The College Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget

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Eating healthy – it can really be a challenge.

And eating healthy in college can be an even bigger challenge.

All of the readily available heat-n-eat foods (like microwave ready mac and cheese) don’t make it easy on you.


It turns out that there are quite a few ways to succeed at sticking to a healthy diet and all without letting your finances or GPA suffer.

In today’s article, I’m going to show you 10 ways to make eating healthier a little easier, so you can actually accomplish your goal of eating right more consistently.

Think of this as a college guide to eating healthy…

…but, on a budget.

Because if there’s something else that college students don’t have a lot to spare of, besides time, it’s money.

Also Read: 12 Ways for College Students to Save BIG on Groceries

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a College Budget

#1. Plan Meals in Advance to Budget Accordingly

Plan out your meals for the week in a diary, on my free printable meal planner worksheets or on sticky notes.

The goal is to make sure that your plan is easily noticeable. You can’t forget about it if you see it all the time.

You can plan meals for a week, a month or anywhere in-between. 

The most important part is:

Sticking to your meal plan.

When you follow your meal plan, you’ll also be living within your budget. Avoiding unplanned meals with inconsistent costs will help you avoid going broke.

#2. Track Your Grocery Budget Weekly

Engineers need to look at blueprints, the same way that college students (with limited resources) need to check their own budget.


Tracking your budget weekly rather than monthly will force you to recognize that you need to save part of your grocery budget for the next week.

Instead of making the mistake of splurging the first few weeks of the month and barely scraping by in the last week. Which no one likes to do.

 Stay Away From Convenience Stores

Oh, the temptation! Convenience really does come at a price, cash-wise, and health-wise.

Convenience stores are full of (mostly) junk foods and easy microwavable meals that could trigger more stress on your guts than a college exam.

Even seemingly harmless foods, like sandwiches, are far from what it considered healthy.

Your money will be better spent and go further at a local grocery store where prices aren’t over inflated.

#4. Spend Time - Instead of Money - on Food.

There are lots of benefits to eating at “home” vs eating out. And one big one is that it’ll majorly help you save money on food.

Instead of buying a bunch of pre-packaged foods that are easy to make,  you can start cooking your meals ahead of time.

They will even still be convenient to eat when you’re ready because you can just pop one in the microwave and you’re good to go.

Even better:

This will help you avoid making a poor eating (and spending) decision when you are running around during class and hungry.

Create food from scratch or experiment with whatever’s in the fridge.

If you live in the dorms and have nothing to cook with except for a microwave,  look up mug recipes that use fresh ingredients.

Funny enough, research claims that cooking vegetables in a microwave retains more nutrients than cooking them with other methods, due to less heating time – but, let’s leave that to the experts.

Another idea:

Borrow a rice or pressure cooker from a roommate to cook something deliciously hearty.

Healthy College Eating | Budget Tips | Free Printable

 #5. Consider Buying in Bulk

It might be hard to shop perishables three weeks in advance, but for staples that don’t expire soon (eg. rice and pasta), buying them in bulk typically includes lower prices per unit.

If you can’t quite afford to buy it all, split expenses with a friend or a roommate. Both of you will benefit from the discounts and from splitting the cost upfront.

#6. Use Coupons to Take Advantage of Sales

If you want to save some serious money on groceries, it would be a good idea to know how to coupon.

It’s actually not as time consuming or as difficult to do, as you might think. A lot of the money saving is done from your phone these days.


Not all couponers are extreme.

I love to coupon, but I don’t go couponing for just any deal and I definitely don’t clear the shelf.

I only do coupon deals that are for items that are:

  1. SUPER cheap
  2. Something that I know I’ll use.

If that interests you, you can lean everything you need to know about couponing here.

#7. When Buying in Bulk: Get Frozen Foods

Think frozen berries, frozen meat, frozen peas, and broccoli – it’s easier to stock up on foods that don’t perish quickly.

Those who are living off campus and have freezer space can really take advantage of this tip.


If you see a rock bottom price, it’s usually a smart move to buy MORE than one.

#8 Stock on Healthy Snacks and Frozen Fruits

When grocery shopping, resist the urge to grab a bag of Doritos. You don’t have to give up snacking, just change your focus to options that are better for you, like nuts or veggies.

Snacking can be used as a tool to keep yourself satisfied until you next meal. In turn, you will have less of a tendency to binge on a heavy meal.

Over snacking can also be your down fall. So, as with all eating habits, it’s best to practice snacking in moderation.

#9 Hydrate With Only Water

Staying away from juices, sodas and other packaged drinks will not only help you keep the pounds off, but also help you keep your bank account in the green.

Drinking only water isn’t all bland and boring:

Toss in some frozen berries with your water to make a refreshing, infused drink. Or use water enhancers, like Mio, to keep your taste buds happy without nickel and diming yourself to a zero balance.

Even diet sodas and sugar-free energy drinks can make you fat. It’s just best to avoid spending money on them all together – aside from the occasional indulgence.


Water is practically free, or rather included, with your dorm rent.

#10. Only Buy What You Need

This is an obvious, but a perhaps undervalued tip for eating healthy in college:

As with any other advice for budgeting, only buy what is necessary.

This may be the most difficult part of living on a limited budget, but keep your wants in check and you’ll do great.

Extra Buying Tip: Know what the growing seasons are for different crops and buy produce when it is in season for the lowest prices.

Eating on a budget may seem like a daunting task considering all the sacrifices involved, but it can be sufficiently rewarding in the long run.

After all:

Who doesn’t love not having to stress about money?

Do you have a money saving tip for eating healthy in college? Let’s talk about it – leave me a comment below.

Click here to get instant access to my FREE printable meal planner worksheets & over 15 other printable resources for college!


More ways to eat right on a budget:


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One Comment

  1. Such a great post! I’m moving off campus next semester (no more meal plan!) so I’m definitely going to need this post in the future. Especially on my tight budget!

    Gen |