College students are notorious for poor eating habits. According to pop culture, we exist solely on ramen noodles, cheap pizza and even cheaper beer.
I’d always wondered whether or not it was feasible for college students to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. So I asked the staff at The Signpost to give me a student-friendly budget for a week of groceries. They settled on $50 for a week of groceries for one person. I doubled that budget since my darling husband was volun-told to be part of this experiment as well.
So, $50 a week per person. Just over $7 a day for food. It seemed really tough, and at first I envisioned dinners made up of ramen and tap water.
Then I realized it would be really easy because I was already living on that budget.
At the beginning of every month we buy an entire month’s worth of groceries. Our budget is $200. Since I have neither the time nor the interest to do an entire month of meal planning, we just buy the foods we like to eat.
Our tastes are simple. We usually get pasta, snackable fruits and vegetables, cereal, eggs, yogurt, bread, that kind of stuff. We buy simple staples that can be used in a variety of ways.
The mathematical breakdown of our eating habits comes down to about $50 a week for the two of us, or $25 a person, half of the budget I was originally given. Our diets may not be supplemented with the latest and greatest from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but we do eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein.
There’s your proof. It’s totally possible to eat a well-balanced diet on a student budget.
If you need more than just my testimony to go on, here are some tips to keeping your food bill inexpensive:
One or two big grocery-shopping trips each month will cost you less than weekly trips. It also keeps you from impulse-buying more expensive foods that aren’t actually that good for you, like chips.
We also keep our grocery bill down by getting our produce through Bountiful Baskets, a food co-op that offers several pounds of fruit and vegetables for just $17.50.
We also don’t eat a ton of meat. We supplement our diet with eggs, canned chicken and tuna, but we only really eat meat like chicken breasts or beef about once a week. Meat is often the most expensive part of your grocery trip, so eating less meat saves money.
It also helps to buy the meat in bulk. Try buying an entire bag of chicken breasts rather than just a couple at a time. You can freeze what you won’t use right away.
Make a big enough meal that you have leftovers. Bulk is good, it saves money to make and saves time to have leftovers readily available when you don’t want to cook.
The hardest part of living on a student budget is the planning and preparation. We’re busy juggling work and school and whatever else is on our plates. It’s tough to take time to make a meal when you’re hungry after a long day, and it’s even tougher to pack or make a meal ahead of time.
This is where I struggled, and though I discovered a few ways to save myself time, such as using a crock pot or making big dinners so I had a built-in lunch the next day, I just had to learn to make time for it.
So try the student budget, it’s totally doable, and easier than you think. In fact, once you get the hang of it you may find yourself with more extra cash than you had before.