Healthy eating on a student budget

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Apr 18, 2017
I will be resuming competitive training again very soon- 16 hours per week. Unfortunately, practice ends when meal hall closes, so I will miss dinner. Meal hall is mostly junk anyway, and with greater access to appliances now, I can avoid it more often than I was previously able. Good riddance! This means I need to be able to cook healthy, relatively quick, affordable meals and snacks. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas are welcome.

I have access to a stove, microwave, mini-fridge, freezer, panini press, as well as potentially a toaster oven, crock pot, and hot plate. I'm not a fussy eater, but I'm allergic to tuna, peanuts, and all other nuts. I also avoid meat when possible, but am open to fish and poultry in particular.

Does anyone have any ideas? I've thought of eggs, and baby carrots and hummus- but a girl can't live on that alone! I'm on an incredibly tight budget financially (I'm talkin' budgeted to the nearest cent), as well as being slim on time.

Although I recognize that this is a topic on which one must tread lightly, I've been afflicted by a very common university student ailment: the dreaded FRESHMAN FIFTEEN. It's a real thing, guys- I blame finals! I've done some research, but does anyone have any tips on how to effectively manage becoming more physically fit in terms of diet/nutritional intake while still having enough energy to perform athletically?


Oct 24, 2009
The 'Wood, Ohio
Does your meal hall have a salad bar? If so, find a way to get it "to go" at lunch.
Fruits and veggies in ziplock baggies until you can put them into a refrigerator.
Stock up on flour tortillas when they are on sale.
Chicken breast can be poached (boiled) on a stove or in a crock pot and saved in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. We put individual breasts in ziplock freezer bags. I just thawed some out yesterday for a quick chicken taco for my sister. If you buy it when it is on sale, that helps.
I don't know if there is "Aldi's" in Canada, but if so, you may want to shop there ... It is a store that sometimes has a few name brand items, but mostly they have their own store brands. Cheaper, but just as good.


Dec 11, 2016
Beans and lentils are super cheap! You can make stew, soup, or serve them with rice. They also make a great "filler" to mix with ground turkey/chicken in dishes like chilli, tacos, etc. This helps stretch the meat, and therefore reduces cost. Going along with this bean/lentil idea, you can make burritos in bulk ahead of time and then freeze them (individually wrapped) for quick dinners. Just avoid adding lettuce as I don't think that freezes well (although I could be wrong!).

If you go grocery shopping in the evening, they'll often have store bakery bread on sale. We always have some bread in the freezer, and my favourite 5 minute dinner is toast + PB and a smoothie. It may sound boring but it works, and I always have the ingredients on hand! Frozen fruit + frozen spinach + some type of liquid is my go-to. Again, because the fruit/spinach is frozen, it's cheaper and you can keep it on hand without worrying about it spoiling.

That's all I can think of right now but I'm sure I'll add more later!

NY Dad

Proud Parent
Sep 2, 2016
New York
I used to make a lot of soup. I would use a base formula and then vary it each time.

I would make a large batch so I could freeze a containers of it and eat some of the next few days. Here's an example:

By the way there's a social group about eating. You might get some good responses there too. Anyone can join but you need to be logged in. It's okay to ask the question there too (though it's probably a lot of the same people on both). We've been sharing recipes and ideas there but I don't think we've had any conversation focused about a budget. (though I think the cost of gymnastics puts a lot of us in the same boat ;))
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Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
The car
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are inexpensive and do very well in the crock-pot. I will often make a big batch of them and freeze portions for later use. You can cook them in pretty much any type of sauce--salsa, barbecue sauce, tikka masala, etc. Then serve over rice, in tacos or sandwiches, etc. I cook them for 6 hours on low.


Proud Parent
Apr 14, 2010
I think anyone eating in the dining hall will be prone to gaining weight because it is not as healthy of food as people are used to.

My family loves a "hash" meal that I make. I basically chop and saute together any veggies I have around. The base is potatoes which are cheap and filling and not as bad nutritionally as most people think. We usually do potatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and sometimes brocolli or cauliflower. A little oil, salt and pepper and it is delicious. I try to add a protein for my kids - whatever leftover bits of meat or beans I have or I will scramble up an egg in the hash. Cheap and delicious.

Right now I am making homemade burritos. This is one I cook up in bulk and the kids pull out of the freezer as needed. Tortillas, chicken - shredded, salsa, onions, some kind of beans and cheese. I am going to make some vegetarian ones today without the chicken. I use whatver beans I have on hand, I have black beans soaking right now. Also, I only put cheese on half because my dd has a dairy allergy.

I definitely recommend spending an hour or two and either prepping things for the week or cooking in bulk for the freezer. It makes life so much easier! And if you are cooking a meal, double it so you have another one for next week in the freezer ready to be heated.


Aug 26, 2013
Uh I get you. During the semester I'm always on an extremly tight schedule between university, coaching and practice.
I'm german so bread is the thing for me for breakfast and snacks (on very tight days the latter tends to end up being lunch as well :rolleyes:).
On most days I get home at around 10 pm, super hungry and not wanting to cook for another hour. Here are a few things I like to prepare:

- Every form of pasta! Spaghetti, tortellini & co. Sometimes I'm in the mood and prepare a sauce too, most days I go with something like pesto or cheese.
- Tortillas have been mentioned above and are a great quick and delicious snack since you can fill them with basically everything you fridge currently offers.
- Salmon filet with rice is a bit on the more expensive side (at least in our region) but one of my favourite light and quick but delicious late evening meals.
- I like to produce enormous amounts of everything (especially rice, pasta and soup), store the rest in the fridge and then heat it up the next day or fry it with vegetables or cheese or eggs. This saves both time and money.
- You can also make very delicious and healthy salads with cold rice or pasta to take with you.

Good luck!
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Proud Parent
Jul 5, 2008
One of my favorite healthy meals which would be cheap and freezes well is cabbage soup. Ironically the recipe I like best is called "fat burning cabbage soup" on the AllRecipes website. I didn't think I liked cabbage till I tried this! Add whatever veggies you want. I've also added canned kidney beans. Sometimes I brown up some ground turkey to mix in, for protein.


Proud Parent
Feb 13, 2015
If you want to lose the freshman 15, lose the over processed carbs. More veggies, watch for sales, especially frozen and lean protein. Chicken breast, ground turkey, fish, with lots of veggies.

Seasoned crushed tomatoes, can be found on sale, makes a quick marinara and frozen in small single serve portions.

Salsa has a bunch of uses.

Frozen veggies are on sale often. Beans too.

Real oatmeal, not instant, can be cooked ahead and in crockpot and reheated in the microwave. Cheaper and healthier.

Egg veggie muffins.

Rice and pasta excellent cheap but make sure you use lots of veggies and protein.
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