Ah, student life. Between all the writing, reading, presenting, socializing and deciding on things like your major, what you eat may be the last thing on your mind. But don’t forget how important food is in your overall goals – it fuels you! Eating healthy means getting sick less often (big bonus around exam times when stressors are high), having more energy (to actually socialize after studying — or vice versa!) and having the ability to better recall information that is necessary for a successful completion of your degree. However, as we all know from checking out the “natural aisles” in grocery stores, eating healthy can be expensive. This type of expense is often not seen as important to students on loans, who are, in all honesty, just trying to pay tuition and rent with a little left over to eat with. This is why the ramen diet emerged — students really do need to conserve as much money as possible.
Well, after five years on a student loan (with debt repayment still occurring), I’m here to tell you that eating healthy (and vegan) doesn’t have to blow up your student loans at all. In fact, with these tried and true methods, you can actually save money compared to other students who choose convenience, animal products and quick energizers like sugary drinks and coffee. Want to see how I kept healthy and vegan on a student loan? Read below.
1. Be Realistic
Are you really going to eat a whole bag of apples or carrots before they rot or you decide to just toss them (and your money) away? Buy in portions you know you can finish to prevent waste and keep freshness. The same rule goes for foods you may not necessary “like,” but feel you “need” to eat. For instance, consider this scenario: you hate avocados, but have heard about their healthy fat benefits. You stare one down at the store thinking, “I really should eat that this week.” Know this: you’re probably not going to. This is not to discourage you from trying it out, but to be realistic about your own preferences. If you hate something, don’t buy it–no matter how good it is for you. Instead, use that money on other healthy items you know you will eat. Remember, you can’t get healthy from something sitting on your shelf or in your fridge.
2. Know the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen
Part of being healthy means trying to lower our exposures to harmful chemicals like pesticides and herbicides on our food. However, what student on a loan can afford a fully organic grocery bill? Know which foods are worth it by checking out which ones have the highest and lowest amount of chemical residues. Buy the dirty dozen organic and don’t worry about the rest until you land that awesome job you’re working so hard for.
3. Buy Packaged Products in Bulk
Every student needs a pantry of go-to goods. Whether it be soups, rice, beans or pasta, try to buy in bulk to save money. Moreover, shop discount shelves for even better deals. See this article, For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List.
4. Skip Soda Pop
Soda pop may make you feel momentarily amazing while up late at night with your books, but we know it doesn’t last. Instead, you get a nasty sugar crash, a tired immune system and a host of anxious caffeinated energy to deal with. Plus, pop is an unnecessary expense! Refuel and rehydrate with water.
5. Have a Party — A Chopping Party, That Is!
Want to save money and be healthy? Stop buying produce pre-chopped. Instead, host a chopping party each week where your friends (dorm mates, roommates, etc.) each contribute an item to chop. In the end, you share the chopped goods, making your bill smaller and your socializing productive! See this article on How to Hack Your Way to Slicing and Chopping in Record Time.
6. Cook in Bulk
Each Sunday night, make a huge portion of chilli, rice, beans, pasta, etc. for the week ahead. With your pre-chopped produce and then this, you’ll have convenient week-day dinners for a fraction of the cost of frozen or take-out meals. You can also freeze meals for later.
7. Don’t Eat While You Study
The mindless snacking that goes hand-in-hand with studying needs to stop, both for your health and your wallet. Eating while studying means not paying attention to portions, taste or digestion. If you’re really hungry, take the break to eat. Trust me, doing both together means you’re not eating or studying effectively.
8. Avoid Eating Out
This one is hard. You have new friends, new restaurants, new freedoms, but you don’t have unlimited income. Eating out means paying a huge mark-up on foods — especially healthy ones. Do yourself and your wallet a favor by staying in with friends instead. Host a potluck, cooking party or grocery shop trip to stay social. Here are some recipes to get you started.
Eating healthy (and vegan) on a student loan budget doesn’t have to be hard! Try these tips to save money and improve your health today.
Lead image source: COD Newsroom/ Flickr
I\’m a college student who goes to school full-time and works part-time. My student loans really help me live life and pay bills, but I don\’t want to just blow all the money I make. I\’ve found a few simple recipes that I keep as staples in my diet.
-Granola Bars: In a pan, melt 3/4 c peanut (or almond) butter with 1/2 c maple syrup until they mix well. In a large mixing bowl, add 3 c quick oats, 2 T chia seeds and 1/2 cups mixed crushed nuts (I also add other things occasionally such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.). Mix the dry ingredients well, then add the melted butter and syrup. Pour everything into a 9×13 pan and pack down as much as you can. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes at 325 and you have granola bars for a week!
-Rice, Beans, and Veggies: soak beans and rice (or maybe some quinoa) for 8 hours in separate pots overnight. Strain, then add water to cover and cook for 30 minutes (or until tender). Store in glass containers in the fridge for up to a week and anytime you\’re hungry, reheat in a pan and add some frozen or fresh vegetables, sauce of choice and voila!
-PB&J: I tend to use peanut butter in my granola but almond butter on my sandwiches. Just make sure to use a great whole grain bread (I recommend Rudi\’s or Food for Life.) Maybe not the healthiest but great in a pinch!
-Salads: Keep some spinach, cucumber, red pepper, carrots and sunflower seeds handy and salads can be ready in a moments notice! Always use whatever vegetables you\’re most likely to eat, otherwise you\’ll just watch your money rot in the fridge (I speak from experience.)
-Roasted Veggies: Asparagus, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are great to throw on a pan, spritz with some oil, sprinkle with some seasoning and throw in the oven at 325 for 15 minutes. I\’m not gonna lie, I don\’t always like to eat veggies, so I make my own BBQ sauce to dip them in and it gets me eating more every time! Throw in some tempeh for some extra protein :)