Eating Healthy on a Budget

March 1, 2019

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budgetpicture of plate with money on it and a fork and knife

Are you tired of opening your wallet every time your stomach starts growling? Well, this post is for you! Whether you’re a student on the go or just looking to save money on food, anyone can pick up quick and easy ways to eat on a budget.  We asked our UHS Nutrition Outreach Workers (NOWs) to share their best practices for eating healthy without breaking the bank.  Here’s what they had to say: 

Split Costs with Friends

  • “My roommate and I split the cost of bulk items from the grocery store like eggs, produce, and pasta.  Sharing the food ensures nothing gets wasted, and we spend half the amount of money compared to buying individually.”
  • “Befriend someone with a Costco card. It will save you tons of money on staple foods you tend to eat often.” 

Find Free Food on Campus

  • “Take NST 20-Personal Food Security and Wellness. It’s a 2 unit course where you get to cook delicious meals once a week and there are usually leftovers to take home.”
  • “Lots of on-campus events offer free food. Just browse on Facebook to find upcoming club info sessions, meetings, or mixers that provide food.  You’ll meet new people and snag a free meal while you’re at it.”

Carry Water, etc. instead of Purchasing Beverages (at least once in a while)

  • “Instead of ordering a drink at a restaurant, get a water cup instead as a healthier and money-saving option!”
  • “I like to make tea or coffee at home and then throw it into my water bottle. This way I spend money when I am on campus.”

Cook Instead of Eating Out

  • “Cooking instead of eating out saves lots of money! Take for example a burrito bowl -- if you bought it from Chipotle it would cost you $10++. If you made it at home it would be under $2! If you made a bowl instead of purchasing it weekly, that would be over $416 in yearly savings.”
  • “Pasta is my go-to meal to cook when I’m tight on time and money. It’s super easy to customize and saves me a ton of money.  I like to add marinara sauce with sausage, bell pepper, and spinach.”

Plan in Advance

  • “Take a little time on a weekend to choose 2-3 meals you would like to eat and make a couple of servings of them at once so they’re ready to grab and go during the week.” 
  • “Pack fruits like grapes or sliced apples in a ziploc bag before you go to bed. It takes less than 5 minutes and you can throw it in your backpack before you head out for class. You’ll have snacks for the whole day making it easier to resist spending.”

Utilize Leftovers

  • “Throw leftovers like chicken or veggies in an “everything omelet”. I’ll just chop up my leftovers then add in 2 eggs and some cheese to make another meal out of food that would have been thrown away otherwise.”
  • “If I order food to go (depending on the size) I store half of it away, saving you money for the next day’s meal!”

Shop Smarter

  • “Try to stick to a grocery list while shopping. It helps you limit the cost on extra items you would have added to the cart that aren’t on your list.”
  • “When I buy staple foods like cereal, I look for the generic brands because they’re usually cheaper and just as yummy.”

Utilize Coupons

  • “If you do eat out, there are apps like Good Life Coupons and SnackPass that can help save you money.“
  • “You can find grocery coupons on the shelves at the front, featured on the store website, or located in newspapers and magazines. Take a quick browse of the current deals before you do your shopping.”

Stock up on Frozen and Canned Foods

  • “If you find yourself wasting produce because it goes bad, try buying frozen veggies! They are usually cheaper and you can buy them in bulk because they will last for a couple of months in the freezer. I always buy frozen broccoli at Trader Joe’s.”
  • “Canned food can be good in meals and is usually cheaper than its uncanned version. I like to buy cans of corn, chickpeas, and beans and use them in my meals.”

Buy in Bulk

  • “I buy a large container of mixed greens (usually $5 at Safeway) and put a handful into every meal (to use as a filler food).”
  • “I buy the Prego marinara sauce in bulk instead of smaller jars because my housemates and I cook pasta often and save more this way.”

UHS nutrition resources:

  • Free Drop-In Nutrition Counseling: speak with a registered dietitian for 15-20 minutes about eating for optimal health and disease prevention. 

  • The UHS Nutrition Team has compiled a list of easy budget-friendly recipes for UC Berkeley students
    • Check out the UHS Nutrition page for more resources on eating on a budget, which includes a meal plan and ingredient list for a week’s worth of food for $35!
    • See our calendar of free nutrition events
    • No Cook Video: Watch a video on recipes that you can make without cooking!