How to eat healthy on a college budget

There are many organic products now available at local grocers that weren’t available a few years ago. And there are many people pushing the “all organic diet” and passing judgment on those of us who can’t afford these expensive products.

Despite being on a strict budget, it is possible to eat healthy as a college student. (Credit: Quick Meme)

Despite being on a strict budget, it is possible to eat healthy as a college student. (Credit: Quick Meme)

Curious about how to eat healthy on a college budget? Read on for this week’s college life hacks about healthy eating.

To plant or not to plant

If you’re living in off-campus housing and have even a teeny ounce of sunshiny-space available, you might consider planting a few easy-to-keep veggies. If you have a local farmer’s market nearby you can purchase already seeded and potted plants for relatively cheap. Consider planting veggies that you already regularly buy to save money. This April 9, 2012, post from DeVon Applewhite for Farmer’s Almanac, Easy Porch Plants,” offers advice on how to plant just about any veggie in a pot in a sunny place.

  • Cherry tomatoes: While some cherry tomato varieties flourish in small containers, others need roomier pots to reach full potential.
  • Bell peppers: A pot that is at least eight inches deep and 12 inches in diameter is recommended to grow this aromatic vegetable.
  • Squash: Gardeners must be careful not to plant the seeds too close together. Unless using a container the size of half a barrel, it is recommended gardeners use one plant per pot and utilize a trellis so the plant will grow upward.

Applewhite suggests using bigger pots (rather than small ones) to ensure plants have enough room to grow, checking soil regularly, and fertilize as needed, to produce healthy, tasty veggies!

Buying organic

If you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have the space to try your hand at gardening this year, consider looking into buying organic produce to reduce the amount of GMOs going into your system. College Green Magazine contributor, Audrey Bonfig, offers tips in her January 23, 2013, post “How-To: Buy Organic Food on a Budget.” Begin small: “Substituting even a few organic items in your weekly groceries has a huge impact on your health and the planet,” Bonfig says. To do this:

  • Only buy organic items if they don’t have a peel: Strawberries, peppers, and celery are all items that don’t have an outer layer that we peel off before consuming.
  • Buy organic food items that you already regularly eat: Don’t waste your money buying items that will go to waste.
  • Hit those farmer’s markets rather than the fancy chain stores.
  • Don’t be afraid to do your research: You’ll educate yourself and your roomies about healthy eating!

Healthy recipes on a budget

Now what to do with all those healthy vegetables and fruits? Make some healthy dishes, of course! Not everything you’re going to use for these recipes will be organic, but they will be delish! Bon Appetit writer Hannah Wallace discusses her family’s challenge to eat healthy in her “Eating Organic Food on a Food Stamp Budget Is Possible” article. While it’s likely that you won’t be spending $526 (in food stamps) a month on groceries for yourself, you could consider splitting groceries with your roommates and treating your house as a family unit on a budget. Here are some of Wallace’s recipes:

  • Baked Potato Bar: 1 Russet potato for each person, and toppings such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, onion, black beans (full of fiber!), broccoli, sautéed spinach, etc. Prepare baked potato in the oven (450-degrees for 50 minutes) and top with desired items. Total cost: about $6, depending on toppings.
  • Vampire Slayer’s Soup: garlic, onion, olive oil, potatoes, fresh thyme, black pepper, and chicken broth combine for this meal soup that’s sure to ward off vampires. Wallace suggests serving with a salad made from your homegrown veggies and some fresh bread. Cost: Less than $12.
  • Charred Brussels Sprouts: You’ve probably already turned your nose up at this one, but give these mini-cabbages another try! You’ll broil them combined with olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice and red chili flakes: A delicious and healthy side dish! Costs about $4.

To save even more cash, check out Organic Deal Diva for coupons on organic products. Have any other tips to share with college students on a budget? Share below!

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