Healthy Eating on a Budget

Rivka Katz, Dietetics Major ’19, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

We all know about the importance of eating healthy and we may even know what eating healthy means, but what happens when you’re on a tight student budget and you’re having a hard time eating healthy because of the cost? Well, if you’re looking for help you’ve come to the right place because I have some helpful tips on how to eat healthy even while on a budget.

The biggest obstacle to both eating healthy and saving money is the fast food option. It’s quick, easy, and tastes good but buying it frequently will quickly add up and become costly. Additionally, it’s typically low in nutrient-rich food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are important components of being healthy. Basically, you won’t get very much bang for your buck. So, what options are available for busy college students? Check out the following list for some ideas of ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

  • Become a savvy grocery shopper. If you’re going to be cooking your own food, you’ll need to get good at grocery shopping. The number one rule is to always pay attention to sale items. You can do a little research beforehand on your phone to see what’s on sale that week and then plan your menu accordingly. Looking at different grocery stores can help you determine which one typically has cheaper options. Don’t have a way to get to different grocery stores? Check out the UMD grocery shopping shuttle that runs every Saturday during the semester.
  • Go for generic over brand name products. Another important rule when shopping is to expand your buying options. Don’t assume that you need to buy the brands that you’re used to from home. Generic brands are usually quite a bit cheaper than the regular brand name products, but they typically taste the same and have equal nutritional value. Be aware that the generic brands are not usually placed at eye level. Look at the upper or lower shelves to see if there are cheaper options for the product you’re looking to buy.
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. You probably are already aware that including fruits and vegetables is an important component of a healthy diet. They provide us with essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are crucial for our physical well-being. Although fresh fruits and veggies are often touted as the best option, frozen and canned offer most of the same health benefits, but are typically cheaper than their fresh counterparts and have a longer shelf life. Stock up on different varieties when they’re on sale so that you always have some available.
  • Swap out the meat or poultry component of your meal for beans. Since it’s important to make sure you’re eating a balanced meal that includes food from all five food groups, you want to ensure you have a protein in there. People often think of chicken or meat as a classic protein source which they are, but beans are a great source of protein and they’re heart healthy too. Beans are also much cheaper than chicken, meat, or fish, which makes it a great option when you’re trying to cut costs.

While all of the above tips will help you eat healthily and save money, sometimes even paying the minimum for food is too costly for students. To ensure that no Terps go hungry, the UMD Campus Pantry is available for students who are struggling with a lack of adequate food due to monetary concerns. Check it out to see if this is a resource that will work for you.

College is a great time to start learning how to eat well on a budget since the skills you pick up will undoubtedly come in handy later in life. It may be a bit of an adjustment at first, but pretty soon both your body and wallet will thank you. Try it and see!

To learn more about eating healthy on a budget, reserve your free session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or [email protected]