Eating Well on a Limited Budget Tips and Tricks


Two of the most common complaints from graduate students are their finances and their time. In the focus of studies, often eating well balanced meals (or even eating at all) gets tossed aside. Great pressure is placed on graduate students. Even though it sounds cliché, graduate students still need to eat well in order to succeed. Here are some tips:

  1. Prepackaged meals have low nutritional content but are convenient and usually pretty cheap at stores such as Target and Walmart. If you do not enjoy cooking, this is probably your best bet. Having some fresh vegetables and fruit on hand as well will help supplement these meals.
  2. Cereal is still your friend! While it is expensive, a bowl of whole grain cereal is a great way to start off the day. There is no cooking involved and it gives you energy without a sugar high that will cause you to crash. Yogurt is also a quick meal for the morning, especially if made overnight in your yogurt maker.
  3. Cook two meals at once. If you decide to have pasta one night, cook enough so that the leftovers can be packed right away into a lunch container, ready for the next day.
  4. Precook main dishes. Cooking dishes such as lasagna is a great way to be sure to have a delicious meal on hand while not spending a fortune or buying something that is low quality. Lasagna works well because it is easily frozen in order to keep over a longer period of time but is easy enough to heat up when needed. Add some vegetables and bread and it’s a complete meal!
  5. Precook main dishes for an extended period of time, such as a week or month. Cooking on the weekend for the week gives a couple of options for the week and many dishes can be refrigerated for about a week without spoiling. Cooking for a month takes more planning and more of an extended period of time set aside for this purpose.
  6. Take a few minutes and look through the store circular to see what is on sale. For example, if chicken is on sale, buy a larger package and freeze a portion of it for use later on. This will be an investment for the future. Or, come up with several ways to include chicken in recipes and have chicken twice most days. For example, you could have chicken and rice, chicken quesadillas and chicken parmesan in a given week with only a few supplemental ingredients. Plus, if you make larger portions (such as 4 servings of quesadillas), you can have some meals that you have made yourself on hand that will be easy to heat up.
  7. Have fresh vegetables and fruits on hand. They make great snacks (or fruit could be used as breakfast) and go well with meals as well. Veggies such as broccoli, baby carrots and baby tomatoes can be eaten with no preparation except washing. Apples, strawberries, blueberries and grapes are a few examples of fruit with this advantage as well.
  8. If you live with other people, try to arrange a community night once a week and take turns cooking. This helps relieve the responsibility of cooking and is a great way to hang out with your housemates. It is also a great way to try new dishes.
  9. Go out and eat once in a while. If you don’t, you will become stressed out by cooking and you deserve a break now and again.

Remember, have fun with cooking and be creative with what you have on hand. Graduate school does not last forever but it is important to stay healthy now.

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