As students, we’re so busy with classes and assignments that it can be difficult to find time to cook. It can be so easy to order takeout or stock up on microwave mac ‘n’ cheese, but these convenient foods are not only lacking in nutrients, but they’re also the fastest way to go over budget. Keeping all this in mind, I’ve compiled my top tips for eating healthy as a student (while staying on budget!)
Before You Shop
First thing’s first, set a budget for the month and stick to it. Next, plan what you’re eating for the week (or even just the next few days). Join the rewards programs and check out any deals they might have (the Optimum app has some every week!) Check out the weekly flyer for sales, use them for inspiration! Make a list, and grab a snack before shopping. It can be so easy to grab junk food off the shelves when you’re feeling peckish.
One popular rewards program is the PC optimum program. You can join free of charge and add your card to the app so you can sync your points!
Fruits and Veggies
One word: frozen. I learned the hard way once I moved away to university that fresh produce goes bad fast, especially when you’re only cooking for yourself. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, but there’s no time pressure.
Store-brand frozen produce is a great option instead of fresh produce. Cut down on cost and food waste!
Get creative with your proteins! Try out plant-based options and cuts of meat you wouldn’t normally use. Eggs are a budget-friendly addition and easily added to meals. And don’t be afraid to buy in bulk either! A bigger pack can be divided into zip-top bags and frozen for later.
Finding the motivation to get in the kitchen right after rolling out of bed is challenging, but a healthy breakfast is the first step towards a productive day. Some of my go-to breakfasts include yogurt with fruit and granola, and fried eggs with a bagel and orange slices. I like to make sure I’m eating fruits for breakfast, too! A quick smoothie with frozen fruit is always an easy way to get my daily vitamins. Remember, getting a good breakfast means you won’t be left feeling hungry after your 11 am call!
When I take a break from my classes to eat lunch, I like to grab something quick and easy and watch an episode of my new favourite Netflix show (currently it’s Superstore!). This is where the dreaded meal prep comes in. I’ll prep a couple of salads at once to save time in the long run. Just make sure to keep the squishy ingredients separate (think tomatoes), because nobody likes soggy lettuce! You can also mix it up and add whole grains to your salads; I’ve found quinoa and brown rice work well. BONUS: If I know I’ve got a busy schedule the next day, I’ll make a little extra dinner that I can quickly warm up for lunch.
As I said, students are short on time. I don’t know about you, but if I can avoid spending an hour in the kitchen, I will. The secret? Baking sheets. It’s a “set it and forget it” cooking method that I swear by. Simply turn the oven on to 350, chop your veggies and add your protein to a baking sheet. Add a drizzle of oil and seasonings and bake for 20 mins (this varies based on what you’re using, but 20 minutes is a good baseline) My favourite combination is yellow and sweet potatoes, broccoli and Italian sausage, but mix it up based on what produce is in season and what proteins you’ve got!
Traybakes are the way to go for healthy and easy dinners!
Having to cook for yourself is possibly one of the most unexpected hurdles that students encounter once they move away from home. Keep these tips in mind and don’t be afraid to get creative! There are also tons of YouTube channels and websites geared towards students to give you inspiration. Happy cooking!
Kinesiology Student @ Brock University