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7 Tips for Eating Healthy on a College Student Budget

7 Tips for Eating Healthy on Student Budget

With a few smart strategies, eating healthy on a college student budget is easy. If you're a college student (or a grad student, for that matter) and struggling with how to eat both healthy and on a tight budget, here are seven tips that can help you master the art of buying and eating nutritious food without breaking the bank:

1. Buy and Cook Fresh Food — It's Cheaper!

Many college students lead busy lives, trying to balance classes, work and hobbies. In such a fast-paced environment, it is easy to fall victim to the allure of fast food and pre-packaged convenience foods. Although unhealthy processed foods are no doubt a quick option, they are usually not as cheap as most people think. Both in terms of nutrients per ounce and ounce per dollar, fresh fruit and vegetables often beat processed foods. And if time is an issue, consider making salads and soups which are relatively quick to make, and which you can still eat the next day if you store them properly in the fridge.

2. Consider Buying Frozen Vegetables in Winter

There's a common misconception that frozen fruit and vegetables are unhealthy. The truth is that fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing are usually frozen at their peak ripeness, a time when these foods are usually most nutrient-dense. Therefore, frozen fruits and veggies are a good alternative for poor college students, especially during winter months when fresh produce is limited and often more expensive. Also, canned vegetables have their pros for college students with a limited budget; however, there are some health concerns about the safety of canned products.

3. Share Meals With Your Roommates

If you're trying to eat healthy on a student budget, consider creating a cooking schedule with your roommates; sharing meals with your roommates is a great way to save both time and money. And if the people you live with are health-conscious like you, you will also be eating healthier, too. There's also a social benefit: sitting down together with your roommates to enjoy the food you have prepared is a great way to get to know your each other.

4. Choose Generics Over Brand Names

Not all healthy and inexpensive food items, such as dried fruits and many legumes, are found in the fresh produce or frozen foods section of your local supermarket. Instead, they come pre-packaged, and the student may be left with a choice between a generic brand and a name brand. As a general rule, opt for generic names and store brands which are typically cheaper than name brands. And keep this is mind: In most grocery stores, the less expensive generic items are placed on the top and bottom shelves, while products with a name brand are shelved at eye level.

5. Compare Unit Prices

Comparing unit prices of similar healthy foods is one of the best methods for eating healthy on a college student budget. Displayed on the shelf price labels, unit prices tell you how much the food costs per ounce (or another convenient unit). Smaller packages may seem less expensive at first, but when you start comparing unit prices, you will soon realize that larger packages may well be the better (i.e. cheaper) option.

6. Pool Your Resources Together With Your Roommates

A great way to save money when buying groceries on a student budget is to pool your resources together with your roommates and buy in bulk. You can also save time by creating a shopping schedule, so that not everyone needs to go to the supermarket every week. Keep in mind, however, that this arrangement is likely to work only if the health and nutrition goals of your roommates are similar to yours, and if you manage to plan your meals and write the shopping list together.

7. Take Advantage of Coupons and Sales

If eating healthy on a student budget is a priority for you, then take the time to look for deals and coupons that can help cut your grocery bill. Weekly store flyers and websites are great places to find information about special offers. In addition to using coupons to lower your grocery bill, you may want to consider joining a valued customer program to benefit from additional special offers.

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