Healthy Groceries on a College Budget



Hello, beautiful! I'm on another health kick here at Haley Marie Blog, so today I'm bringing you a post all about how I shop for healthy groceries on a college budget.

Admittedly, I did a post very similar to this one awhile back about my favorite place in the world, aka good ol' Trader Joe's. But today, I wanted to revisit the topic to talk about what I eat in a normal week in greater detail and show you guys how easy it is to eat healthy - even when you don't feel like cooking!

When you're a busy college gal rushing around campus, eating healthy might feel impossible. After all, those meal prepped salads you see on Instagram definitely take a lot more time than picking up a Panera bread bowl on your way home from class. But I'm here to show you that you don't need to be a 'Gram star to start treating your body like the temple it is.

In fact, the hallmark of my daily diet is that I love to eat things I can just throw together in a heartbeat. What I'll be talking you through today is a handful of my favorite lazy day staples for munching on when I don't feel like eating "real food." (Which, if I'm being honest, is what ends up happening most days!)

On that note, here's what I typically eat in a day and how I shop for healthy groceries on a scrappy college budget. Let's get started :)



Produce

In any healthy diet, fresh fruits and veggies should be the foundation of what you eat on a daily basis. One of the most helpful tips I've ever heard about healthy grocery shopping is to try to shop the perimeter of the store, as that's where you'll find the freshest fruits, vegetables and other products with minimal processing!

Here are some of my favorite things to buy in the produce aisle for a healthy diet and why I love to eat them so much:

  • Mini peppers. The easiest snack to munch on between classes, and my favorite way to sneak in some healthy veggies! 
  • Red grapes. Grapes are the perfect finger food for snacking on-the-go. Toss some in a bag on your way to class and chew away.
  • Bagged broccoli. You know, the kind that can be steamed in the bag in the microwave...you'll never find an easier way to sneak veggies into your dinner than this! 
  • Romaine lettuce. For piled-high Caesar salad dinners and topping off a sandwich between classes.
  • Baby carrots. Another finger food I love to munch on when I'm on the run! Perfect for tossing in a bag on your way to your next class.
  • Guacamole. A must-have dip for eating with multigrain tortilla chips (see below), peppers or carrots.

Meat & Dairy

After I quit being vegan/vegetarian in January 2018, I was able to incorporate a lot more healthy options into my diet and finally get that variety I'd craved for so long. One of the things I am still passionate about when it comes to meat, however, is buying cage-free, antibiotic-free and hormone-free whenever possible. (Organic is great, too, if you can swing it!)

Here are just a sampling of the staples I like to pick up when I'm cruising through the meat and dairy aisles at my local grocery store:
  • Hormone-free chicken. I like to freeze chicken for making everything from lightened-up chicken alfredo to sweet and sour chicken over rice. But because I'm conscious of the balance of estrogen in my body, it's super important to me to avoid brands that feed their chickens growth hormones. That's why I look for hormone-free varieties instead!
  • Roast turkey slices. My favorite meal to make on the go is a turkey and muenster cheese sandwich. Add a couple baby carrots and you've got yourself an easy lunch or dinner of champions.
  • Organic cheese slices. Much like hormone-free chicken, I also look for hormone-free dairy products whenever possible. They're perfect to keep on hand for making one of my favorite comfort meals, grilled cheese with sliced tomato.
  • Siggi's yogurt. Siggi's is my favorite brand of yogurt because it's creamy, tart and oh-so delicious! Technically, it's Icelandic-style Skyr rather than yogurt, but it's the perfect breakfast or snack nonetheless.
  • Organic milk. I like to keep organic milk on hand for cooking, particularly when I make Annie's macaroni and cheese on lazy days ;) I always try to buy full-fat dairy whenever possible because it's better for acne-prone skin than the low-fat or fat-free stuff that has added sugar in it.
  • Vanilla Coffeemate. Moderation is key to any healthy diet - and for me, my sweetened coffee is the one thing I won't give up for anyone or anything. The one thing I try to look for is products that don't contain high-fructose corn syrup. Other than that, I give myself free reign when it comes to making my coffee taste amazing! 

Snacks & Pantry

A lot of healthy foodies will rave on and on about how you should try to eat minimally processed snacks - and for the most part, I agree! However, there are some times in life when we just have to forgive ourselves for what we eat when we're super busy and on the go. 

In my opinion, at these times, it's much better to prepare healthier packaged snacks than to go for the good old-fashioned cookies, cakes and Coca Cola. That being said, here are some of my favorite snacks and pantry items in that category to stock up on for busy days:
  • Salad dressing (with no added sugar!). Salad dressing is one of those sneaky places that food industry giants like to slip sugar into. So, make sure you read labels so you find the most minimally processed option you can! (I'm a fan of the Annie's and Trader Joe's brands.)
  • Multigrain tortilla chips. If you're gonna eat chips and tip, my philosophy is to at least get some whole grains in there whenever possible! On busy days, I've even been known to eat chips and guac for dinner. Not that I recommend that, of course...
  • White wheat bread. If you're like me and super picky about the texture of your food, I highly recommend white wheat bread. It's just as soft as the Wonderbread you remember from your childhood, while still getting in those 100% whole grains. (The Trader Joe's brand is, as always, my personal fave!) P.S. Read the label and try to avoid that high-fructose corn syrup. Sneaky, sneaky devil that stuff is! 
  • Dark chocolate trail mix. Last but not least, if you need a snack that's perfect for running all over campus, trail mix is the way to go. Trader Joe's makes my favorite blend: it's simply almonds, cashews and dark chocolate with a hint of salt. Mm, mm, mmmm!

What are your favorite cheap, healthy eats on a college budget? LMK in the comments below!