Eating Healthy with a Tight Budget – Is That Even Possible?

Now I’m not sure if you’ve arrived here as one who is exactly in the same shoes as me. I’m currently a full-time student, studying Business and Japanese at Griffith University. But I can imagine that at the very least, you have two out of three common passions with me – one, you want to eat healthy, and two, you want to know how to do that even with not much money. Well, if you stick with me, I’ll let you in on the secret that I’ve discovered – that living and eating healthy doesn’t necessarily have to ‘break the bank’. Nor does it require a lot of spare time! Even with a busy schedule, you too can be eating healthy with a tight budget.

So, as I was saying before, if you’ll stick with me, I can let you know how I made my aspirations into a reality, and, honestly, as one who has never been very good at budgeting or knowing how to translate my high aspirations for a healthy lifestyle into a day-to-day reality, if I can do this, you’ll see that you can do this too.

So let’s go.

The Struggle is Real

So first off, I’d like to share with you a little of my story – a little of the journey that I’ve taken to get me to where I am now. And for sure, it is not at all like I’ve arrived. I’ve got a long way to go. But as I was saying before, I am a full-time student, and not just an average student. Without wanting to boast, I am definitely a high achiever. I study my butt off, and give a lot of energy towards learning. And more than that, I give a lot of energy towards making friends and connections with my fellow students, as I know how powerful that can be. It’s not just in the corporate world that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” applies. Always look to the future! But beyond that, collaborative learning and teaching one another are some of the most powerful tools for learning the material on a way deeper level.

Anyway, as you could imagine, this kind of effort and application, and especially this kind of social momentum and drive, requires a lot of energy. At the end of the day, your internal soul-power can only drive you so far before your body just doesn’t feel quite up for the ride.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

See, everyone knows the old adage, “Healthy mind, healthy body.” But how willing am I to pay the price to achieve that? What am I willing to invest towards that endeavour? Well, of late, I decided that enough was enough of living on two-minute noodles and take-out. I knew that to really support my internal aspirations to achieve the greatest results I can academically and socially, it was going to require some investment towards my “vehicle” (my body). Although I walk pretty regularly, and I wouldn’t have said I was overweight in the very least, yet I knew that I wasn’t really what you could call fit.

Breakfast SmoothieI realised one key to change – we don’t really change to fulfill our dreams as much as when we raise the bar of what standard we are willing to not go down to. As soon as I changed my perspective of what I was going to allow to be acceptable, then a whole different passion kicked in. You know what it’s like when you see something happening that is just not acceptable, right?

Doesn’t Healthy Basically Mean Expensive?

But still you might ask, “Doesn’t eating healthy require forking out a lot more money than my tight budget can afford?” Well, actually, I have discovered the very opposite to be the case. It’s not necessarily that any particular thing I’m buying is cheap, but see, when you buy food with planning and intention – and when you consume the kinds of foods that actually genuinely feed your body, then you really don’t need to be spending so much money just “filling the hole.”

Can What You’re Saying Work with My Busy Schedule?

OK, so even if I’ve managed to convince you that you could budget your groceries in a way that would allow you to get good quality food to put into your “vehicle” to fuel you to really achieve, I can imagine that, like me, you wouldn’t have believed how efficiently you could do this as far as time goes.

Well, for the sake of brevity, I’ll give you a brief run-down on what I do (and if you follow my blog, then I’ll end up digging into all of this in more detail so you can do it too):

  • I currently do my shopping with Woolworths, and I use my phone to order online (allowing me to more easily see things when they’re on special for one). I do this on Monday or Tuesday, with the plan to pick it up on Wednesday morning as soon as the store opens. Compared to the amount of time I used to spend walking around the store, this is amazing! And I don’t have to worry so much about those impulse buys of things that I don’t really need.
  • I bought a Nutribullet blender on eBay for $65, and I use it for a smoothie for breakfast that is packed with goodness – kale, berries, walnuts, hemp seed powder, yoghurt, a little honey, and coconut milk. I figured out that costs about $3 a breakfast, and when I drink that, I feel so good! The fiber keeps me regular and I honestly don’t feel hungry till the afternoon.
    Rice and Lentils
  • I have a rice cooker, so I can cook bulk – brown rice and lentils (or something similar). I soak my rice overnight, so that I get the full benefit of the grains. I fry up an onion till it’s deliciously caramelised to add to this, and then I just bake some vegies – such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, and boil some other vegies like broccoli. This rice/lentils can be kept and heated as required for up to three days – which in particular really works awesome for when I travel to University. I can take that with me, and I’m totally satisfied. So then I save on not having to buy expensive food on Campus. Win-win!

