Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating Healthy on a Budget

If you ever see an article titled something along the lines of "Most Expensive Places to Live in the U.S." or "Cities in the U.S. With the Highest Cost of Living," you'll probably see Washington, D.C. on the list.


D.C. residents are well aware of the pricey rent and expensive costs associated with living in this city but for college students like me who are ballin' on a budget, adjusting to life with such a high price tag can be a challenge - particularly when it comes to managing and planning my food costs. This city has so many amazing restaurants and unique dishes, which makes it really tempting to eat out every night of the week. But buying all your meals gets expensive fast! So, here's the tricks I use to save some money and eat healthy.


1. Meal Prep Your Lunch for Work

This is probably the best way to save money on food and ensure you're eating healthy because you can control what you're making. I feel like a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of meal prepping because they assume it's really difficult and time consuming. But with some planning and Internet research, you can find simple recipes with 5 ingredients or less that will only take a couple of hours to prepare. When choosing recipes, pick ones that include ingredients or spices you already have. There's nothing worse than spending $4 on a spice you only use once. "Tasty" is a Facebook sensation for a reason: most of the recipes they share are easy to follow and don't use many ingredients.


With this method, you can prepare your lunch for the whole week for way less than it would cost if you were to eat out every day. It's rare to find something for lunch in D.C. that costs less than $10, so if you eat out for lunch each of the four days of your TWC internship, that's $40 a week or $160 a month! That’s a lot to be spending just on lunch, and if you add up all your other food costs like groceries and happy hour, most of your money will be going towards food.


2. Don't Buy Expensive Coffee Every Day

Okay, this can be a really hard habit to break if you're a regular coffee drinker and caffeine addict like me. I confess I used to be one of those people who went to Starbucks every morning before work. But then I realized all those $4 coffees were really adding up! Not only were they expensive, but I was also consuming a lot of unnecessary sugar from each drink. So, for the month of October, I committed to only drinking the coffee I brew at home and breaking up with my expensive coffee habit. Even though I miss it sometimes, now that I see how much money I'm saving, I'm happy I made the switch.


3. Swap Candy and Soda for Fruit and Water

You know how it goes. You're standing in line at the grocery, convenience, or pharmacy and you're surrounded by tempting candy and ice cold soda. While you wait, you impulsively throw a bag of Skittles and a Coca-Cola in with the rest of your items. Even though this seems innocent enough, this another habit that really adds up and costs you money. Plus, we all know candy and soda isn't a healthy choice! By cutting them out of your diet, you'll be saving your wallet and your health. Carry around a reusable water bottle and find places where you can refill it for free. Keep healthy snacks like fruit or nuts in your purse or bag that you can eat instead of compulsively buying candy.

4. Go Meatless (At Least on Mondays)

As a vegetarian for over two years, I had to include this on my list. There are many reasons to cut out or cut back on meat in your diet, and I encourage you to do your own research as to whether or not this is the right choice for you. Netflix has a number of documentaries, including Forks Over Knives which is actually what convinced me to become a vegetarian. Several other resources include Happy Cow, Eat Right, and the Vegetarian Society. But once again, feel free to do your own research and make whatever decision is right for you!


For me, I find that being a vegetarian has improved my lifestyle and forced me to make healthier decisions. I can't just run to a fast food joint and grab a greasy burger, I have to put more thought into my meals for the week and make sure I consume enough calories and protein. Additionally, I spend way less money on food and groceries since I no longer buy meat. Even cutting back on your meat consumption once a week and replacing it with healthier choices such as a vegetable stir-fry or a salad will be an improvement in your diet.


5. Track Your Spending

This tip is more budget than health-focused, but this has been so crucial for me to better manage my money and see what I'm actually spending. You could do this a number of different ways, but I personally love using the app called Mint. It's convenient especially for someone like me with multiple bank accounts and credit cards because you can see it all in one place. You can also set up alerts as well to remind you of upcoming bills. This has been such a wonderful tool for me, so I highly recommend it to others! But if there's another budgeting system that works for you, use whatever. The important thing is to stay more on top of your spending and see where your money is going.

And now that you've saved all this money in other areas, you can feel less guilty about indulging on the weekends! You should absolutely still treat yourself and enjoy the great cuisine available in D.C. And if I can make a recommendation, head down to the newly opened Wharf D.C. (accessible via the green line on the Metro) and try a lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound! I promise it was delicious.


lobster roll at the Wharf DC




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