How to Prepare Healthy Meals for Cheap at College

Everyone who goes away to college needs to consider what they will eat and what it will cost.

Dorm meals seem fine at first: food already fixed, ready to eat. Quick or convenient, there’s no lasting satisfaction. Monotonous choices become old fast. So do familiar nearby fast food stops.

It’s time to move on. You can fix healthier, better tasting food costing much less. In your dorm room a microwave, mini-fridge, and a few items double as snacks and do-it-yourself quick meals. Moving away from the dorms, you can gain more independence – and a kitchen of some sort. Start with breakfast, at home or to go. Add meals that can be made easily, and go go with you.

Fruit and nuts, as snacks or add to other foods:

Fruit nutritional benefits include fiber and vitamins. Nuts, in small amounts, are great for you, keeping hunger away longer. They also offer vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy fats.

Dried fruits store well and last a long time (concentrated, you only need a little). Frozen fruits are easy, buy in bags so you can pour a little, keeping more in the bag frozen for later. Store nuts in the refrigerator; they taste fresher longer.

Oatmeal:

Buy the big box or paper canister. The one with the Quaker on it, without anything but oats. It’s usually cheap, and easy to fix. Add different fruits and nuts for flavor variations. Microwave, add milk, and eat.

Yogurt parfaits:

Buy low fat vanilla yogurt in a large carton that offers several meals for less money. Add those fruits and nuts to your yogurt. Top with granola or bits of dry cereal (anything crunchy tastes great). Eat at home, or put in a container to go. If you swirl your fruit and nuts ahead, scoop into cones like ice cream. Then freeze for a fast treat to grab and go.

Cream of wheat, flavored energy boosts (berries taste like pie a la mode):

Add fruit, varying flavor and nutrition, and milk for creaminess and calcium. Microwave and eat. It also tastes good cold; sprinkled with nuts. Or add a little more milk, and microwave to reheat.

During college I discovered that, like many women my age, I was borderline anemic. Low iron levels lower energy. Farina, or cream of wheat hot cereal, offers an easy iron fix. Milk obviously adds other nutrients most students need in larger amounts. Milk is fortified, offering D plus calcium. Researchers say that Vitamin D deficiencies while college age may lead to heart disease.

Cold cereal choices:

We all have our favorites, and know how to eat them. They are fast and taste good. Look for whole grain varieties on sale, and coupons to cut the cost.

Eggs, cheap choices that are better than you think.

Yolks are full of important vitamins that help boost brain activity, something vital for any college student. Recent studies, on people eating an egg each day, show that they are not the cholesterol problem or health danger some thought.

Hard boiled eggs:

Best made ahead, boil up a few to use for a few days. A fast breakfast with juice or fruit, they also make great sandwiches when mashed, or add to a salad for lunch or dinner.

Egg Sandwiches:

Takes only a few minutes to fry or scramble, with little preparation. Ready to eat as you go, after you put your eggs between bread, toast, English muffins, or buns. Add any condiments you like, or eat plain. Pesto, sundried tomatoes, or roasted peppers add more flavor and vitamins.

Potatoes:

Packed with more nutrients per calorie (other than the deep fried varieties) than most other foods, they taste great and you can buy a large bag for little money.

Throw potatoes in the oven whenever you cook something else. You can ignore them as they will bake. Use while hot, or wrap in foil padded with paper to keep hot longer if you want to take them with you. Or refrigerate and use days later. You can also zap a potato in the microwave (to reheat or to bake from raw).

A great way to start your day: add a few toppings to a baked potato. Eat as breakfast. Or throw into your backpack for a fast lunch or dinner that you can take with you. Add toppings now or later: salsa, broccoli and cheese, chili, or any meat and veges.

Pasta:

Pasta like potatoes offers cheap meals with many variations.

Whole wheat pastas have a nuttier flavor and a tanned complexion. They offer more fiber and nutrition than their pale cousins. Otherwise, use the same. Toss with turkey meatballs (lower fat than most made with beef) and sauce. Make into a hot meal or cold salad, adding veges – with or without meat, seafood, or a little cheese for flavor and protein – a little olive oil, salad dressing, teriyaki, pesto, or sauce that you like.

Once you start preparing your own meals, you will find what you like…probably more things than you thought possible. You won’t be sorry that you left that boring campus meal plan behind.

Have fun. Bon Apptit!