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JCCC Stories

Easy ways to trim your waistline and save your budget

January 12, 2018

Healthy eating doesn't have to cost a fortune

Good-bye fast, fatty food – hello fresh, affordable alternatives! Eating healthfully on a tight budget can be easier than you think. With some planning, a little technology, and minimal cooking skills, you can eat nutritious meals that satisfy your hunger and your bank account.

According to Claudia Martin-Ayoade, JCCC’s Registered Dietitian, just a few key steps will help you eat healthfully while you stay on budget.

  • Learn to cook a handful of healthy meals. Find recipes that contain protein, grains and vegetables, make them in large batches, and then freeze portions so they’re ready to go when you need them. You can always find a used slow cooker at a secondhand store to do the cooking while you’re gone for the day.

  • Take advantage of technology. There are tons of videos online — like this YouTube channel or these Instagram accounts — that show you how to specifically cook tasty recipes. These websites and apps will also help you save time and money:

    • Pinterest has a huge searchable database of recipes and cooking tips with photos and videos.
    • Facebook has thousands of pages with videos and links dedicated to specific cooking topics.
    • Favado is an app that gathers the best deals and allows you to compare prices across local grocery stores.

  • Be a smart consumer.
    • Avoid purchasing precut food; it usually costs more.
    • Generic foods can save lots of money and are usually the same product or quality as the brand name; be sure to check labels.
    • When purchasing packaged food, invest in calorie-dense foods rather than foods like cereal that requires several servings to fill up.
    • Frozen vegetables are as healthy as fresh ones because the freezing process locks in nutrients. And frozen vegetables are often on sale, so stock up!

Plan Ahead for Greater Health

Graphic Design student Tyler Stover said planning his meals for the week has saved him more money than any other strategy. It allows him to buy in bulk and then use fresh vegetables for more than one meal. He also knows a few tricks from working in a grocery store for seven years.

“Often times, stores package their ‘bad’ vegetables together and sell at a reduced price,” he said. “These aren't vegetables that are spoiled, just ones that may be banged up or bruised. But those vegetables cook up just the same and can really save you a surprising amount of money.”

Snacking can pack on pounds quickly, and according to Martin-Ayoade, preparing and bringing your own snacks saves money and is typically a healthier option than buying from a vending machine. “Bring a fruit or a protein bar, cheese sticks or small portions of nuts with you. Cut up vegetables and store them in bags or containers that you can grab on your way out the door. Not only do they fill you up, but they have virtually zero calories and contribute vitamins and fiber to your diet,” she said.

Tips for Eating on Campus

Martin-Ayoade also recommends some guidelines for eating on campus. “The salad bar is half price on Fridays, so you could load up and bring some of it home for the weekend. Also, there are less expensive sandwich options and mini-entrees like cheese and grapes or hummus and veggies sold in the coffee bars.” She reminds students that as you load up at the hot bar, use the scales to know how much you’re spending before you get to the register.

Martin-Ayoade says eliminating a food group is not a healthy way to save money. “You need a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats (like olive oil), fiber and water to keep your brain sharp and your body energized. Reduce simple carbohydrates from highly processed (and sugary) foods, but don’t eliminate all carbohydrates.”

Your Input Matters

Jason Arnett, Assistant Manager of Coffee Bars and Food Court, says Dining Services is always looking for feedback to know what food options customers would like to see. “There are lots of ways to get in touch with us and provide feedback — on Twitter, our Facebook page or our web page. And we do listen and make changes based on your feedback.” For instance, Dining Services recently added Asian broth bowls to the menu because of their popularity.

One of things Dining Services plans to launch this semester is a free online self-paced course to help students learn how to eat well on a budget. Ideally, you would watch a video, read some material and take a quiz at the end. “That would reinforce the information for students, but also help us in Dining Services know what you need and how we can help make your lives easier and healthier.” 

Take Control of Your Health and Budget

If you want to get a handle on your health and your budget, plus get free advice from a registered dietitian, you can make an appointment with Professor Martin-Ayoade or call her at 913-469-8500, ext. 3271. You’ll be glad you did!