Living on a med student budget can hurt your diet (and your wallet). When the cheapest options are fries and more fries, it’s tempting not to practice what you’ll soon preach to your patients, especially in Caribbean medical schools, where food is more expensive thanks to import duties. Still, you can live a healthy lifestyle without bursting your bank account by following these suggestions.
Prep for the Week
Plan out what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next week so you know exactly what you need to pick up at the grocery store. Less food waste and less extras (s’mores, anyone?) will cut down on costs. This will also help you avoid impulse junk food buys, making it easier to commit to eating healthy.
Switch Out Standards with Nutritious Alternatives
Your meal is the sum of its parts – altering even the most basic components can increase nutritional value. Use brown instead of white rice and whole wheat instead of white bread. The cost difference is insignificant for these staples, and the health benefits are worth the small price bump.
Invest in a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers can run you $30 – $60, but they’ll save you roughly the same amount each month. Many slow-cooked meals can be made in bulk with cheap ingredients that fulfill many of your daily dietary needs, saving you prep time and money. Take, for example, turkey chili: ground turkey, vegetables, and beans simmered in a slow cooker for less than 4 hours transforms into a hearty meal you can subsist on for over a week.
Doggie Bag It
Eating out can be a great break from cooking, but you might blow a week’s grocery budget in a single evening. No matter how tempting it is to polish off that meal, save a portion for another time. You can incorporate those leftovers into your week’s meals for variety. Bonus: eating in moderation improves your health and promotes weight control.
Freeze What You Can’t Eat
Waste adds up. Everything that you don’t eat burns a hole in your wallet. By planning in advance and freezing food before it expires, you can use your saved vegetables to balance out future meals, plus save yourself a trip to the Epicurean. Stock up on freezer bags and store that food for up to 18-months.
Water, Water Everywhere
Soft drinks may be inexpensive, but water is (usually) free. More importantly, whereas most soft drinks are high in calories, sugar, or both, water is completely neutral. Think of it as the Switzerland of beverages. Tap water make you nervous? You can purchase a small Brita filter for a constant supply of free filtered water.