Eat Smart and Study Hard: 5 Tips for a Healthy Student on a Budget

If you have a tight budget, little spare time and a kitchen with a two-ring hob and a toaster, chances are frozen pizzas or microwave meals have replaced your groceries list.

Whether you are an international student or simply live away from your family, there is one thing we have in common: the crave for mum’s home cooked meals. Gone are the days when your mum waited for you with a proper healthy dish.

Most students give up the idea of eating healthy because they think it’s too expensive. Even though at first these kinds of meals appear to be the cheapest option, you can actually save a lot of money eating healthier.

Here are the top 5 tips on how you can avoid junk food and eat healthily on the tightest of budgets.

Buy in Bulk

Stock up on foods - like cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes - that are easy to store and will last you a long time. These are only a few foods that are always a good value if you shop wisely. For a healthy balanced diet your body needs carbs so meals that include pasta, oats or rice are not only very cheap but also healthy provided you combine them correctly. This is why cans shouldn’t be missing from your shopping bag. Chopped tomatoes, baked beans, sweet corn, artichokes or any other option you like are healthy options if you buy them without added sugar or salt.

Prepare your food

If you want to save money, stop buying ready meals and start cooking your own food. The number one excuse is that this is time consuming but the truth is you don’t have to cook every day. Replace your ready meal pasta and jarred sauce with a home cooked healthy version avoiding creamy sauces. Chopped tomatoes are one of the cheapest things you can find on the market and it is so easy to create your own sauces and store them in the fridge. By cooking your own lunch, placing it in plastic containers and taking it with you to university you will save time and money. Salads, risotto, baked beans with wholemeal bread, potatoes with canned beans or tuna - are only a few options you can choose from.

Frozen vegetables and fruits

Frozen straight after picking, fruits and vegetables can contain more nutrients than fresh ones. They are also half the price and last for ages when kept frozen. Most of the time, they are already washed and cut which will save you a lot of preparation time.

Discounted meals and reduced prices

You can shop in the evening for reduced prices. Most stores discount food when their expiration date is approaching. Don’t be seduced by special offers - avoid impulse buying by eating before you shop and making a list of what you need to stop you from buying unnecessary things. This is one of the best ways to buy meat and things you had your eyes on but couldn’t afford. Even though many students avoid it, in many cases this type of food can be frozen and consumed later.

'Use by' and 'Best before'

Every student should know the difference between a health warning and a maker’s view of finest quality. Therefore, ‘Use by’ means exactly the fact that the food isn’t safe to consume and chances are it could make you ill. 'Best before' food is often fine to eat because it takes longer to go off. Once the date has passed, use your eyes and nose to check. The product might not have the same freshness,  texture or rich flavour but it’s safe to eat. 

Main image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons