Enid K. Headley, RHN
You're back to school and back in class-now it's back-to-back macaroni and cheese, two nights in a row.
You're back to school and back in class now it's back-to-back macaroni and cheese, two nights in a row. From first year to freshly graduated, the student reality does not always encourage natural, healthy eating practices, nor does it allow time to perfect well-balanced meals.
When my ex-roommate and I reminisce about our first year living together in an off-campus apartment, we still giggle over our "first-food" experiences. Above all else, we were loyal Campbell soup kids my roommate mastered the "add-a-can-of-water-and-stir" technique, and I was addicted to the childhood nostalgia of crushed soda crackers soaked in steaming chicken noodle soup. Luckily for us, healthy meal preparation had a learning curve that paralleled four years of university studies.
We learned that it is financially possible and rewardingly beneficial to eat healthy as a university student. One must sacrifice a certain amount of time and so-called "convenience," a certain degree of mainstream normalcy and a certain aisle of prepackaged junk food favourites. But the benefits gained to enhance student survival depict a picture of improved health, increased stamina and stress-enduring capabilities, as well as heightened intellectual clarity and memory all of which result in fewer stress-induced zits, fewer hours spent memorizing lecture notes for exams, and more dawn-lit hours dancing.
Plan Your Budget
First determine exactly how much you have available to spend on food. Keep a diary of all your daily food expenses to see where your money is actually going. You may be surprised to find that the cost of going out for pizza, both financially and in terms of health, is more expensive than opting for the organic version of that good old standby, macaroni and cheese.
Buying fresh food at reasonable prices can be a student reality and does not have to require much additional effort or money. With your daily expense journal or receipts on hand, you can easily compare what stores offer the best buys on particular items. Comparison shopping at the nearest grocers or health food stores will also quickly help to determine where fresh, affordable produce can be purchased. Once you're in the store, also compare the cost of conventional and organic products. Organics are more readily available than ever before, and you may find that some organic foods are in relatively the same price range as conventional items.
Buy Seasonal Produce
The nutritional quality and exceptional taste of organic food literally allows you to put your money where your mouth is. The additional cost is surprisingly minimal if you buy both local and in-season fruits and veggies, which are available at local farmers' markets. If that's not an option, it's worth checking out a nearby organic food depot or calling a local organic home-delivery service. Both these options are becoming more popular and as a result are offering more competitive rates. Also ask if they offer discounts sometimes being a member of your local vegetarian association can have additional benefits.
Buy In Bulk
Pre-wrapped, boxed or canned foods may be convenient, but they are also full of salt, additives, preservatives and unhealthy hydrogenated fats. Rather than choosing processed foods in the attempt to spare change, buy dry staples such as legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds they're protein-rich products that are beneficial not only for the body, but also for the financially frugal student budget. Trail mixes, dried fruits and nuts and seeds are healthy convenience snacks that you can pop in a knapsack. Nut butters and purified water can also be bought in bulk from most health food stores. Many stores even discount customers who reuse their own containers.
Plan Your Meals
For many students, the act of eating healthier is often cited as a personal goal, but hesitation often hits somewhere between the fridge and the stove. As I began to be limited by a growing list of food allergies, my university dining experiences became known as "BYOBB" Bring Your Own Brown Bag. Although preplanned food preparation requires concentrated time and effort, the dollars-and-cents return is more than rewarding. And packing your own salads, fruits, nuts, seeds, and cut-up veggies can even be less time-consuming than the effort to purchase a meal. The more basic the food, the more basic is its preparation!