How to Shop and Eat Healthy on a College Girl's Budget

If you're a dreamer in the kitchen, it's easy to imagine all of the delights you wish you could afford to cook. However, cooking gets pricey and often we end up buying ramen and frozen dinners because, let’s be honest, it's pretty satisfying to leave the store with only a small dent in your bank account. Believe it or not, there are ways to get crafty with your oven and stove that you just haven’t thought of yet. All it takes are a few groceries you need to get acquainted with and your meals will be forever changed. (And your bank account won’t be!) Here are a few tips to expand your pantry selections forever.

1. Spices

First and foremost, swear by your spices. Whether you like some heat or a little taste of Italy in your food, there are spices for you. Find them near the sauces, pastas and salad dressings at the grocery store.

2. Veggies

One of the best ways to use spices is with cooked veggies. A good option for serving multiple people (not to mention so easy to do), is a tray of baked vegetables. You can get creative with your selections, but some good choices are mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and small gold potatoes. Cut your vegetables into smaller pieces, mix them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and your choice spices, put it all on a cookie sheet, and straight into the oven. This is cost minimizing snack, and not to mention, there is little clean up involved when you are finished.

3. Ground Beef Bowls

Another easy, affordable meal to cook is a ground beef bowl (If you aren’t a beef person, you can substitute with ground chicken or turkey). These bowls are delicious and there's so much room to be creative with them. You cook up your meat and select spices and veggies to go with it. If you feel like having breakfast, scramble an egg, choose some toppings you may put in an omelet like spinach or cheese, toss them all up with some spices and your meat, and you’ve got yourself a breakfast bowl. If you like southwestern food, use some hotter spices and throw in corn, salsa, peppers and onions. Or if you want an Italian based bowl, use oregano, tomatoes, garlic, spinach or zucchini. These bowls are easy, cheap, and yummy!

A couple tips for saving money on groceries:

Check out the weekly ad at your local grocery store! There are always BOGO deals, and if you do it right, you can spend less and save more. For example, if you want chicken, keep checking for buy one get one chicken breasts, and you will find them. Buy a couple of packages and freeze some, and that's one less thing you have to buy for several weeks! You can also find BOGO deals on olive oils, sauces and salad mix pretty much any day.

Another tip is to meal prep. It's very easy to spend too much money eating out because you want a quick meal. But if you take an hour at the beginning of your week and make salads, stir fry or even those ground beef bowls mentioned earlier, you can separate each into tupperware and stick them in the fridge. Now you have meals prepared for lunch or dinner all week long.

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