Wednesday, 11 August 2010

There's a Better Way: Saving on Food as a University Student

The following is a guest post from Jena Ellis.


While this may not be particularly true of university students in Europe, the stereotype of the American collegiate scholar is one who drinks cheap beer--more like water--and eats Ramen noodles, perhaps the cheapest microwaveable meal available. There is also the legend of the "Freshman Fifteen", which constitutes the alleged fifteen pounds a first-year student is supposed to gain as she navigates the world for the first time without mummy and daddy.

As someone who graduated from university not too long ago, I can attest to the fact that these stereotypes are by and large true. I myself ballooned a little over fifteen pounds, and my friends did the same if not more. Of course, a lot of these weight gain travails can be associated with drinking heavily for the first time, or even the stress induced by having to set your own study schedule without the structure imposed at home.

But there's one culprit to university student weight gain on which I'm going to focus--and that's cheap food. We all, of course want to save money. And saving money is a prime mode of activity for college students. Whatever is cheapest, whether its food, alcohol, textbooks, or clothing, we'll go for that first. And this is a great thing. Unfortunately, in the case of food especially, cheap food tends to be of low quality and low flavor.

Take Ramen Noodles for example. Can't get any cheaper than that. But the problem with Ramen is that its taste is very one-dimensional. What's more, it's really quite terrible for you. While Cheap as Chips has suggested to get off your lazy butt and learn to cook (wise advice, I may add), sometimes, for whatever reason, working on those culinary skills is inconvenient as a student. So what then?

My advice--what really turned things around for me during those college years of no money and junk food--is being a little bit smarter and more selective at the grocery store. For one, go to the smallest grocery store you can find, because the more options you have at a Mega Store type of environment, the more likely it is that you'll buy things you don't need.

Another thing to avoid is big brand name college staples. I'd often resort to Ramen Noodles, frozen pizza, Mac 'n Cheese, and other commonly known frozen or nonperishable food items simply because that's what I heard university students eat. If you do a little more searching, you can find things that are just as cheap but are a whole lot healthier for you. Most importantly of all, they have flavor.

Flavor is a huge component of consuming food that satisfies you. If you eat flavorless food, you'll want to eat more of it. And the more you eat the more weight you'll gain. One place I looked is in the ethnic food aisles. Japanese, Indian, you name it, tends to have more flavor than your standard, quick prep fare.

In the end, it can't be emphasized enough--check the labels for nutrition content, and check the prices. You'll be surprised by what flavorful bargains you can find if you just do some searching. 

This guest post is contributed by Jena Ellis, who writes on the topics of Online Certificate Courses.  She welcomes your questions and comments at her email:

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