Eating healthfully without breaking your wallet

File Photo. “It is just as easy to pack an apple, a banana, or carrot and celery sticks for your late-evening study-booster as anything else.” (Laura [Move to Portugal] / Flickr)

For those of you not under the comfortable culinary wing of a cafeteria or your parents, cooking can be a time-consuming, demanding task for the average university student – and a deceptively superfluous one, as well. You might be surprised how efficient and economical healthy cooking can become (it is also a valid break from schoolwork!).  If you’re noticing that your wallet’s getting thinner while you balloon, it’s time to try something new.


  • Rice. It’s a staple in many countries for a reason. Buy plain rice by the kilogram for the most cost efficiency, and add your own flavours to avoid the massive sodium doses of microwave packages. Depending on the type (go for brown, long-grain, or wild if you can), rice is generally a good source of low-fat carbohydrates and dietary fibre. Having a rice cooker lets you leave rice cooking while you go to class and come back to something hot.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious things. It is just as easy to pack an apple, a banana, or carrot and celery sticks for your late-evening study-booster as anything else. Nutritional significance is common knowledge here. (P.S.:  bananas are super cheap!)
  • Boneless chicken thighs or breasts. Stores like Superstore sell boxes of good-quality, frozen chicken for under $10, which lasts a long time in the freezer. In 45 minutes you can have a legitimate, tasty addition to any supper.
  • Make your own tea and coffee. How many cups of coffee do you really buy in a year? Could you buy your own coffee grounds for the same price (or less)?  If you live with enough coffee-drinkers (or you drink enough yourself) this might be a logical idea.  Eliminating that early morning Timmies run means you won’t be picking up those extra treats you don’t need.
  • Potatoes.  Potatoes have the benefit of long storage capability. They are filling, too. Slide an oiled pan of raw potato wedges in the oven for a good 30 minutes; salt or season. You’ll never need potato chips again.
  • Tomato/pasta sauce. It is amazing how versatile this stuff can be.  It is often sold in cans or glass jars.  Mix it into your one-dish meals, spread over pasta, or put it on toast. Cook vegetables or beans into it to make it heartier. Top pasta with it.  It’s the jar that will keep on giving.
  • Yogurt.  Try substituting ice cream with yogurt! You can always top with nuts or cereal.  This will beat any parfait option you’ll find in fast-food joints.

Remember, the key to survival is adaptation. The more adventurous and inventive you are, the more there is to gain (and we are not talking weight-wise).  Being creative and open in your food options gives you chance to find meals and ways of preparing them that fit within your busy schedule, your budget, and within your tastes. Enjoy!

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 22, February 26, 2013