Now, I’m definitely not going to try to convince you that this is perfect, as this is just as far as I’ve worked it out so far. I’m definitely ever on a journey to work out how to take care of myself, so that I can be energised to give to others – like you.

If I Can Do It, So Can You!

So anyway, to wrap this up, you know a little of my story now. You probably identify with my aspirations to be have a healthy mind and body. But aspirations are not nearly as powerful as deciding to raise the standard of what you’re willing to accept. Now, yes, this will cost you, but it doesn’t have to cost you money. Mostly, it’s a discipline thing, and it doesn’t really even have to cost you much of your time. Just once again, it’s a matter of priorities and vision.

So let me say, if I can do this, so can you!

Let’s do this!

P.S. If you’re a student, I’d be glad to hear from you by filling out Your Student Journey survey. That will honestly just take a minute, and ask you to identify what your particular desires are. Otherwise, feel free to keep browsing my site, and definitely comment below if any of this resonates with you. I’m right here to support you on your Journey.

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11 Comments

  1. I love that you have figured out how to eat healthy as a busy college student on a budget and are helping others to do the same. I’m far beyond my college years, but this is good info for anyone!
    I’ve thought a lot about doing my grocery shopping online and you brought up two reasons why its a good idea – saves time and helps keep you from purchasing those impulse items that we don’t really need.
    Thank you for the tips!

    • Thanks Kayla for the encouragement! Yeah, although I’m primarily targeting students who are in the same position and life-stage as me, I do know that many other people will still find commonality with at least a few aspects of what I bring up. You’re very welcome.

  2. I have found that for my smoothies for myself I get frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit and at the end it taste the same but it saves so much money because you don’t have to worry about the fruit going bad and all that. So realistically you could make it a lot cheaper by planning your meals well. Great article Steven.

    • Thanks so much, Tony, for your feedback! I should actually look into the whole frozen element. That could be really handy, especially if it does end up cheaper.

    • Hey, Tony. Just bought a 1kg bag of frozen blueberries, and 2 x 500g bags of frozen strawberries. I used them for my smoothie this morning. Seemed totally great. I haven’t worked out the maths yet since, but I do know that it will be a little cheaper overall again. So cheaper than $3 a smoothie seems to be really killing it in my mind at least. 😀

  3. I love this post. I think a lot of people try and be healthier and think that they need to go all out and get everything at Whole Foods.

    You are proving that you can be healthy by just sticking to the basics. Simple meals can be just as nutritious as complex and expensive ones.

    • Totally! And thanks for your encouragement. Basically, that’s what I set out to prove to myself really, that it really wasn’t a pipe dream to actually take care of my health on my currently quite limited budget as a student. This is why I’m so passionate to want to get the word out there to help others, as I know that there are many who like me want to achieve and take care of their health and develop a positive growth mindset, but think that they are limited by their lack of finances to start with.

  4. Hello Steven,

    I agree. It is possible to be healthy on a budget. It is definitely challenging. Unfortunately the most unhealthy food in our society now is the most affordable (sugar and white flour based foods).

    You got me thinking about lentils. I should cook some. My husband doesn’t like curry so he thought he hated lentils but when he had some soup I made with lentils he loved it! I need to find more ways to use them.

    I am not currently an active student (I finished all my graduate courses but still need to complete the degree) but I understand how expensive food is. I live in Alaska and everything is more expensive here. I have found if I take the time to cook a large batch of good food on the weekend I save money and can eat healthier throughout the week.

    • Awesome, thanks for sharing some of your story. Yes,lentils are way more than just curry. I cook them with the brown rice and fried onions and just use a bit of olive oil and soy sauce. It is amazing really how simply delicious it is.

      Alaska must definitely be a challenging place to live.

      • I will have to cook up some lentils. Thanks!

        Alaska is challenging in some ways, but here in the city it is not much different than anywhere else. Often it is colder in the northern states such as Minnesota and North Dakota than it is here.

        Thanks,
        Jessica

        • Interesting. I’ve only ever really been to the southern states of the US (North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee) aside from Dallas and LAX airport. Living in Australia, I’ve only ever really experienced a little cold and very rare snow in the Blue Mountains, but nothing like what any of the northern states of the US or Alaska would be like.

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