As the semester wraps up, I’ve started auditing my experience of living in an apartment, and truly on my own, for the first time. Of course living in a dorm is essentially on your own as well, since your parents aren’t there, but apartment living is a whole new ball game…because you have to feed yourself.
This is a bittersweet realization. You don’t have to survive the dining halls anymore, but you do have to survive your own cooking. Ha! There’s been some ups (learning to cook chicken) and downs (almost setting grilled cheese on fire), but I’ve come a long way since the beginning of the school year. Cooking aside, one thing that I actually feel like I’ve mastered is healthy living on a college girl’s budget. I see SO many college girls living off of frozen meals and hot pockets, but you don’t have to be one of those girls! Below I’m listing my top nine healthy foods to eat on a budget, and most of them are super simple for those of you ladies with a busy schedule (trust me, I’ve been there). And you definitely don’t have to be a college gal to reap the benefits of this roundup! I’ll so be carrying over this grocery list when I graduate next year.
Also, I’m providing a recipe guide at the end of this post, so don’t miss out on that! There’ll be tons of ways to incorporate these cheap clean eats into your daily diet!
You can do SO many things with old-fashioned oats. And they’re CHEAP considering how much you get in one container. I keep them in my apartment at all times, and the large canisters last me weeks, if not a month or more. One of my favorite ways to use them is in this sweet potato veggie burger recipe. P.S. If you want more recipe ideas, drop your email in the form at the bottom of this post to receive the free recipe guide. I’m providing at least three ways to use each cheap & healthy food I’m listing here inside!
2. Frozen Veggies
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit I can get a little snobby when it comes to frozen foods. I typically like whatever I eat to be as fresh as possible. BUT, I’ve been doing my research, and according to this article from Eating Well, frozen vegetables may be even healthier than fresh. This is because they tend to be frozen at their peak ripeness, which is basically when they are known to be the most nutrient-packed. And did I mention that frozen veggies are SO much cheaper than fresh? Hallelujah for broke college girls around the world. I’ve wasted so, so, SO much money buying fresh vegetables, especially during their off seasons, just to have them rot before I even get around to eating them. And if you’re really picky, buy the vegetables that are in season fresh, and buy frozen for those that are not. You’ll not only get more bang for your buck, but ensure high quality produce at all times too.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a gold mine of nutritional value AND flavor all in one. You can also do so many things with them (just like oats). You can absolutely pick up these bad boys at the frozen goods section, but they’re reasonably priced as fresh produce. I like to buy a big bag of them, because I feel like I’m getting more of a deal and know I can cook them in so many different ways. This is also a lot less expensive than purchasing the individually wrapped yams that boast being microwave ready. You can microwave the ones that are not wrapped too, so don’t fall for that! Just pop one in for about eight minutes and it’s you’re done.
Honestly, legumes are the one food on this list that I don’t feel I’ve taken adequate advantage of yet. I don’t know why though, because they’re so easy & budget friendly. I’m going to try and experiment with some recipes before I go home for the summer, but you can totally add them to just about any soup/chili for some extra protein!
Tuna. You either hate to love it or love to hate it, right? Well, let’s hope you’re in the first party, because canned tuna is one of my favorite broke girl groceries. It’s so, so cheap, and you don’t necessarily have to just eat it on just a sandwich or some crackers. Check out the recipe guide below for a delicious option feat. avocados (my fave!).
I feel like I don’t even need to go into this one, do I? One word: PROTEIN. I feel like a broken record, but once again, there’s SO MANY THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH THEM. But most of you probably already know that, since eggs are a pretty common phenomenon? Hey, there’s lots of other options than just b-fast though. I’m always down for a hard boiled egg in some salad or even just plain if I’m in a pinch. Talk about a little going a long way — it’ll keep you full for hours.
7. Brown Rice
Brown rice is great, because you can eat it plain or pair it with about a gazillion other things. Sometimes I keep the microwaveable packages as backup for super busy days, but it’s also one of the easiest foods to cook, which is great if you’re just learning like I am.
Popcorn is one of my favorite guiltless snacks. Why guiltless, you ask? Well, believe it or not, if you opt for air popped instead of “movie theater butter”, popcorn can actually be a pretty harmless snack! A good idea is to buy a big container of kernels (like pictured above) and keep it on hand when you’re in the mood for a midnight snack. I’m also a big fan of homemade popcorn seasonings as well. Though these can make the snack a little less healthy, my mantra is, as long as you know: what’s in it, that the ingredients are clean (aka no sick-o additives), and you don’t have it every day, a little indulgence is A-okay.
Hummus is another great go-to snack. There’s a ton of different ways to incorporate it into your diet, but the simplest is using it as a dip for veggies. It’s a great alternative to ranch dressing (ew), and you’ll probably feel better after eating it too. There’s also some awesome recipes out there for homemade hummus (will be included in the recipe guide below), which is my absolute fave!