7 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By: Caitlin Smith ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern

While in college, it can be hard to be mindful of our diets, especially when cash is tight. I’ve seen my share of cabinets full of ramen noodle packages, boxes of mac and cheese, and pop-tarts.

There’s a common misconception that eating healthfully is expensive and thus, it becomes a low tier priority.

However, I’m here to tell you that being broke does not have to be synonymous with being unhealthy.


Image used under the Creative Commons license from Flickr user muammerokumus

Here are some tips I have come to learn and love:

  1. Buy frozen and/or canned fruits and vegetables. Many people believe that if fruits and vegetables aren’t fresh then they aren’t healthy. That’s not true! Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and then frozen so it contains an optimal amount of nutrients. For canned items, just be sure to look for low sodium items and fruits that are canned in 100% juice instead of heavy syrup.
  2. Buy in bulk. Since we typically only feed ourselves as college students, this tip can seem counter intuitive. Wouldn’t this be wasteful? The key is to buy things like meat, seafood, and even bread in bulk and then freeze them so they won’t go bad.
  3. Skip the name brands. There’s a common misconception out there that the store brand items don’t taste as good as the name brand ones. However, more often than not, the ingredient list is exactly the same. It’s usually just the appearance of the box or packaging that is different. Next time you’re at the grocery store, compare your favorite name brand item with a store brand one.
  4. Shop at farmers and/or ethnic markets. This is usually an effective way of getting produce for a cheaper price than what the grocery store sells them for, especially when it comes to in-season produce. Check out The Farmers Market at Maryland which is right here on campus in front of Cole Field House every Wednesday from 11-3!
  5. Pack lunches and snacks. When you’re spending all day on campus, as many of us are, it’s easy to work up an appetite. However, frequently buying food on campus can get expensive. Buy some reusable containers and pack some lunches and snacks such as grapes, humus and pretzels, sliced cucumber, or a turkey sandwich. Throw it in your backpack in the morning and you have a quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious way to save some money.
  6. Get creative in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many healthy, cheap, and yummy little recipes I’ve created since I came to college and I’m no chef! I often use things like tuna, rice, and frozen vegetables and just throw them together.  Get creative in the kitchen using any ingredients you already have.
  7. Visit the Health Center! Last but certainly not least, consider making an appointment for free diet analysis to learn more tips and tricks for eating lots of good food with limited funds.

Visit choosemyplate.gov for even more information on how to remain healthy on a budget.

This entry was posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 7 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

  1. Thank you Caitlin for such a helpful article! I began packing my lunch when I was a college student in the attempt to eat healthier and in the process learned I saved a ton of money! Fast forward 20 years and I still pack my lunch because it became such an ingrained habit. I wonder how many $$$ I’ve saved over the 20 years of “lunch boxing it”!
    This was perfect timing for this topic, coinciding with the opening of the Campus Food Pantry. Learn more at http://campuspantry.umd.edu/

    Campus Dietitian

  2. D boutselis says:

    Awesome article, very helpful!

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