How to Actually Eat Healthy on a College Budget

For most college kids, after having to pay for books, room & board, and random expenses, finding enough money for food is a real issue. A lot of the time, it’s easier to stock up on Ramen, PB & J sandwiches, or whatever’s cheap and keeps you feeling full. Health often takes the back seat. But contrary to popular belief out there, it is possible to eat cheap, healthy food while you’re in college.

At the grocery market, the cheapest stuff you can get is usually in the fresh produce aisle. For example, you can buy three oranges for a bit over a dollar, and bananas for half that (per pound)! Apples are also a good option, since they are $2 for 5 apples. As for vegetables, potatoes have one of the best deals, costing only about fifty cents a pound. Other options you can get with a dollar is a head of broccoli or bunch of spinach. Some healthy whole grain staples you can find at your grocery store include oats and popcorn kernels (in bulk) both only $1/lb, brown rice ($2 per lb), and whole grain pasta (approx. $0.40 per serving). As for protein, lentils are $0.12 per serving ($1.50/lb in bulk) and variety of canned beans, as well as almonds, are $0.30 a serving.

Here’s an example of a day’s worth of low-cost, healthy meals:

And its nutritional value:

As you can see, this day of meals hit 77% of your nutrition targets — even giving you more than your daily need’s worth of certain vitamins and minerals.

The main issue you need to be worried about is buying too many pre-made packaged foods, which is much unhealthier and pricier than fresh groceries. For example, even though a Kraft Mac & Cheese Cup seems like a good dinner at $1.98, you could get a whole pound of dry Brown Rice (1680 calories) for the same price. Although sometimes, packaged and homemade

foods could have equal cost, such as a pack of two PopTarts (400 cal) and a bowl of oatmeal with bananas (400 cal). However, one will give a sugar crash and the other will give you healthy, steady energy throughout the day. Similarly, it can cost a buck for five TopRamen packs, but each pack comes with 76% of your daily recommended sodium and has very little nutritional value. Instead, you can get 2 lb of bananas or 1 lb of dry popcorn kernels for the same dollar, which will offer you much more fiber and nutrition.

So don’t be discouraged if you’re a college student struggling to eat healthy on a budget. Buy in bulk and purchase fresh produce so you can stop stressing over your food costs and focus on crushing it in your studies.