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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

25 ways to eat healthily on a student budget

Just moved into your new place abroad? Find out how you can eat on a budget with our handy guide!

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So you’ve finally settled into your new student digs. You’re super excited to start a brand new chapter of your life, but you’ve been eating the bland cafeteria food for two weeks now and you’re getting pretty sick of it. Eating out every day would set you back quite a bit. That leaves eating at home. How do you go about this though?


Eating healthily on a student budget might not be easy, but it’s definitely possible! We’ve gathered 25 tips just for you. 


  1. Create a list
    Keep a piece of paper on the fridge so that when you’re running low on something you can quickly jot it down. For those of us who prefer typing rather than writing, there a whole bunch of apps available for list-making that you can download and most of them are free!
  2. Don’t deviate from your list
    When you’re in the store grocery shopping, be sure to only get the things that are on your list. This is a great way to ensure that you don’t end up splurging on unhealthy treats and going over your budget.
  3. Always buy in bulk where possible
    As a student, you’re usually on a tight budget and it’s always cheaper to bulk what you need in bulk and store the rest for consumption at a later date, For example, you could opt to buy a 5 lbs. chicken that was on offer and portion it out, keeping what you’re not eating during the week in the freezer. 
  4. Buy ‘plain’ foods
    Chicken and tofu are some of the most flexible foods that you can prepare in a variety of ways. Bake them, fry them, broil, sear them in a pan and or boil them (the healthiest option). What’s more, there are so many ways that you can season them that the possibilities are endless! Other plain foods that you should look out for are plain Greek Yoghurt, unflavoured milk, fish, bread, rice etc. You could always add some honey, cinnamon or vanilla to sweeten your concoction without reaching for that powdered sugar.
  5. Always use your leftovers
    Have a little bit of this and a little bit of that leftover from other meals? Make a whole new meal outta them! Combine that leftover chicken with rice and some veggies for a hearty stir-fry meal. In fact, you can stir-fry just about anything. So next time you’ve got extra stuff lying around? Just stir-fry them.
  6.  Never buy junk food. EVER! 
    I know that this might sound harsh for those of you love these. But junk food isn’t exactly cheap and they’re neither filling nor healthy. You’re just wasting your money and calories. If you ever get a craving for some, I’m sure you could snag a few chips here and there off your friends!
  7. Stay away from sugary cereals
    As much hype as cereals get, more often than not, the ones sold in stores are usually laden with so much sugar and almost zero nutrients that you’re better off eating a dark chocolate bar! Opt for whole grain cereals with little or no sugar and add your own fruit to improve your nutrient intake and the overall flavour. There are also a ton of recipes that you could try- making yoghurt muffins or even a whip up a cocoa protein shake to make your breakfast-to-go. 
  8. Savings cards - Use them! 
    You’d be surprised at how much money you could actually save! A lot of shops even give you things in return, like cheaper gas or free stuff or sample sized products to go with what you just bought. Not all stores have these, so know your local markets well, some places have better offers on certain items. For instance, Trader Joe’s has reasonably-priced snacks, nut butter and raw nuts while you can visit Whole Foods to get a large variety of organic stuff and wholesale grains. 
  9. Say no to pre-packaged snacks
    Buying in bulk is always cheaper. Instead of buying multiple 100-calorie packs, you can make your own! All you’d need is a bag, which you can re-use.
  10. Skip them fancy beverages
    Sports drinks and soft drinks are either laden with sugar or chemicals and they can be quite expensive. Drink water and save both your wallet and calories!
  11. Make your own food
    One doesn’t have to be a culinary genius to cook at home. Home-cooked meals aren’t only friendly to your pocket, they’re also friendly for your waistline. There are so many recipes that range from the very simple to really elaborate that you could try your hand at. You could always make extra and freeze those to have them in the future. 
  12. Pack your own lunch
    This might seem quite obvious if you’re already cooking at home, but a lot of people find it a hassle to wake up early in the morning to prepare. To prevent this, you could make and pack your lunch the night before.
  13. Buy seasonal
    Produce is cheaper when they’re in season, since they won’t have to be imported from other parts of the country. This is a great list of the produce according to season.
  14. Coupons!
    Cutting out coupons from the papers are a great way to save money, but remember to only go for the deals which contain items that you need, not just because it’s cheap.
  15. Hit the supermarkets
    When you need something, don’t go to a convenience store or a gas station, go to your local supermarket, items there are usually a lot cheaper and fresher than those found either in a convenience store or a gas station.
  16. Set a realistic budget and stick to it
    If you’re tried this and haven’t exactly been successful, try shopping with cash only (i.e only have a certain amount of cash that you intend to spend in your wallet). This means that you can’t spend what you don’t have! This will only work if you don’t bring any credit or debit cards though.
  17. Buy the generic whenever possible 
    Many stores have their own brands of your favourite products which are usually just as good as a famous brand. Just compare the ingredients found in the two products and they’re likely a lot cheaper than brand-name goods. 
  18. Explore other types of cuisines
    Broaden your culinary horizons, Mexican and Indian food are just as yummy and they often comprise of economical ingredients.
  19. Beans are cheap
    Beans are legumes - a great source of protein and fibre, which is good to incorporate in your diet. Canned beans are inexpensive, but dried beans are even more so. All you’d need to prepare them is to soak them overnight. Then they’re ready for you to include them in your salads, pasta etc.
  20. Get dairy
    Dairy keeps you full and is cheap. It’s also highly likely that you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet. Don’t really like the taste of milk? Try other alternatives such as nut milks, soy, coconut milk etc. You could also eat cheeses and drink yoghurt (there’s so many different types these days, there’s bound to be one that suits your tastebuds!).
  21. Nut butters
    Fats are not entirely bad, you just need to consume the right ones! Nut butters are stacked full of those. There’s also a bunch of different kinds for you to choose - from your conventional peanut butter to almond, sunflowerseed butter to name a few.
  22. Invest in tupperware 
    These handy containers are reusable and really good for meal prep. Be sure to use the glass Tupperwares if you’re looking to microwave stuff the next day. 
  23. Visit the farmer’s market at the end of the day
    If there’s a farmer’s market near you, you should drop by an hour before they close, chances are you’ll get better bang for your buck, since farmers would want to unload as much stuff before they go home. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they might even add in something extra! So you’ll not only get produce at a cheaper rate, they’re also a whole lot fresher.
  24. Potlucks
    On a ridiculously tight budget but still want to have a semblance of a social life? Potlucks are your best friend. Everyone will bring a dish to share, so you’ll have a variety of food that you can sample AND you’ll get to hang out with your friends! Win-win. 
    This is the golden rule. If you can’t stick to the other tips outlined before, you’ll need to stick to this one. It’s a no-brainer really. When you’re hungry you’re definitely going to buy a lot more than you need. 


We hope that the 25 tips we’ve shared will help keep your bank balance and your waistline happy! Remember that foods rich in protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer and try to stick to whole grains and foods that are low in saturated and unnecessary fats.


Motivated to study abroad? Check out the courses available here. Or download a university’s prospectus now!


Useful links

10 universities where you can study abroad in English
13 things to look for when comparing universities
Why studying in the US makes sense
What to do during your gap year
How to choose the best major for you

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