Surviving on limited funds from part-time jobs and student loans can surely work up a hunger in you; but before reaching for the ramen or driving to the nearest dollar menu provider, think about the healthier and cheaper alternatives.
Nutritious food is normally the first expense to get cut when creating a food budget for the week, but it’s surprisingly easy to eat healthy and save money.
After three years of budget-making, these are the seven healthy foods that remain a staple in my grocery cart:
This is not only a healthy food, it’s a fast one! It’s best (and cheapest) to buy the large tubes of rolled oats because it packs the most nutritional value. Oatmeal, which runs from $1 to $3, naturally contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that helps lower cholesterol and potentially prevents heart disease. Beware of the ever-enticing instant oatmeal because it’s generally packed with sugar and pre-cooked then dried which makes the oatmeal lose its nutritional value.
2. Canned Tuna
One can of tuna fish, canned in water, costs between $0.50 and $2 and is only 100 calories. Not only is this food high in protein, but it’s a good source of vitamin B6, which helps produce hemoglobin within red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Adding two stalks of finely chopped celery and a dash of fresh pepper can make tuna a flavorful sandwich. If mayo is a staple in your tuna fish salad or sandwich, try a healthier alternative like Miracle Whip.
3. Frozen Fruit
No need to spend $5 on a Jamba Juice Banana Berry smoothie when you have frozen fruit in your freezer. A bag of mixed frozen fruit (with endless combinations) will only set you back $2 to $5 per bag and will last for at least four smoothies. Simply put a cup of frozen fruit, a cup of orange juice and one whole banana into a blender and enjoy. And guess what? Frozen fruit is actually healthier than fresh fruit because it is picked and frozen at the peak of freshness and all the nutrition is safely locked in.
This super food is a cheap way to snack and will make any chip, bread or vegetable taste delicious. Hummus is comprised of chickpeas which are high in Vitamin C and iron. This Middle Eastern spread, usually costing $2.50 to $4, is great for vegetarians and vegans who can pair hummus with a whole grain and call it a complete protein.
5. Seasonal Fruits and Veggies
Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be the priciest part of your grocery bill, but they are also the most important. In order to cut the cost, go for the seasonal fruits and vegetables that are on sale. You may not be able to get your favorite fresh treat, but buying produce in-season is an important (and cheap) way to live a healthy lifestyle. And just in case you were wondering – bananas are always in season.
6. Whole Wheat Pasta
It wouldn’t be a true college experience without eating copious amounts of spaghetti, and it isn’t all that bad for you when eaten in moderation and bought as a whole grain. Costing a mere $1, whole wheat pasta is filling and high in delicious fiber. Topped with a low-sodium tomato sauce, spaghetti can be a meal that will leave plenty of leftovers.
7. Vegetarian Meatless Patties
You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy these meatless concoctions. Brands like Morningstar Farms and Boca offer frozen meatless alternatives for hamburgers, sausages and chicken patties that cost around $2 to $4. Meatless patties take two minutes to cook in the microwave and can be frozen for far longer than regular meat or poultry. It’s a great salad topper or a hearty addition to an egg omelet.
These seven foods are a great start to a healthier and more cost-efficient grocery trip.
Most of these foods can be a base for a filling meal, so enjoy!
Jessica DuBois-Maahs is a junior at the University of North Florida and has been a member of NSCS for one year. After college, Jessica plans on getting her M.A. in English and professionally teaching at American public schools. When she’s not writing blogs for NSCS, Jessica is a writing tutor and an intern at WKMG-TV Orlando.