My first few times going grocery shopping for myself in Gainesville were challenging — to say the least. I did not know how to be a smart shopper. I went from aisle to aisle and roamed around aimlessly. I bought a bunch of buy-one-get-one-free items, but I never touched them before they went bad. When I’m home with my family, I can always count on my parents and sisters to finish the perishable food, so the transition to college was a shock.
Before I knew it, my fridge was filled with moldy strawberries and rotting lettuce. The smell coming from my mini-fridge was not a good one; I knew I had to change something. So, I stopped wasting my money on perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, as I knew I would forget they were sitting in my fridge and they would rot before I had the change to eat the. Instead I turned to things that could last a lot longer and were reasonably priced.
The downside with food items that fit this description is that they are often not great for you, but they are incredibly hard to stop eating. Frozen breakfast burritos and instant rice packets became my go-to meals. I quickly learned that I not only wanted healthier food choices back in my life, but that my body needed fresh, healthy food; my breakfast burrito and instant, microwavable food combo proved this to me.
1. Freeze everything
When my mom would freeze bread at home, it was both an annoyance and a hassle. The bread would freeze and defrosting it took so long that I wouldn’t even want to eat the bread anymore. However, when I came to college and my loaves of bread were molding quickly, I realized my mom probably knew what she was doing. Freezing bread helps it to last so much longer and allows one to get their money’s worth instead of having to throw items out less than a week after its purchase.
Meal prepping is also another way where freezing your meals not only saves one money, but also time. Honestly, I’m pretty lazy and always felt like I could get myself to spend time preparing meals. What I’ve learned is that meal prep is so much easier than I originally thought. While it’s more appealing to dig into a pretty meal, meal prepping does not have to look like a masterpiece or be as creative as Pinterest makes it out to be.
When I make chicken, rice and vegetables, I make more of everything so that I can freeze it for different meals throughout the week. The good thing about chicken, rice and vegetables is that they are all simple foods that can be elevated and incorporated into a variety of different dishes. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, but when it comes to food, I get bored of repetition. I know that I can’t eat the same food every day unless it has some variety to it. When it comes to cooking chicken, I make enough so that I can use it for rice bowls, wraps, sandwiches and even as the source of protein for salads. Rice is so easy to make and can easily be refrigerated and reheated for a couple of days.
2. Frozen fruits and vegetables are not bad for you
An alternative to fresh fruits and vegetables is buying frozen ones. Personally, I always assumed that frozen fruits and vegetables weren’t that good for you. I became very skeptical of buying these products as I didn’t think what I was putting into my body was the best choice. However, a story from the Washington Post talks about how frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as good for you as fresh produce.
Just because something is frozen does not mean that is necessarily unhealthy. The only main difference between fresh and frozen produce is that the frozen fruits and vegetables were frozen pretty much as soon as they were picked. By buying frozen produce, I’ve found that I’m not only saving money, but I am able to use all of my products and eat my food before it goes bad.
3. Elevate your microwavable meals
Adding extra homemade and fresh elements to a microwaveable meal creates not only a more healthy meal, but also one that doesn’t take too long to make and also tastes incredibly good. Some of my favorite and easiest microwavable meals to make incorporate the combination of frozen food and fresh produce together to create a better, more well-rounded meal.
By adding frozen broccoli to pasta, I’m able to have my fill of vegetables without buying an entire head of broccoli that I don’t need. Other times, when I’m feeling lazy, I use microwaveable rice instead of having to use a rice cooker. By adding beans, a fried egg and vegetables to my microwavable rice, it elevates what could have very easily just been a bowl of plain rice and beans.
4. Share things with your roommates
My roommate and I used to go grocery shopping last year, and this helped a lot when it came to saving money. When I first started college, it was hard to learn how to share basic things and necessities such as a bathroom, toilet paper and even bedroom space. However, over time I learned that having another person to share things with ends up working out well.
My roommate and I knew what groceries we wanted to share and would always take turns buying them. By making smarter decisions and sharing groceries, we are saving money and are buying products that we know we both would enjoy.
5. Don’t eat with your eyes
Whenever I am eating a meal, I always order more than I know I can possibly eat. As long as I’ve been in college and have had to be more responsible with my food choices, I know that while my eyes have big dreams, my stomach definitely doesn’t.
Overall, it’s always important to remember to shop smart, budget and keep in mind what you like and what will make you happy and healthy.