A bunch of our athletes are heading off to college this August and we will miss them greatly! Being a former college kid myself, I thought I would write a series on how to stay healthy without spending a fortune on groceries. (these tips also apply to post-college…) Today I’ll have a list of foods that can be found for a fairly cheap price.
Vegetables: (eat these a LOT) The following fresh vegetables tend to be the lower priced ones and also are versatile enough to be used in a variety of dishes.
- Carrots (unpeeled, big), celery (not the celery hearts), zucchini/yellow squash (prices drop in the winter), beets (prices drop in the winter), cabbage, kale, yellow onions, and sometimes cauliflower or broccoli (depending on where you shop)
If you live near an Asian supermarket go there for fresh vegetables (instead of more expensive stores like Safeway, Giant (depends on the area), Kroger etc). If you don’t live near one, find the cheapest grocery store (I know in Blacksburg, Go TECH!, Wal-Mart actually had the best prices) and shop there for your produce.
Also, if you don’t have a lot of time/space, as most college kids in dorms don’t, then frozen vegetable are just as good. You can buy huge bags (or little bags if you have a mini-fridge) of frozen veggies inexpensively. No matter if they’re fresh or frozen EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!!!!!! (I’m not kidding, do it. Your colon will thank you.)
Fruits: Prices of fruits, and likewise the veggies, will depend upon the season. Shopping for fruits in-season will help keep the prices down. Berries, no matter what the season, will always be expensive so I recommend buying frozen berries if you want them for smoothies.
-Bananas, apples (cheapest in the fall), watermelon (cheapest in the summer), melons (summer), tangerines and oranges (winter).
Just like the vegetables, you can buy frozen fruit usually much cheaper per pound than fresh. Stay far, far away from canned fruit (unless the fruit is in it’s own juice with no sugar added) as the food manufacturers tend to pack them in heavy-in-sugar syrups.
Proteins: Frozen meats will always be cheaper per pound than their fresh counterparts.
- Chicken breast and lean ground beef/turkey are good sources of protein. If you like fish, tilapia is usually the cheapest kind (frozen is even cheaper). Keep your eyes open for sales as stores will sometimes have to get rid of foods quickly.
- Canned tuna and chicken also make for cheap eating. Light tuna is cheaper than albacore but if you can’t stand the taste of light tuna (which is heavy on the tuna taste) then mix a can of light with a can of albacore and it’s not so tuna-y. Don’t be fooled into getting those tuna packs, they’re more expensive and don’t have as much tuna as the cans do.
- EGGS! Cheapest source of protein per pound that you can find. While I was living on my own, before I got married, I was an “economic vegetarian” meaning my protein source was eggs and beans. Super cheap and very healthy. I would say, if you can, go for the higher quality eggs but normal ones won’t hurt you either.
- Canned beans are very cheap and a pretty decent protein source when combined with rice (also very cheap) and can make any vegetable dish a bit heartier and more filling. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber which keeps you full longer and more regular.
Grains/Carbohydrates: I know that ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese is pretty cheap but you can’t live on just that.
-Rice, oatmeal and lentils (easy to make and an excellent substitute for noodles). All three are easy to make and are pretty healthy too (Oatmeal is a much healthier and heartier option than say, Special K cereal) You can always make big batches of rice/lentils one to scoop out throughout the week so you don’t have to resort to the high-sodium, very little-nutrients of ramen and Kraft mac and cheese.
- Olive oil (usually reasonably priced), coconut oil (this stuff lasts a long time), and natural peanut butter (Trader Joe’s has pretty cheap PB). If you like to snack on nuts, peanuts are the cheapest. If you don’t mind splurging a bit, go for the almonds.
Miscellaneous: Spices, seasonings and other stuff. When you’re trying to save money in the grocery store, you tend to be limited in your selection. Thus, spices are very important to keep your palate satisfied so you don’t resort to calling for pizza every night.
- Cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, Italian herb blend, basil, oregano, paprika, garlic salt/powder and salt and pepper. These all tend to be the cheapest in most stores. There’s a fancy-pants brand and then there’s probably a cheaper store brand of spices. Obviously, skip the fancy stuff and pick up the cheapest version.
-Garlic adds flavor to anything and instantly adds a yum-factor of 10. The bulbs are cheapest but you need to have a garlic press and the patience to peel it.
However, big jars of minced garlic aren’t too pricey and can last a while.
That’s it! Of course, depending on where you live and what stores are available, prices will vary wildly but I’ve found through experience that the foods mentioned above tend to be cheaper across the board.
Next up: how to make cheap, healthy meals that taste fabulous!