How to Prepare Healthy Meals Cheaply at College

College students trying to save a buck tend to make poor food choices. They may be unaccustomed to making their own meals and settle for cheap fast food. It’s a critical time for those who need to optimize brain power to get a good education.

The allure of vending machines or coffee shops around campus preys on the weak. It’s no wonder obesity is more common now with college students who don’t take time to mind what they eat. They are victim to fast foods that are often high in refined sugar, trans fats or saturated fats. Fast food is not intended as an inexpensive staple for one’s diet.

It might be assumed healthy foods are too pricey. With the right choices, it won’t be necessary to take out another student loan just so you can eat right. You may need to find specials, stock up and plan out your meals to avoid wasting food while optimizing nutrition.

To get started, the college student needs the essentials. Stock up on rice and pasta. You can purchase tomato basil sauces, or balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for salads. You will use these sparingly, just make it last. You’ll want to keep a variety of spices on hand for cooking. Avoid salt as much as possible and try garlic, pepper, oregano or even cinnamon for toast.

Other foods that keep for a long time might include dried fruits like raisins and canned foods such as tuna. Raisins are a healthy snack, while tuna can be used for sandwiches mixed with a low fat dressing. Or, you could try peanut butter on whole wheat bread. You will have to spend a little extra for whole wheat, but a high fiber diet helps your body break down foods and keep you full longer so you won’t have to eat as much. If it’s enriched like most white bread, it has no nutritional value.

Speaking of fiber, many types of beans or peas can be had for less. For instance, pinto, lentil, lima, or the old standby, green beans. Supermarkets will occasionally run specials on canned vegetables, or you could buy broccoli, cauliflower or carrots frozen. Boil some rice and stir fry these veggies with a little soy sauce and some red wine vinegar. For less than a dollar, you can pick up some seasoning packets to make Szechuan or Sweet and Sour.

One of the cheapest fruits you can buy is bananas. If you buy at the right time (either clip coupons or watch advertisements), get a week’s worth of grapes, apples or oranges. These can be your desserts or snacks.

So, you have the essential foods. What other kinds of healthy meals can a college student prepare while taking a break from classes?

There’s the obvious and easy with spaghetti. You can dice up some vegetables, boil some spiral noodles and mix with the vinegar and oils. Whatever fish you can get on sale could be baked with some lemon pepper, dill or celery (which can take out that fishy flavor) and add some brown rice as a side.

Lean ground beef with a baked potato is a simple and healthy meal. Garnish to taste. Choose butter over vegetable spreads, which are polyunsaturated. If you stock up on potatoes, keep in a cool, dry place and be sure to use these up before they rot and turn to liquid in your pantry.

Oatmeal is also a great and inexpensive choice, when preparing breakfast. You can add your raisins, cinnamon or brown sugar to flavor. There are plenty of healthy cereals you can buy, and again look for those specials to stock up. Top with skim milk.

If you’re making a lettuce salad, carrots and celery are inexpensive. Iceberg lettuce is cheap, but there’s no nutritional value. The darker the green, the better, like spinach or romaine. You can mix your own Italian seasoning with oil, vinegar and some pepper, or buy a low-fat dressing on sale.

If you can buy foods in bulk that won’t perish, a college student can save and be able to make meals all semester long. You can alter old family recipes with healthy options, or find some recipes on line. A little imagination with the right foods goes a long way toward making a successful college student happy and healthy.