Forget 2 Minute Noodles and toast for every other meal – eating healthy on a uni student budget is possible. There are plenty of ways to eat a nutritious diet all while saving money for expensive textbooks (or the uni pub…). You don’t need pricey (and cleverly marketed) products, just the basics. Don’t believe us? Here’s how to eat healthy on a budget, plus some cheap healthy meals and recipes.
What foods should I be eating?
For optimum health it’s important to understand the main food groups you should be aiming to eat daily:
Fruit: Enjoy pieces of whole fruit or throw the cheaper, frozen stuff into a smoothie.
Vegetables: Eat as many different coloured vegetables as possible.
Grains/cereals/starchy carbs: Aim for wholegrain or high fibre options.
Meat, eggs, and alternatives: Look for lean meats and low saturated fat nut butters.
Dairy and alternatives: But be mindful of added sugar content.
Once you understand the basics of what you should be eating, you’ll find there are many cheaper, nutritious options from these food groups that you can buy from your local grocery store.
Tips for how to eat healthy on a budget
1. Go frozen
Choosing frozen fruit and veg can be very helpful in both lowering cost and in preventing food waste if you tend to forget about options languishing in your crisper. In many cases the nutrients are actually better preserved for when you’re ready to eat!
2. Cans are A-OK
Canned vegetables and beans are a convenient way to get veg and protein into your diet. Be mindful of added salt.
3. Shop seasonally
Buying in-season produce has many benefits. The cost per kilogram is lower because there is an abundance of the product at specific times of the year. The flavor and nutrient profiles are better because they can be picked when they are actually ripe. And finally, it is typically more environmentally friendly as the produce comes from more local regions, reducing the carbon footprint.
4. Home brand
Don’t be afraid to buy home brand products. Typically, you are paying for the brand not the product when you buy name-brand items.
5. Buy in bulk
While it feels like you’re outlaying a lot of money at once, buying in bulk can really lower your bill in the long run.
6. Read labels carefully
When looking at the shelves for the pricing on your foods, take a look at what’s printed right underneath the price – you should see price per gram or price per kilogram. Often larger quantities are cheaper than the smaller options. Here’s your guide to reading nutrition labels properly.
7. Budget-friendly recipe ideas
Below are two nutritious, easy and most importantly cheap recipes that anyone, even uni students in small kitchens can make!
Cheap healthy meal ideas and recipes
Lentil Bolognese – $2.05 per serve
1 tin lentils, drained and rinsed
1 jar passata or tomato sauce
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (or just spices like oregano)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bag pasta
Add olive oil, mushrooms and zucchini to pot over medium heat until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add jar of passata, salt, pepper and Italian seasonings. Stir occasionally and cook until reduced by half or desired consistency. Cook pasta to packet instructions. Add pasta to a bowl and top with the lentil bolognese and enjoy with a side salad. Serves 4
Burrito bowl – $4.80 per serve
1 cup basmati or Doongara, rinsed
1 medium-large sweet potato, diced
2 chicken breasts
2 cups spinach
1 tin sweet corn
1 avocado, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Cook rice on stove to packet instructions. Pre-heat oven to 220℃. Season chicken breasts and sweet potato with the olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Add sweet potato to sheet pan and put in oven for 30 minutes. Stir potatoes halfway through cooking and add chicken to the pan for the remaining 15 minutes or until cooked through. Assemble the final ingredients in a bowl, top with salsa and enjoy! Serves 2-3
Eating nutrient-rich, wholesome food doesn’t need to be expensive and we hope these tips have helped you learn how to eat healthy on a budget. Let us know if you make one of these recipes!