I regularly get asked how Regan and I manage to eat healthily on a tight budget. We are both students, with minimal income and we spend quite a bit of time at uni.
We both have a passion for wellness and health, so it is only natural for us to place value on the food we eat and the activities we do that improve our health.
I usually start off saying that eating well is imperative if you’re a student- but the reality is that eating well and looking after yourself is absolutely necessary no matter who you are, or what you do.
Eating for health is something that anyone can do, even with a small budget and time constraints. Let me share with you some of our secrets.
We eat gluten free and mostly dairy free as well (we are almost Paleo). This has reduced a large amount of toxins from our diet.
Since cutting gluten out all together, I notice that when I do have it, my digestive system becomes inflamed and my brain feels tired and foggy.
By eliminating irritants, it gives us a foundation on which to move forward to healthier options. Evaluate your diet, and decide what needs to go in order for you to function at your optimum.
We support our local butcher, who always has great deals on meat. We shop at a farmers market close by, where we can source fresh fruit and vegetables. We also buy our eggs straight off a farm. We love to support our local producers, and in return we find that the quality and prices are even better than supermarkets.
Limit the expensive items, but don’t skimp on QUALITY
We eat a limited amount of meat, and have some days where we only eat vegetarian. If we eat vegetarian for a week- it only costs about $50 and is a great way to gently detox our bodies. However, when we eat meat, we ensure that it has no hormones, additives, flavours and is as ethical/organic as possible.
Make a menu for the week, and shop for it. Have a budget, and stick to it. Just by following this main step- you are guaranteed to improve your diet. If you intentionally shop and spend, chances are you won’t by gimmicky items (increasing your bill) and you will stick to your healthy eating plan (increasing your health).
Do things from scratch. Make your own sauces, bread, stocks, jams etc. Things that you would normally buy pre-packaged or processed- do it yourself. It is not only satisfying, but usually cost effective and easy to do at home.
Utilise Convenient Cooking Methods
I use our slow cooker a LOT! Some days we are in classes all day, and that can lead to the temptation to eat take-away. Putting everything in our slow cooker makes cooking a breeze! Choose a way that makes cooking easy for you. It will help you stay motivated and make good food choices.
I also spent a little extra on a good food processor, which opens up my food preparation to easily puree, mush, blend, crush etc. All of these are time and money saving options. I make my own almond meal, mayonnaise, mousse and more.
Cook in bulk
I make soups which are super cheap (pretty much $5 once you buy a $2 pumpkin, left over veges plus some onions, garlic and coconut cream) so I do a soup once a week which we eat for lunches and sometimes dinner and that’s a great way to boost your vege intake. I freeze left overs, so that we always have a few meals in the freezer for those times when we need them.
I also make my own stock in the slow cooker, by saving scraps from vegetables and carcasses from meat. Add water and herbs- and you have stock!
Get a good breakfast
We buy our eggs in bulk from a local farm, they are so fresh and reasonably priced. We eat eggs every morning for breakfast (sometimes raw in a smoothie or scrambled or poached) but ensuring that you get a high protein breakfast prevents snacking between lunch, which adds up cost wise and is often when you’re prone to reach for something sugary. Snacking isn’t a bad thing though- if you’re hungry have a piece of seasonal fruit or a handful of nuts.
We ferment our own foods, which means that our digestive systems are really healthy. Fermented foods are high in good bacteria for your gut, and they have lots of vitamins and minerals too. Foods like sauerkraut cost about $2 to make but have amazing health benefits.
Regan and I exercise together often. Whether we are shooting hoops or going for a walk, it is great to hang out and burn some calories. We are also fortunate enough to have a gym membership. We go to classes together and enjoy the benefits of working out at our local gym.
Buy on special
Hunt for the sales, if you have time. Particularly for the bigger ticket items, like coconut oil, chia seeds or meat. If your budget allows it, buy extra things on special, and freeze them. Especially fresh items, that you use frequently. I often buy a few extra veges, berries or meat when things are cheap, and freeze them for later.
If there is an item on sale, and it is versatile I try and stretch it across various meals. For example if zucchinis are cheap one week, I’ll buy a heap and make a frittata, zucchini spaghetti, zucchini and banana cake and maybe put it in a stir fry.
To really appreciate the changes you are making, do lots of research. Always read the ingredient label. Always ask questions. Invest some of your time in researching your local area and the options that you have for food and exercise; find like-minded people to support you. The more familiar you become with eating and moving well, the better you feel and the more confident you become with the decisions that you make.
Do you have a tip for healthy living that I didn’t cover? Leave a comment below and let us know!