How to eat healthy on a college student’s budget

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By Jasmine Maharisi, Editor-In-Chief

It’s inevitable – once you start classes, you’re going to be crunched for both time and cash. And since you’re not looking to order all your meals from McDonald’s Dollar Menu (at least, I hope you’re not), you’ll need a plan. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself deciding how to make a half-eaten bag of Doritos and minimarshmallows into a balanced meal at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night. Been there, done that.

1. Stop buying bottled water.

I know it’s tempting, especially in 100-plus degree weather in the middle of August. But honestly, bottled water is more marketing than anything else. Purchase a reusable container that you can fill up. I prefer the clear acrylic type that comes with a removable straw. At night, stick it in the freezer, and fill it up with ice-cold water before heading out in the morning. Refill at one of the many water fountains on campus or, if you’re off campus, make a pit stop at a nearby convenience store and fill up near the fountain drink area. Some places may charge you a small refill fee, about 10 cents or so, but it sure beats the $1.25 you’d pay for 20 ounces of water in a bottle.

2.Plan meals.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: you’re going to be tired and not feel like cooking. That’s when it’s most tempting to take a trip to Burger King for your grub. And don’t even think about so-called “healthy” frozen dinners. Those entrees are filled with sodium and are really expensive. Instead, make your own microwaveable dinners by cooking meals in advance, dividing them into individual storage containers and freezing them. When you’re hungry, grab one of your homemade dinners and pop it into the microwave. It may be beneficial to make a week’s worth of meals at a time, like on a Sunday in between studying. You can even purchase an insulated lunch bag and take your meals with you and heat them up in the microwaves located in commons areas on campus.

3. Go frozen.

Fruits and veggies are super important for good nutrition, but a trip to the produce department can wreak havoc on your wallet. Opt for frozen fruits and vegetables instead, which are about half the cost of fresh and still good for you. Plus, frozen fruits and vegetables come washed and cut, making preparation oh-so-simple. And don’t think frozen means less variety. Brands like Bird’s Eye and Green Giant have come up with some truly great combinations of vegetables that taste yummy. With that said, fresh apples and oranges are not too expensive and are still the most convenient for a quick grab-and-go snack. Buy these fruits in the bulk bags for even bigger savings.

4. Buy store brands.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but store brands are often (although not always) less expensive than commercial brands. And most of the time, the taste difference is minimal. Especially for products such as cereal, eggs, milk and bread, store brands are the way to go for significant savings. Also, many stores like Baker’s and Hy-Vee will offer additional discounts for buying more store brands such as Baker’s “10 for $10” sales. There are some products that just can’t be substituted with a store brand, and these are often based on individual preferences. Personally, I can’t replace Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a store brand box. I’ll pay the extra quarter to get the brand I like.

5. Watch store ads.

Don’t drive all around Omaha from store to store in order to get the best deal on sale items. The price of gas trumps any savings you’d yield during your journey. Luckily, there are stores (such as No Frills Supermarket) that will price match other stores. For example, if Hidden Valley salad dressing is on sale for $1.50 at Baker’s, No Frills will sell it to you for that price, too, as long as you show the ad to the No Frills cashier. This way, you save gas money but are still able to get the same deals you would if you went from store to store.

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