We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
There’s a stereotype that it’s impossible to eat healthy in college on a budget. A nutritious yet delicious dish might seem out of reach for you. Fortunately, it’s not! You can use helpful tricks to take your mealtimes to another level when you’re living on- and off-campus.
Here are seven tips to try.
1. Stick to a List
A list will help you stay focused when you’re at the grocery store. It’s easy to get distracted while shopping, so you should do your best to stick to what you need. Plus, you can build your list around any weekly discounts that may be available.
You may want to use an app to create your list. These platforms often have ways to connect to the supermarket to find deals. If you have roommates, you can share your list with each other. Additionally, you’ll never forget your list at home.
2. Learn How to Cook
If you want to save money, you should learn how to cook your favorite meals. There’s nothing wrong with ordering an occasional takeout meal. However, you should do your best to make food as often as possible. This effort will help you stretch your budget.
It’s smart to start small. A basic dish like scrambled eggs with toast can be a filling way to begin your morning. This way, you won’t go through a drive-thru to buy a breakfast sandwich before class. Do your best to learn how to make simple dishes that you can enjoy throughout your day.
3. Spice Up Basic Dishes
Are you tired of eating ramen noodles? If so, you can take steps to make them healthier and tastier. This technique works for other meals that might become boring. A little experimentation can help you keep your meals as nutritious and flavorful as possible.
For example, you can add frozen vegetables and an egg to your ramen noodles. You could even pan-fry them with peanut butter create a copycat pad thai. How can you make changes to other meals you make frequently? These additions will help you build a balanced plate that supports your overall health.
4. Choose Generic Brands
In general, you should try to buy more generic products than name brands. They almost always taste similar, but you’ll find that they’re cheaper than what you might usually purchase. You could even get discounts when you choose brands made by the supermarket.
Be sure to read labels to understand what you’re going to eat. You don’t want to pay a lower price only to get less in terms of nutritional value. However, you should be able to make more inexpensive choices for the majority of your groceries.
5. Use Discounts and Coupons
As a student, you probably have special discounts you can use when buying groceries. In some cases, it’s possible to save upwards of 15% during your shopping trips. You may also be able to get deals for takeout items like pizza. Take a look at which places accept your student I.D.
It might also be worthwhile to scan websites, apps, and newspapers for coupons. There are endless ways to find coupons for your local stores. If you can locate them before building your list, you’ll be able to better plan for your week.
6. Take Advantage of To-Go Items
If you have access to dining halls, you should always take advantage of to-go items. These are usually fruits, muffins, and other portable foods you can grab when you leave. This way, you can enjoy them later — and you don’t have to buy anything.
You should also consider choosing healthier options when you take full meals to-go. It may be tempting to grab a hamburger and fries, but you can load up your container with salad just as easily. Do your best to make healthy choices when eating in the dining halls.
7. Pick Meals at Restaurants Wisely
You should note that eating healthy in college on a budget doesn’t have to be restricting. You can still occasionally dine at your favorite restaurants. That said, you need to consider how you order your food so that you can stick to your health and budgeting goals.
Look over the menu to find something that’s both relatively nutritious and inexpensive. It’s a good idea to consider what you have at home, too. A large portion may be the better way to go when you want leftovers.
Use These Tips to Make Eating Healthy in College on a Budget Easy
Learning how to save money while eating healthy foods can be a challenge. That said, it’s worth every effort. These tricks will help you stick to your budget as you enjoy nutritious and delicious dishes.
Looking for more discount meal inspiration? Check out these budget-friendly tips from our reading list:
Budget-Friendly College Cookbook: Eating Well with Limited Space, Storage, and Savings (Amazon) by Sara Lundberg
Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day (Amazon) by Leanne Brown
latest in learning!
Get the latest updates in learning, teaching and everything in between! Whether you're a student or an educator, we offer the inspiration you need to fuel your classroom experience.