As a student, eating healthy and being on a budget can seem like an oxymoron. There seems to be so many rules to follow. You need to buy organic, or grass fed beef, or wild caught fish, or cage free and hormone free chicken!

This seems to be not only expensive, but also confusing!balancingmoneyandfood

On top of that is the added hassle and dilemma of buying organic, locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables! Where do you get that stuff when you live on campus or in the city? Where do you get that stuff when you don’t want to spend your whole paycheck?

It just doesn’t seem like a student can be on a budget and be eating healthy at the same time. Yet the truth is you can!

Eating healthy is not something someone tells you. It is something your body and you decide.

You don’t have to shop at high-priced specialty stores. You don’t have to travel all over town searching for a health food store or driving an hour or so out of the city to find a farmer who sells produce.

You also don’t have to give your paycheck away just to eat. You just need to know a few basic principles and know what you want to accomplish.


Let me show you where to start.

  1. AVOID FOOD-LIKE PRODUCTS. Today’s food industry focuses on how to bring the consumer convenience and pleasure at a low cost. When you shop you probably look for items that taste good, won’t spoil quickly, and saves you time. The average family spends $30-$40 extra on snacks or convenient unhealthy food and drinks. These items taste good, but really have little to no nutritional value. They, in fact, are not real food. They are made to look, smell, and taste like real food. However, when you look at the ingredient list, you will find it hard to recognize or pronounce the ingredients let alone identify one that actually came straight from a natural source. These are food-like products. Yes, you can eat them. Yes, they taste good. Some of them even claim to taste like a fruit or vegetable that is so good for you. However, in the end we must remember they are made in a factory to look like food. These food items actually drain your pocketbook and take a toll on your body. Therefore, keep food-like products to a minimum.
  2. PURCHASE FOR NUTRITIONAL VALUE. Get your money’s worth and determine the level of clean eating that fits your lifestyle and your budget. Make the majority of what you purchase be real food and as close to the earth as possible. Refrain from choosing your food on convenience level only. Fresh is the best. Frozen is second. Canned is last. You will find that when you eat foods nutritionally dense, you spend less money because you feel full longer, you have fewer cravings, and your body is working at a higher level. You sleep better. You have more energy. Your moods are lighter and more positive. You make better decisions because you don’t have brain fog. You can choose your level and what is important to you at the moment. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.

For fruits and vegetables, your best choice is fresh and locally grown.

For example, a carrot grows in the ground. It is a root vegetable with green leaves coming from the top. When you pull it out of the ground it may not be perfectly shaped. The skin may have little pocket-looking dents. It will not be smooth and pretty or skinless. Purchasing whole carrots with the green stems is the closest to its natural state. Many times it is less expensive than the prepared packaged carrots that look pretty and are skinless. You can also use the green stems in soups, stews, and salads. Buying organic is not necessary for everything. The rule of thumb is to purchase organic when it is a food where you eat the skin. There is a list called the dirty dozen. These are the fruits and vegetables that you should focus on buying organic. These fruits and vegetables absorb pesticides more than other fruits and vegetables.

When purchasing animal protein, the best choice is hormone free, grass fed, free range and cage free. How an animal is treated during its life is important in your overall health. Was the animal force fed ingredients to fatten it up? Was it given hormones or steroids to increase the bulkiness of the muscle? Was it treated humanely even when it was being slaughtered? Keep in mind that you become what you eat. The hormones in the animal become a part of you. If the animal is mistreated and abused, its unhappiness becomes your unhappiness. Be aware of your food as much as possible, however, be gentle with yourself also. There are many reputable meat packing companies out there. Use them. If you know a local farmer who sells animal products, use him/her when your budget allows. If eating grass fed, hormone-free, and range-free is not in your budget, relax. Choose what is important to you and purchase your products based on that quality and feel good about that.

  1. CHOOSE YOUR GROCERY STORE BASED ON QUALITY AND PRICE. Many grocery stores share the same food distributors. Look for quality and freshness of your fruits, vegetables, and meats. Where you shop does not matter as much as the quality of what you purchase and the price you are willing to pay. I know people who shop at a variety of grocery stores such as Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, or Costco, for example, and lead clean eating lifestyles. I also know people who prefer Publix over Kroger’s or vice versa. Just focus on the quality that your budget allows and that is important to you and your body.
  1. COOK ONCE AND EAT TWICE. The key to eating healthy on a budget is to prepare nutritionally dense foods that make more than one meal. For example, I love to make soups because I can cook once and have left overs for several days. Soups and stews provide a lot of nutritional density using less vegetables and protein. You can make a big dish of quinoa and use it in a variety of ways for several meals – you can put it in a salad or put it in soup. Choose the majority of your foods for their variety of use for several meals, not just one. If possible, freeze your left-overs. The idea is to cook once and eat twice (or more).
  1. RELAX AND TAKE UP THE ART OF COOKING. Eating healthy is a journey and one that we all adjust as times go on. The key to eating healthy is trying a new food once a week and experimenting with cooking. Cooking is a relaxing art. It builds creativity as you begin to experiment with seasonings and recipes. Be adventurous and tweak a recipe to be your own. If you don’t have a kitchen, purchase an electric skillet or a Crockpot. You will be surprised how many things you can do with these two cooking utensils in a small area!

Bon appetite!!

Eating healthy is not something someone tells you. It is something your body and you decide.

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smallsandyhoeffneravatarSandra Hoeffner knows firsthand how difficult the passage to health and wellness can be and how cravings and emotional stressors sabotage the efforts of even the most determined. A few years ago she developed health issues, and her road to recovery (which included losing 40 pounds that she’s kept off) helped to cultivate her interest in nutrition. She did it by making small changes in her lifestyle that yielded big results. And she accomplished her change with real food!!! For more about Sandy and the work she loves, visit

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