Friday, July 31, 2015

Eating Well on a Budget

As a college student with limited monies, it can be hard to figure out how to balance food-budget and health. For a while, I actually just gave up and opted for the cheap, convenient, not terribly nourishing foods. Unfortunately, that didn't go over well with my body, and I ended up feeling tired 90% of the time, randomly feeling sick for no reason, and having bouts of dizziness. 

Not good, no?

So, I started putting a little more thought into what I was buying, and found out that really, buying certain healthy foods actually doesn't cost a whole lot more than buying cheap-y food from Wal-mart (ramen noodles, mac'n'cheese, frozen pizza) or going to fast food restaurants and buying off the value menu. Because admit it, sure, you can buy five things of ramen noodles for a dollar, but who is going to actually willingly eat ramen for every single meal? It's more likely you'll eat them throughout the week, but supplement it with more "tasty" foods from fast food restaurants, which adds up pretty quick.

  • Bread - loaf of wheat bread is ~$3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Eggs - a dozen of the free range eggs are almost $4 right now, thanks to the egg shortage, but usually are between $2 - $3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Beef - depends on what you get, but you can get those four-packs of little steaks at Wal-mart for $4 - $5 (lasts four days)
  • Milk - a gallon is about $4 (lasts a couple weeks)
  • Yogurt - the real good Greek yogurt is ~$4 (lasts about a week)
  • V8 - ~$3 (lasts about five days)
  • Rice - good brown rice is ~$2 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • EmergenC - if you buy it at Sams Club, you can get a three-pack for ~$15, rather than $8 for one box at Wal-mart (one box lasts about a month)
  • Frozen vegetables - ~$2 if you get one of the yummy stir-fry mixes (lasts about two weeks)
  • Frozen fruit - ~$3 (lasts about a week)
  • Frozen hashbrowns - ~$3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Applesauce - ~$3 if you get the good stuff without corn syrup (lasts a little over a week)
  • Lunch meat - the good, natural, no nitrate stuff is ~$4 (lasts about four days)
  • Granola bars - the good ones that have protein and fiber are ~$3-4

If I bought everything on this list (including the 3-month supply of EmergenC), it would cost about $64.  Needless to say, I rarely buy everything on this list for my week's supply of food. Typically, I only spend $15-$20 a week on food. The best thing is that these things lend themselves to diversity, so there's little danger of getting completely tired of something and not wanting to eat it ever again. Which is the problem I ran into with eating ramen noodles, mac'n'cheese, and dollar menu items too much.

Here's a quick overview of what I use these things for:

  • Bread - Used for sandwiches (obviously), egg-in-the-windows, toast, or dipping in yogurt
  • Eggs - Eaten on their own, as sandwiches, or mixed into fried rice
  • Beef - Cut up and frozen in individual bags with soy sauce. Then when you're ready to eat it, you can just thaw a single bag and cook it up on its own, or mixed into rice or veggies. * I make sure to freeze the pieces flat so they don't freeze together in a ball and make it ten times harder to cook.
  • Yogurt - Mix fruits into it, or use for smoothies, or just eat on its own.
  • V8 - I know, V8 is disgusting, *but*, the fruit fusion V8s actually taste good, and you get a good dose of fruits and veggies. If you have high blood pressure problems, this can be a bad choice because it has high sodium, but since I have low blood pressure, it's actually a good thing!
  • Rice - Most versatile thing ever! Mix in veggies, meat, or brown sugar and cinnamon, or eat it on its own... If you don't have time to make it in a rice cooker, the Minute Brown Rice is good too.
  • EmergenC - Drunk on its own, or, my favorite, mixed into yogurt. It gives the yogurt a yummy whipped texture because of the carbonation stuff, and the orange EmergenC makes it taste like orange cream. So. Good.
  • Frozen vegetables - Stir-fry, fried rice, etc...
  • Frozen fruit - Thawed and eaten on its own, or mixed into smoothies or yogurt.
  • Frozen hashbrowns - Delicious cooked up with an egg over it.

And that's that!
Make good food choices!

- The Raven

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