You may be doing yourself a favor by not investing in a meal plan after your freshman year. Although, not having a meal plan on campus can be a wake up call not only in learning how to budget, but also in learning to make healthy decisions on what you buy. Luckily, San Luis Obispo already makes it a bit easier to stay healthy with its tremendous lack of fast food chains in comparison to most cities, so don’t go out of your way to find them in order to eat cheap! Trader Joe’s has become my best friend since moving to SLO, and I have surprised myself with healthy meals that not only tasted awesome, but were inexpensive and easy to prepare. Eating healthy shouldn’t bust your budget, and Trader Joe’s offers plenty of options that are fresh, organic and cheap! Here are some great grocery items and easy meal ideas that I have found all under six bucks that can get you started on healthy college cuisine!
Organic Tropical Fruit Blend ($2.99) I love to snack on frozen fruit and this blend is perfect to thaw out and eat by itself, mix with Greek Yogurt and granola for a great morning parfait, or blend for a smoothie
Tofu Edamame Nuggets ($2.99) These may sound a little strange and I’ll admit, I hesitated when I reached for the bag. Don’t let the “tofu edamame” thing freak you out, because they were so worth it and are packed with protein! You can pop them in the oven and serve with a side salad for a tasty lunch.
Eggplant Cutlets ($2.49) are really versatile as far as making a meal out of, not to mention they are delicious and only 160 calories per serving. Bake them instead of frying to avoid using extra oils and use them over pasta with a hint of fresh basil for a quick eggplant parmesan dinner! If you’re looking for lunch, have some pita bread or Panini Rustic Rolls on hand and stuff the eggplant in with some fresh mozzarella, basil and red pepper for a perfect sandwich!
Frozen Tilapia Fillets ($5.10) are great for a lean protein dinner. Just make sure to thaw out your serving in the refrigerator for at least 8 eight hours and season how you’d like. My favorite easy way to prepare it is to season with salt, pepper, garlic salt and a little bit of olive oil or butter, slice some lemon and place on top, and then wrap it in foil and bake in the oven. Serve it up with some rice and veggies and Voila!
Healthy/Veggie Mix ($2.99) A convenient, pre-chopped mix of veggies that can be stir-fried in rice, tossed in a salad or wrap, or steamed with some pasta
Spinach ($1.99) is great to have on hand and is an easy way to add more greens to your meals. Mix a handful in with your eggs in the morning, add it in a sandwich or use it for salads.
Hummus ($1.99- $3.99) The roasted red pepper flavor is one of my favorites and can be eaten with veggies, pita chips or used as a spread in your eggplant wrap.
Grocery shopping with meal plans in mind will also keep you from just throwing things in your cart and spending extra money. San Luis Obispo is a great place to explore a healthy lifestyle with easy access to fresh produce during the weekly farmer’s market and plenty of organic shopping options at grocery stores. Don’t be afraid to test your culinary abilities and begin your budget friendly shopping!