There is an increasing issue on many college campuses of food insecurity and hunger among college students. Here we have some helpful tips to counter this rising epidemic and provide help on how to eat properly on the budget of a college student. As a student, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is crucial to take care of your body and be cognizant of the food you are fueling your body with. That being said, the dollar menu and other cheap sources of fast food are not your friend and often contain low quality products that can create health problems down the line. There is a much smarter way to adapt to the budget of a college student lifestyle and still create satisfying healthy meals for yourself!
The Initial investment is often the most extensive part of this procedure. Even though it may be slightly expensive these tools will go a long way and save you money in the long run!
Here are a few kitchen essentials to get you started:
- A set that contains pots and saucepans
- Baking dishes (approximately 2)
- Mixing bowls
- Cookware/utensils set (forks, spoon, knives, steak knife, serving spoon, spatula)
- Measuring cups
- Tableware sets (plates, cups, bowls, mugs)
- Can opener
- Durable containers for storage (Tupperware)
- Don’t forget about Oven mitts!
- Cleaning supplies (dishwashing liquid, dishwasher detergent, sponges, towels, broom, mop, etc.)
- Aluminum foil, parchment paper, sealable plastic bags (or invest in some reusable ones!)
- Crock pot/slow cooker
- Air fryer
- Blender/ or a small blender
- Coffee pot or Keurig
- Cutting board
OVERALL, you can equip a starter kitchen for around $100!
The next step in this process is the purchase of some crucial ingredients that can be used in any recipe or to enhance the flavor of most food products!
The Pantry staples (the basics of dry goods and flavor enhancers):
Starches- Your carbohydrate sources
- Rice or Quinoa
- Beans (canned or a bagged)
- Potatoes (super cheap in bulk and easily transformable for any meal)
TIP: buying these ingredients in bulk can ultimately be a cheaper option overall and can make your supplies last significantly longer!
All of these items can be incorporated into almost any meal, so it is definitely a good idea to stock up on ALL of these items!
These can come in handy in any situation whether it is an ingredient in a recipe or just to simply enhance the flavor of your food!
- A Basic Spice Set (if able to consume)
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper (and some kind of seasoning salt)
- Chili Powder
- Basil, oregano, and/or Italian seasoning
- Garlic and onion powder
- Crushed red pepper
These herbs and spices are always a good thing to have in your kitchen, but you definitely don’t have to purchase any of these items and are entirely based off of preference!
Sugar and baking essentials:
- Flour, baking soda/powder, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, etc.
Canned or frozen vegetables
These can also be incorporated into any meal and allow you to get the nutrients you need! Frozen veggies are the better of the two options, but canned vegetables work just as well!
- Fresh or frozen fruits
- These will be good for a healthy snack or even to make a delicious smoothie!
- Other Necessities (if able to consume)
- Milk (or any alternative milk) for cooking/ drinking purposes
- Cheese! (if able to consume this product you can incorporate it into so many of your meals)
- Peanut Butter
- Coffee or Tea
- As a college student who is definitely going to need some caffeine, it would be extremely beneficial if you brew your own coffee and tea rather than spending money on caffeine at expensive coffee shops! Plus you will have it there already for when you are eventually going to need it.
Mastering a few basic cooking techniques will ultimately help you in the long run to make any recipe fast and easily! So, knowing a couple of knife techniques as well as crucial elements involved in the art of cooking (such as dicing, chopping, mincing, and sautéing) will be extremely helpful in your new cooking journey!
The 5 steps to making a dish:
- Recipe, prep, and some knife skills
- Apply Heat and Cook!
- Know when it is done!
- Assembly of the components
- Ready to Eat!
For instruction on some basic knife skills: https://www.instructables.com/id/Basic-Knife-Skills/
And for easier prep keep your knife blades sharp!
PACK LUNCHES AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN!!
Meal Prepping can be your absolute BEST FRIEND!!
Planning each day’s meals and snacks can be super friendly on a college student budget! By making an exact grocery list of the items and ingredients (along with exactly how much you will require) that you will need to purchase for the upcoming week(s) it helps prevent overspending and keeps you accountable overall.
Furthermore, by designating a day (usually a Sunday afternoon) to cook a full week’s worth of lunches/dinners to then freeze and store them for later use can decrease the cost of eating out and guarantee you are eating a healthy well-balanced meal!
LEFTOVERS are also a great idea to save money as well as decrease the amount of food waste!
Other Helpful Tips to avoid Food Insecurity and Develop healthy eating habits:
- Don’t skip meals!
- Being a college student means juggling classes, workloads, jobs, all while attempting to take care of your own mental and physical health. This busy lifestyle can also lead to skipping meals in many instances. In order to effectively take care of yourself you must be fueling your body! Meal prepping can help curb this problem by already having a meal already prepared!
- Keep healthy snacks on hand
- By purchasing healthier snacking alternatives, it also promotes this idea of healthy eating rather than fueling your body with trash junk food!
- Take advantage of student discounts
- If you absolutely HAVE to eat out, make sure you take advantage of the student discounts that many restaurants/food places offer for college students. This is a great way to at least save a little bit of cash!
- Don’t forget about coupons and different specials that are offered at that particular establishment!
- Go Grocery shopping with friends!
- More than likely you will be less tempted to stray from your list if you have someone there keeping you accountable so it is always good to shop with a friend!
- Cook food you actually like and know you will eat!
- If cooking on your own and attempting to have a well-balanced diet make sure that the foods you are buying and preparing are things you will actually enjoy eating. This guarantees less food waste!
ALWAYS be mindful of your budget and how much you can spend while out grocery shopping!!