5 Cheap, Healthy, and Easy Ways to Eat as a College Student

By John Landers on May 18, 2014

College is a magical place, where, if you so choose, you can eat all the crap you want without worrying about scolding from parents about “ruining your appetite.” And local places in college towns know this. It’s tough to turn down a large pizza at Domino’s for $3.50, or whatever ridiculously low price they sell them for now. But, as we all learned in health class, eating pizza for 2 meals a day is the best way to add on to that Freshman Fifteen.

“But it’s so cheap and quick, and I need beer money!” Yes, I understand. But what if I told you that it’s possible to eat healthy food that’s easy to prepare, and still have money for that 12-pack? Here are some basic items to get you started:

1. Frozen Chicken Breasts

Yeah, I know, it’s factory chicken, it’s evil. So is McDonald’s. As college kids, we don’t have the luxury of eating ethically. And at $2.30 a pound, who can blame us? Get yourself a Kroger Plus card and pick up a bag of frozen chicken breasts when you go. They’re a great source of protein with almost no fat. Now, you could cook these over the stove in a pan, maybe with a little olive oil or butter. But it’s 2014- who has time to cook over a fire like a Pilgrim? Which brings me to item #2:

2. George Foreman Grill

This is the greatest product ever made for lazy, cheap, health-conscious college kids. You put your frozen chicken on the grill, close it, plug it in, and cooked meat magically appears after 10 minutes. And you know it’s healthy, because all the fat drips out as it’s being cooked. I use this thing at least once a day, and it was the best $20 I ever spent. But, of course, meat is only one component of a healthy diet. You also need…

3. Frozen Vegetables

Remember that Kroger Plus card I told you to get? Use it again to buy a couple packs of frozen vegetables. Just a side note, I’m in no way affiliated with Kroger. They’re just the cheapest option available that’s not Walmart. They’re typically $1 a piece if you can find them on sale. Unlike typical frozen food, there’s no added salt. And it’s so much easier than actually cooking vegetables. Just empty out the pack onto a plate, nuke it for 5 minutes, and they’re ready to eat. There are also a ton of options available, so you can mix it up a little. But, unless you’re on the Atkins Diet (Do people still do that?), you need carbs. For that, you get the most bang for your buck with…

4. Rice

Rice is so cheap it’s ridiculous. You can pick up a 2 pound bag at- you guessed it- Kroger for a little over $1, and it’ll last you a week. White rice is okay for you, but brown rice is significantly healthier. And, personally, I think it has more taste to it. Now, this is the item that takes the longest to cook, but it still requires very little effort on your part. Just put 1 part rice, 2 parts water into a pot, bring it to a boil, then turn it on low and cover it for 30-45 minutes. I like to make a couple servings at a time to minimize the cooking time, then just refrigerate it for leftovers. Overall, a great source of fiber, whole grains, and even a little protein. Now, this is all well and good for dinner foods, but what about breakfast? Fear not, there are healthy and absurdly cheap foods for all hours of the day.

5. Oatmeal

At Kroger, I can buy 15 breakfasts’ worth of oats for a couple bucks, and it’s a much healthier breakfast option than a Pop-tart or a bagel. Just add milk or water to a cup of oats, nuke it for a couple minutes, add some honey, and you got yourself a breakfast! And this isn’t those packets of instant stuff full of sugar that your mom used to make you for breakfast. With high fiber, protein, and no added ingredients, it’s tough to find a healthier breakfast option.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become lazier, cheaper, and more health-conscious than ever, so you can trust me when I say these items are some of the best options out there. With all that money I save, my weekends become a lot more fun, and I don’t feel guilty about all those extra beer calories since I make up for it during the week. So don’t blow your money on crappy food. Eat smart and keep that Freshman Fifteen off.

 

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I am a 4th year undergrad at the University of Georgia working on a B.B.A. in Management. I am currently interning with a small start-up company, and hope to have a start-up of my own by the time I graduate. I run a blog about beer, bieraccount.com

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