The Best Broke-College-Kid Meal Strategy

Most of us can relate to the whole “wanting to eat clean but not having the money or time” dilemma.  So we are laying out our best tips and tricks to help you out and keep you on that healthy lifestyle grind.  We’re providing you a list of good foods to keep around (+ our rationale) and other money-saving tips. Here we go: 


  • Kodiak Cakes Flapjack Mix
    • Protein-packed and low-fat. Comes in a ton of great flavors and they’re super filling.  They make a great breakfast paired with fruit or nuts. And the chocolate favor makes for a great dessert.
  • Milk
    • One we really like is the CarbMaster milk from Kroger: zero fat, only 3g of carbs, and 11 grams of protein per serving. Plus it’s lactose-free!
  • Protein powder of your choice
    • Typically wholesale clubs sell protein at very low prices per serving; also great in a pinch to keep you full & can be added to so many different recipes.
  • Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk
    • Only 30 calories & makes protein shakes taste delicious!
  • Ancient Harvest POW! Mac and Cheese
    • Mac and cheese is always a budget effective decision. The sharp cheddar variation tastes amazing, is protein packed, and contains minimal fat. So if you’re a cheese person, that means you can probably afford to put some extra shredded cheese on top. Yum.
  • Greek Yogurt
    • Greek yogurt is often sold in value packs and is a great solution to that pesky sweet tooth. Opt for lower sugar options or plain if you can handle that.
  • Almonds
    • We’re aware these are NOT cheap, but they’re a great investment, especially if bought at a wholesale club or in a value size.  They’re a great way to get in healthy fat and are a great calorie-dense snack.  Plus, you don’t have to eat that many at a time to get in some calories. Much better for you than eating potato chips.
  • Spinach
    • A great option when it comes to volume foods, and it’s packed with micronutrients and negligible calories.
  • Microwave popcorn
    • Opt for variations like Healthy Pop by Jolly Time and Smart Pop by Orville Redenbacher to avoid the crazy fat calories found in other options.  It makes for a relatively clean carb in a pinch and is another great volume food with a minimal caloric impact.
  • Lean ground Beef, Chicken breast, Turkey breast
    • One or all of these are essential if you 1) aren’t a vegetarian or a vegan 2) are in need of a protein source.  These can be cooked easily in a pan or an oven, but we chose these specifically because they often come in microwaveable varieties (just flip to the back of the package and watch those sodium calories!) or they can be purchased as cold-cut lunch meats, making them easy even if you’re living the dorm life. We suggest lean cuts of meat because we understand the temptation of processed, fat filled snacks in college. What’s up Flaming Hot Cheetos and late night cookies?? All joking aside though, it really is about balance – we figure you’d want to make up the lack of fat calories somewhere else. Just a thought though.
  • Beans
    • Great for our plant-based peeps.  Super easy to whip up, cost effective, and a great source of protein. It’s a win!
  • Eggs
    • Convenient and fast to make on the stove or in the microwave, eggs are a perfect way to get in some fat and protein.  Plus, when bought in bulk, they’re extremely affordable.
  • Plain Instant Oatmeal
    • They always say: “you could feed an army on this stuff!” That’s not entirely wrong.  It’s a great way to start the day – it’s a complex carb, packed with fiber, and another great volume option to keep you full for the early part of your day.  Avoid the pre-seasoned sugary options and make it your own with spices or fruits!
  • Steam Bags
    • You can find these in the freezer section and pick up veggies and brown rice on the cheap.  Each bag typically has multiple servings and you don’t have to worry about fresh produce going bad! Perfect for if you’re someone who tends to buy stuff and forget about it for a bit.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Shop somewhere with a rewards program or a loyalty card.
    • For example, if you shop at Kroger with your loyalty card, you can save up to 10 cents/gallon of gas when you fill up at Kroger locations.  Not a bad reward!  Another major key: Target’s Cartwheel feature on their app. Huge money saver – it’s as simple as scanning a product and saving the discount barcode for checkout if there is one.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach.
    • You’re more likely to grab what you’re craving – which oftentimes ends up being unhealthy (and also a whole lot of extra money). Do yourself a favor and eat before heading to the store!
  • Related to the above: Bring a list.
    • And stick to it!
  • For your unhealthy/processed food purchases, shop at a discount store.
    • The Dollar Tree and other dollar stores sell the same processed snacks you buy at the grocery store for much less. Make one more stop for those gummy worms and you’ve already saved yourself about a buck.  Small savings add up!
  • Bring your own bags.
    • In certain cities/states, stores will charge around 10 cents per grocery bag, which can really add up over the time. Invest in a couple of reusable grocery bags or recycle some you already have to save some cash over time and do the environment a solid. Killing two birds with one stone, woohoo!
  • Don’t pass over generic brands.
    • Oftentimes store-brand products are identical to the name-brands you love and grew up on. Flip to that back panel and compare the ingredients.  You might be surprised at what you find (+ those savings!!).
  • Check out weekly grocery ads.
    • You can find major savings, especially on fresh produce and meats. And we all know those are luxuries when you’re on a tight budget.


Wishing you all of the best of luck in your upcoming semester. Study hard and happy eating!

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