole-wheat tortilla, or mix with brown rice and sautéed veggies.
  6. Always come prepared.  Make a habit of carrying an apple, a granola bar, or your own pre-packaged snack (see number 4 above) in your book bag or purse.  This way, when hunger strikes in class or while you’re out and about, you won’t spend extra money in coffee shops or convenience stores.  Those little purchases can add up quickly!
  7. Buy local, seasonal foods! Hitting the farmers market is a great way to find fresh, seasonal foods while also supporting local growers and farmers.  Seasonal produce will typically taste better, and you will often pay less at these markets than you would at the grocery store.  Right now, many great fall fruits and veggies are hitting the stands (apples, butternut squash), so go check it out and see what you can find!

Here’s the takeaway – eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank if you make some basic changes.  If you have any other money saving tips for nutritious eating, feel free to share!

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  One thought on “Eating healthy…on a budget?!

  1. September 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Great post, Elizabeth! Here’s another article on this topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/is-junk-food-really-cheaper.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

    Healthy eating on a budget can be done!

    Like

  2. September 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    And here’s a cool competition USDA launched promoting people to try to do so!

    http://fruitsandveggies.challenge.gov/

    Like

  3. October 3, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Very nice, I think Admin should set up a forum, so that we can chat and have a discussion. I may have overlooked it but was there a forum? It would be good to chat.

    Like

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