5 Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans on a College Budget

Being a broke college student is rough, especially when it comes to things to eat. You can only eat so much ramen and pasta until you get sick of it. Add in any dietary restrictions and it becomes even harder to find good and (somewhat) healthy things to eat. Last year, I developed a lactose intolerance and shortly after, I decided to become a vegetarian. Since the majority of my diet up until that point had been pizza, pasta, and grilled cheese, I was in for a big change. Here are my tips on how to be a vegetarian or vegan when you’re a busy college student on a budget.

1. Stock up on legumes and grains

Vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be carb-heavy to make up for the other ingredients. Potatoes and rice are good but offer little nutritional value. Instead, try grains like quinoa and barley and legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and any kind of bean. These are all cheap, super versatile, and packed with protein, fiber, and other nutrients that will keep you full for hours.

2. Skip the frozen veggie burgers

Most boxes are between $5-10 for a few burgers. Not only can you enjoy those legumes and grains alone, but you can easily make them into your own veggie burgers. When you have some extra time, make several and freeze the leftovers for busier nights. You’ll save money and avoid eating the over-processed frozen versions. Here are some good recipe options.

3.Buy nutrient-rich vegetables

Up until recently, I didn’t like most vegetables. One way I got over that was by roasting them. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and asparagus are loaded with vitamins and nutrients like calcium - nutrients that you might not be getting as much of if you don’t eat dairy. Just mix the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and some chili flakes for an extra kick then stick it in the oven. Most of these come in pretty large quantities, so chop up the leftovers and put them in other meals like omelettes or pasta. Buy vegetables that are in season to save even more money.

4. Make pre-prepared breakfasts

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even if you have an 8 am, don’t skip it. Since breakfast mostly consists of eggs, meat, and buttery pastries, it can be hard to find good options. Chia pudding is one of the easiest and most versatile options. Just add a milk of your choice (almond is my favorite), chia seeds, and some sweetener and leave it in the fridge overnight. Chia is loaded with fiber, protein, and calcium. It can be about $10 for a bag but it will last for months and can be used in a ton of different ways. Adding mix-ins like cinnamon, maple syrup, berries, or cacao powder will make the pudding taste unique each time. The same goes for overnight oats, which is another quick, easy, and cheap breakfast that will last for days.

5. Embrace the smoothie bowl trend

These Instagram-able meals are perfect any time of the day. I like to buy a mix of frozen berries and combine it with almond milk or orange juice. Using fresh fruit is preferable but it’s more expensive, especially when they’re not in season. Blend everything then pour it into a bowl and add berries, granola, chia seeds, chocolate chips, or anything else you want.