It’s a well-known fact that the college years are some of the unhealthiest times in a person’s life. With multiple classes, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and the occasional hang out with friends, finding time to eat well is difficult. After a busy day, students want the easiest choice for food, which is usually synonymous with fastest and greasiest. No one wants to spend an hour cooking a meal when they’ve been on their feet all day and there’s a pile of studying waiting for them, so they go to Ronald, the King, or good old Wendy for something quick.
Grocery stores known for specializing in health foods are always an option for students looking for fast, microwave-ready meals that are a much healthier alternative than what you’ll find at a greasy diner. Yet, with prices that hover between $4 to $8, their convenience comes at a cost. Continually pay that much for your meals, and your wallet won’t know the difference between that and a large combo meal at Carl’s (even if your waistline will).
The choices are bleak for those looking for quick dinners; save money and sacrifice your health, or save your health and sacrifice your money.
There’s no easy answer for the college-meal dilemma, and whoever could come up with one could make a fortune. However, there are healthier and cheaper options than fast food that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen. If you can believe it, there are meals out there that can be made in minutes. And no, they don’t all consist of noodles in a cup.
First, get into the mindset of thinking ahead. Take your free afternoon and make a couple of large dishes of food that will last throughout the week. Cook up a batch of rice, along with a few chicken breasts and some vegetables, and you’ve got yourself a gourmet meal that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Take it one step further, and you can freeze individual meals for yourself, so on that day you sleep through your alarm clock, and you have to rush out the door, you can quickly grab a meal for later.
Also, for college students cooking for themselves, frozen goods are fast ingredients toward a healthy and quick meal. Packages of frozen meat, vegetables, or pasta can be easily stored and saved for weeks, saving you from the horrible discovery at the bottom of the refrigerator of ground beef that went bad 10 days ago. Even if you’re the only one eating your groceries, freezing produce allows one to buy in bulk, which generally costs much less than buying smaller packages of food.
Finally, use the Internet as your tool for meal ideas. Visit Amazon and its customer review section to find a cookbook that’s right for you. And while there are many cookbooks that are available for students on the go, there are even more websites and blogs devoted to quick dinners and helpful cooking tips. For starters, check out the site “Budget Bytes,” which features inexpensive meals that don’t take long to prepare. There are a variety of resources available to help you cook fast and healthy meals—you just have to make use of them.
Try turkey steaks with spinach, pears and blue cheese (featured above): Better Homes and Gardens
For a dish on tortellini and peas, go to: About.com
Mix things up with a tuscan white bean salad: Budget Bytes