Saturday, September 14, 2013
Eight Ways to Eat Cheap
After tuition and rent, food is most likely to be your largest expense over the school year. How can you enjoy your food and still not blow your entire food budget? Mac and cheese from a box can only satisfy you for a bit. Here are some strategies that are sure to keep your tummy full, your body healthy and your wallet happy.
1. Stretch your proteinsProtein is the most expensive food, per unit volume and weight. It is also very important to eat enough protein throughout the day, or you will not be in your best health.
A ham and cheese omelet for breakfast may see like a great breakfast – however, that’s all protein and it’s going to set you back a few dollars. Saving the cheese for lunch (tomato and cheese sandwich?) and the ham for dinner (ham with peas and mashed potatoes) will stretch your protein budget and make you feel satisfied; have a spinach and onion omelet for breakfast.
2. Veggie proteins are cheaper than meat.Eggs, dairy products, tofu, beans, lentils and nuts (including peanut butter) are great and frugal ways to get protein into your diet. Eggs are about $2.50 a dozen, which means they are about 21 cents each (they last 3 weeks in the fridge). Milk is low fat, contains proteins AND calcium. A yogurt is a great snack and is pretty portable, as well as cheese (cream cheese has almost no protein or calcium though). Canned beans can be reheated (once drained) with a bit of salt, pepper, and some salsa for a great wrap filling. Raw lentils can be added to spaghetti sauce because they cook in about 20 minutes; they add proteins and ‘bulk’ to your sauce. Nuts and peanuts as well as nut butters are pure protein – however, with many people allergic to them, they are best kept as a food for home and not for class. Try a few meatless meals each week.
3. Eat rawEating raw vegetables and fruit is a fantastic habit to get into in university. An apple, an orange or carrot sticks are some of the healthiest snacks you can have, and some of the cheapest. They are full of different vitamins and fibres, are frugal, and easy to grab on our way to class or the library. They also travel well in a backpack and they require close to no preparation. Add ranch salad dressing to your veg’s for a ‘fancier’ snack.
4. Eat in seasonMy favorite fruit is raspberries and my favorite fruit is avocado. Living in Canada, raspberries are affordable for about 2 months of the year! So I use them as a treat, but not as part of my every day diet because of their prices. However bananas and apples are always a bargain, and for most of winter, so are oranges and grapefruit. In the summer, I eat loads of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, but in winter, I rely on frozen peas and corn, carrots and sweet potatoes. I can’t afford to eat all my favorite food year round, so I gorge on my favorite while in season and cope the rest of the year.
5. Store some backup foodYou don’t want to have to go out because you arrive home at 7pm, starve, and have nothing to make dinner with. Make sure you always have some basic food that satisfies you at home. For some it can be cereal and milk; for others, banana and peanut butter. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you have it as a ‘backup’ food in your fridge or cupboard. This backup food may act as dinner some days, or as a snack to give you enough time to decide what to cook some other days.
6. Find the perfect sauce and salad dressing for youBy having a few hot sauces for cooking foods, and a couple of favorite salad dressings on hand, you can make any veg and meat into a great stir fry and leftover cooked meats and crudités into a great salad. I always have soy sauce, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard in the fridge for my meats and cooked greens, and Thousand Island, Ranch, and Catalina salad dressings for my salads. I can therefore throw together fast salads from all my leftovers in the fridge, add salad dressing and voilà: dinner.
7. Buy in bulkWe all know that buying larger sizes, in most cases, saves you money per serving. When shopping for one though, there’s a problem: will you get through the food before it goes bad? One solution to this is to buy with a friend: you buy a bag of apples and split it; you buy toilet paper for your entire shared house and split the cost; you buy for a friend and you one week, and he does the same the following week.
8. Don’t go too cheapWhen I was a poor and frugal graduate students, I decided to make all my food from scratch – my husband and I already had a rule about desserts (to limit spending and the ingestion of empty calories) so I decided to push this further: buy dried beans, not canned; eat more root vegetables (more turnip, less tomatoes), etc. The problem was, none of these foods were foods I really liked – so after a couple of weeks, I could not stand my own food and ended up going out for a few meals in a row. Not the great savings I had planned! So I went back to eating the foods I liked, but made these foods cheaper – and I enjoyed them as well!
Eat and be merry!