Today’s guest post is compliments of my good friend Kristopher Ide. He’s going to answer a question I get asked a lot – “I’m a broke student. How can I afford healthy food on financial aid? Dinner tonight will consist of pizza rolls and a Snapple.” Kris not only manages a great diet as a college student, complete with home cooked meals, but also manages a special diet – he’s gluten-free – and still eats like royalty on a student’s budget. Besides being an all-around lovely foodie, Kris is also super-duper writerly academic: think screenwriting, fiction, and social theory. I’m excited to share his boundless talent with you. Whether you’re learning to cook or know what you’re doing, he’s got some great tips for you.
I must admit, sometimes reading about all the wonderful food items covered in this blog actually pains me. As an insanely busy student who goes to class in the mornings, works part-time in the afternoons, and splits time between clubs and theatre rehearsals nights and weekends, procuring good food, slow-cooked with care and love, can be an infrequent luxury. Throw any number of dietary intolerances or allergies on top of that, and healthy eating is next to impossible.
Yes, eating well as a student is possible!
While literally running from one commitment to the next, food choices often become a complex equation of proper nutrients multiplied by budget constraints and divided by the square root of availability, where X is the constantly shifting variable of cancelled meetings, mis-scheduled appointments, paper deadlines, and amount of sleep needed. How can you think of what to cook for dinner tonight with so much on your plate already? Much of the time it’s easier to grab some quick, processed, pre-packaged nightmare from a vending machine or fast food outlet and wash it down with an energy drink, rather than to seek out healthier, more nutritionally dense options that will better keep the body going and the mind sharp.
If students have never taken a course in nutrition or really learn how to cook, they might not realize the positive role quality food choices can have on their educational career. Many eat potato chips and ramen noodles from week to week, and wonder why they’re tired all the time and can’t concentrate in class. Ideas for dinner consist of whatever it easiest, not what’s actually good for you. Here are some simple tips to show that, with a little effort and some time management, it is possible to eat well, be involved in everything, and still bring that “A” home.
- Before tests, don’t reach for that sugary fruit juice or caffeine-laden soda. Your brain might quit halfway through when your blood-sugar crashes. Eat an apple, a banana, or some dates instead; the fruit sugars are great carbohydrates that will carry your brain further.
- Make time for one night a week where you cook a feast for yourself. Cook up a huge batch of pasta, a big casserole, pot of soup, or a curry stir-fry with a ton of rice. This Spanish rice recipe is perfect for cooking once and eating all week, mixed with other things. You’ll feel fulfilled for at least one night, and with the right to-go containers, you can eat your masterpiece for lunches and/or dinners through the week. Your friends will be jealous, too.
- Never leave the house without fresh vegetables, fruit, or both in your backpack. It may take some prep time to wash, peel, or slice, but nature’s perfect vitamins can save you in a pinch or be a guilt free supplement to that quickie meal of pizza or nachos they sling in the cafeteria. Fresh carrot sticks and celery stalks are super cheap and easy to transport.
- Make sure you schedule enough time to actually eat and enjoy your food. Even a healthy meal scarfed down while sprinting to class won’t make you feel all that great, so sprawl under a tree or on some grassy knoll and take a few deep breaths before you put anything in your mouth. If eating your food is an experience rather than a chore just to stave off collapse, you might find yourself making healthier and tastier choices anyway.
- Whole grains are perfectly cheap and easy. You can buy them in the bulk section, them make a bunch at once and freeze for the future. The same goes for dried beans.
- No matter what you do, make sure you keep reading this blog, because sooner or later you will graduate, and you’re finally going to have more time to make the food that’s best for your life.
Now it’s your turn.
Are you a student – or any other person – who has a hard time with eating well while surviving on limited funds? What is your biggest limitation or frustration when it comes to eating well on a student’s budget? Let me know in the comments below.
To do this week:
- Eating well by planning ahead: When do you find you’re the most hungry, and likely to reach for something unhealthy? Make a note of that time, and pack something delicious that you’ll actually want to eat. I personally pack Lara Bars in my bag – they’re raw, vegan, and still a great sweet treat in the afternoon. All-natural beef jerky is also an awesome protein-packed snack.
- What one big meal can you make in the next few days that will feed you dinner for the rest of the week? Spanish rice is a super cheap dish, and you can make it in, like, 20 minutes.
- Try carrying an extra healthy snack in your bag – apples and oranges are great and don’t bruise when tossed into a backpack with books.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.