I’ve just started my seventh year of post-secondary education. I’ve been doing this “student” thing for a decent amount of time now, and am looking forward to (finally) entering the workforce within the next year. That being said, I’ve learned quite a bit in the past six years- and not just in school. As a result of becoming independent and assuming life’s responsibilities, I’ve learned some ways to take control of feeding myself healthily, affordably and efficiently.
Life as a student presents many challenges to eating: time to cook becomes an issue when we become buried in our books, the food we want to eat can seem expensive when it’s you doing the groceries instead of mom and dad, and there are always ample opportunities to indulge on unhealthy, unnecessary extra calories (think of that after-bar-poutine or that study group pizza).
Here are some of my ideas to deal with the above challenges:
- On a less busy day, make a big pot of homemade soup or chili. Once finished, separate it into plastic containers and put them in the freezer. Come midterm season, let the container thaw in the fridge overnight or in the microwave, and have a ready-to-eat meal in no time! You can also cook the equivalent of a few meals on a Sunday night to store in the fridge for some no-prep dinners in the coming week.
- Plan meals before grocery shopping and think of several different dishes that could use overlapping ingredients. For example, it’s hard to use an entire head of spinach (I opt for the head rather than bagged because its less expensive). To get your moneys worth and prevent waste, find recipes for a main course spinach salad, serve it as a side dish, and add it to soups, omelets, pasta and sandwiches. Getting creative with ingredients makes it possible to use them up and avoid getting sick of them.
- Buying meat less often also saves money. Try incorporating other inexpensive sources of protein such as beans, lentils, tofu and canned tuna into your diet. This is also an environmentally friendly decision since growing and transporting livestock consumes more energy than produce.
- Find out the places on campus to get affordable or even free food and ask your grocery store if they have any student discounts. My campus offers a free vegetarian lunch every Thursday, provided the students bring their own dishes to keep the event environmentally friendly. Friends of mine who have been studying in the cafeteria around closing hours have been offered that day’s leftovers. The grocery store near my house offers students a 10% discount at the beginning of the week as well as free delivery. Finding good food deals may be easier than you think!
- A good way to avoid that heavy late night snack or a spontaneous trip to the corner store for chips and chocolate is to keep tasty yet healthy options on hand. Low-fat low-sodium microwave popcorn satisfies my salty cravings (and provides a generous amount of fiber). Pop-in-your-mouth fruits like grapes or berries please my sweet palate- they’re sort of like nature’s candies anyways!
- If you’re absolutely craving that pizza, I suggest making your own. Buy a premade multigrain crust or use a whole-wheat pita, add some tomato sauce or pesto, load it with a ton of fresh veggies, and top with some cheese. This is a yummy way to incorporate one or two servings of vegetables, it can last for a few meals, it is healthier than frozen or fast food pizza, and it still manages to hit the spot.
These tips are simple and easy, but that’s what I think works about them- they are doable! So start today and try one out!