Eating Healthy while Living Off Campus

Do you live off campus and find yourself not eating as well as you could? I know grocery shopping can be annoying or maybe even confusing, but it’s vital! A common myth is that healthier food is more expensive, and I’d have to disagree. Think of a bag of chips. At Walmart, they might have two family size bags of Lays for $5 if you’re lucky. I could buy 3-4 bags of carrots with that money. I spend about $30-$40 a week, which is a lot less than what some of my friends spend.

Here’s what’s typically on my grocery list:

  • Spinach (Aldi)
  • Carrots (Aldi)
  • Mini portabella mushrooms (Aldi)
  • Cherry tomatoes (Aldi)
  • Avocado (1)(Aldi)
  • Honeycrisp apples (2)(Aldi)
  • Frozen raspberries (Aldi)
  • Frozen peas and/or mixed vegetables (Aldi)
  • Eggs (Aldi)
  • 100% Whole wheat bread (Aldi)
  • Whole wheat wraps (Aldi)
  • Whole wheat pasta (Aldi)
  • Salmon fillets (Aldi)
  • Marinara sauce (Aldi)
  • Tortilla chips (Aldi)
  • Salsa (Aldi)
  • Organic granola bars (Aldi)
  • Almond milk (Aldi)
  • Sweet potatoes (Walmart)
  • Amy’s gluten free/vegan frozen burritos (2)(Walmart)
  • Pizza dough (Walmart)
    • Cheese (I try to stay away from dairy, but I buy this when I want to make pizza)

This list lasts me all through the week, however, it doesn’t include random things I may need every once in a while such as olive oil or condiments. Also, the food I enjoy eating may not be what you like so our lists may vary! Aldi is a great place to grocery shop. The prices are very fair, especially compared to Walmart. Also, many items from Aldi are organic and many of the items, such as the tortilla chips I buy, only have a few ingredients which I love.

Some of examples of meals I make for breakfast and lunch with the items on this list include scrambled egg wraps with spinach and mushrooms, avocado toast, and spinach salad with tomato, sunflower seeds, carrots and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. A few meals for dinner include salmon with sweet potato fries and peas, pizza with red sauce, spinach, and mushrooms and cheese, and egg salad sandwiches if I’m feeling a little more lazy. Here’s a picture of my salmon, sweet potato fries, and peas dinner:

Salmon, sweet potato fries, and peas.

There are plenty of healthy snacks included in this list. I love the burritos also. I’ve never been a huge fan of frozen food, but the burritos at the end of the list are made with natural ingredients and are very good for you! At the end of my busiest days, when I have the least motivation to cook, I’ll make one of these instead and pair it with some salsa and maybe some carrots or some other vegetable option.

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be this huge, daunting task! I even try to organize my lists based on what I will run into first in the aisles at the grocery store. There are various small tips and tricks you can learn to become a more efficient grocery shopper, but the most important skill I’ve learned is bringing in all the bags at one time. No way am I making two trips, ha! Now make a list and stay focused; you’re gonna do great!

“Eat, Save, Yum”

Off-campus living will make a man out of you or a responsible young adult at very least. When I first got word that I would be living off campus I had plans of ordering pizza pies and chinese takeout in large portions throughout the week. Eating leftovers on alternate days to be “ money savvy”.

Somewhere between a shrinking account and a growing waistband I came to my senses. The original plan had not been sensible in the least. In order to survive off-campus, more than basic culinary skills would have to be acquired.

I sought the advice of my older sister Simone Belle a nurse practitioner and graduate of New York University’s School of Nursing. Someone who understands what it means to be a struggling college student trying to juggle more than a few things with limited resources.

We narrowed down the dining goals to three major components: Affordability, healthy choices and timeliness.

There are some items that you may want to add to the cart right away. By design these items are usually placed near the entrance of the store and located on the exterior of the aisle with “great deal” signage decorated around it. Resist the urge to be tempted by first creating a grocery list prior to shopping. Junk food items not only add up in cost but are unhealthy. When in the store go down you list of needed items ensuring that you have all the ingredients to make a solid meal. Then when your list is complete add a few of those wants as treat. This will drastically cut your grocery bill.

Create balanced , healthy meals that still taste good!

When prepping healthy meals it is important to create a diverse offering on the plate. According to the American Cancer Society and United States Recommended Daily Allowances (USRDA) “it is recommended to eat a wide variety foods to best obtain the appropriate protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals from fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains”. While fresh vegetables may be best. Simone tailors the message for young adults “Frozen vegetables are a perfect choice for college students because fresh vegetables might spoil before use and canned vegetables hold very little nutritional value”

Time is often one of the hardest adjustments for off campus students, as meals take considerably longer to prepare than swiping for a meal at the dining hall. It is definitely a challenge learning to adjust to cooking at home while your friends are on their way to the dining halls. Damaris Dunn senior at SUNY Oswego living in the Village Commons agrees, “ What you have to realize is that when others are heading to the dining halls, that is your time to head home to your kitchen. Bring a friend over too! I hate cooking for one person so I always invite a group of friends to enjoy a good meal too”

Cooking for friends makes it less a chore more a fun filled event

These are all tips that have led to better eating habits that are both healthy and reasonable with in my current college lifestyle. With some luck these tips will help you have a healthy, fit figure to go along with good grades by semester end. Who knows you may even brag as I do now about how “culinary savvy” you have become.

– Bon Appetite !