It is common knowledge that most college students have less money than they would like. You can hear the phrase “I’m a poor college student” on campus almost every day. Being on a budget can be challenging, especially if you buy groceries and cook for yourself.
I recently moved into an apartment myself and found out just how hard it is to shop on a budget and eat healthy foods at the same time. Many students who have encountered the same problem have asked themselves: Is it possible to eat healthy on a budget?
It may be more difficult to shop within a small budget and to stay healthy than to load up on cheap, bad-for-you food, but it is definitely not impossible.
“There are studies that show that it can be done, but it takes some things that we also know are in short supply for college students,” said Sandy Procter, assistant professor and extension specialist in the department of human nutrition.
Procter explained that money is not the only thing in short supply, but that time is a restriction as well. Lack of time is what causes many students to waste money eating out. Knowledge is the best way to avoid wasting money while eating.
“Just a few cooking skills can really help people better deal with a food budget,” Procter said.
Procter suggested that students gain knowledge about food safety before cooking their own meals and learn how to use time-savers, like crockpots.
Mary Meck Higgins, human nutrition specialist for K-State Research and Extension, also suggested that students learn basic cooking skills in order to eat healthy on a budget. She recommended buying staple foods, such as beans, lentils and whole oats.
“if you’ve got a microwave, you can cook [oatmeal] in about 45 seconds,” Higgins said.
Higgins said that one of the biggest problems with eating healthy on a budget is food waste.
“If you waste your food, and you’re on a budget, that’s bad news,” Higgins said. “You want to use every morsel that you buy.”
Sarah Falke, senior in food science and industry, said that she ran into this problem when shopping for groceries.
“I think I definitely don’t buy as many fruits and vegetables as I would like because I can’t use them before they go bad,” Falke said.
An informational article from the USDA Nutrition Assistance Program also expressed the importance of minimizing food waste. The article suggests freezing foods right away to preserve freshness, and buying the freshest food possible.
Procter and Higgins agreed that there are many healthful foods that can and should be prioritized even when you are on a tight budget.
“Milk and dairy products are a group that, as a whole, people aren’t getting enough of,” Higgins said.
Both specialists mentioned that college students’ bones are still growing, so milk is a vital part of a healthy diet.
There are many strategies that students can employ to do their own shopping and stay healthy at the same time. Buying foods that are full of nutrients and come at a very cheap price, such as bananas, can help make your money go a long way.
Eggs are very nutritious for their value as well, at between $2 and $3 per a dozen. Going back to the basics is also very helpful, as a bag of rice or pasta is much cheaper than its instant counterpart. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a “thrifty plan” for a weekly grocery bill for men between the ages of 19 and 50 costs $41.80, while women of the same age group spent an average of $37.20.
Eating healthy on a budget may seem difficult, but it is in fact quite possible with the right knowledge and a bit of time for learning. You may have to cut back on foods that are supposed to be quick and easy or ease up on that fancy organic yogurt, but the extra money you will have is payback enough. With practice, you’ll get the hang of thrifty shopping and gain the satisfaction of being healthy at the same time.
Kate Haddock is a sophomore in English. Please send comments to [email protected]