People often associate college life with a diet of Top Ramen or other microwave meals; and while it’s true that we cannot afford to eat quite like we did at home, I have found a number of ways to stay healthy on a budget in college.
Freshman year, I stuck to the dining hall, while sophomore year I was fortunate enough to live in a sorority house with a chef. However, since moving into an apartment last May, I have had to figure out the most efficient ways to grocery shop and cook for myself.
It seemed daunting at the beginning, but I have found the one place that manages to fulfil all my food-related needs: Trader Joe’s. So far, I have yet to find another grocery store that offers healthy and easy options in Madison without destroying my wallet.
Admittedly, my version of cooking is making some sort of protein with sauteed vegetables (although, I have ventured out of my comfort zone recently with a baked salmon), so grocery shopping is pretty simple for me.
My grocery budget is $70/week; however, I typically spend somewhere around $50. My typical grocery list looks like this:
- Turkey burgers
- Vegetables (usually zucchini, squash, spinach, mushrooms and frozen broccoli)
- Fruit (usually fresh and frozen berries and bananas)
- Various snacks
- Occasionally a few frozen meals (although I try not to)
- Cauliflower gnocchi (all time favorite)
Besides the quality and low prices, Trader Joe’s is perfect for college students because they have a huge variety of healthy pre-made meals or easy to make meals. On top of all the good stuff in stores, their website has a ton of recipes if you’re as clueless in the kitchen as I am.
My love for Trader Joe’s aside, there are plenty of healthy and cheap options for students with a budget. My advice would be to try out the nearby grocery stores for your first few trips, then compare the total costs, and determine which you liked best!
Sophia Westover is a junior at University of Wisconsin - Madison. She is currently working on BA in Journalism with an emphasis on Strategic Communication and a minor in Gender and Women's Studies.