I remember how challenging it is to consume healthy food on a tiny budget living in a dorm room and playing NCAA baseball. There was a Del Taco a stone’s throw from Cal State Fullerton where I began my very short college career. I regularly scarfed their double cheeseburger and an enormous mountain of crinkly fries. That should tell you all you need to know about my naïveté as an18 year old student. Who gets the burger at a Mexican fast food chain?
Peter, Kaplifestyle’s summer intern, is much closer to his collegiate playing days, but way ahead of where I was back then. He’s about to deliver some advice from the perspective of a student very recently mired in a college baseball career. More importantly, he’s a young man trying to find his nutritional way in a world with many of the same challenges you may be facing.
I’m on pins and needles.
Quiero Taco Bell? No Bueno…
It’s that time of year again. Students of all ages are packing up the Jansports with colored pencils, glue sticks, maybe a notepad…you still need that stuff in college, right?
The one thing that gets overlooked is nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, college kids eat, and they eat a lot. Unfortunately, eating healthy on a budget is usually the last thing anyone considers. Athlete or not, you’re busy with homework, midterms, papers, workouts and the occasional fight with your significant other.
Even beyond college, trying to meal plan on a budget is a universal concern. I’m a catcher for my school, and I burn through a lot of calories. I’ve learned, by necessity, to shop intelligently on limited resources. Sorry guys, this may be college, but there’s no booze on this list.
The first thing to consider is where to shop. I frequent several different places, including:
- Trader Joe’s
- Sprouts (Just opened…but will probably start going more frequently)
- Whole Foods (Just a little too far for regular trips)
I find the combination of Costco and Trader Joe’s to be ideal, but really, a large outlet and an organic market should be enough to cover your bases.
I shoot for a trip to Costco once a month or so. During those trips, I generally buy:
- Package of chicken (I pick up what’s on sale, generally breasts or thighs.) This will run you around $20
- Ground beef, $20
- Ground turkey, $15
- 5 dozen eggs, $8
- “Family Size” bag of spinach or kale, $5
If I have some extra money left over, I’ll pick up a few optional things:
- Pork fillets, $25
- Steaks – generally New York Strips, $30
- Salmon, $28
I try to walk out of there under $100 while still picking up most of the proteins I’ll eat for the month. I bring them home, ration them out into bags and freeze them.
For produce, however, I need to head to a place like Trader Joe’s. I generally find they have fresher produce, but anywhere you can find a balance between quality and price is a good option. While I’m there, I pick up the following:
- Bananas, $.19
- Apples, $.79
- Avocados, $1.29
- Spinach, $1.99/bag
- Vegetable medley, $2.99
- Sweet potatoes, $3.99/3 lb bag
- Green onions, $.99/bag
- Carrots, $1.49/bag
For fresh produce, I generally need to visit the store once a week or so. However, with my bounty, I have a fantastic week of healthy meals at a reasonable price.
In order to take advantage of how I shop, I devote Sunday evenings to cooking. I prepare a main protein in large quantities, then package it up with different sides. For example, I might roast six chicken breasts in the oven, and then pair them with various vegetables for meals throughout the week. Additionally, knowing I have meals prepared in advance helps me to avoid the temptation of venturing out to eat at restaurants and spending money I don’t have.
These meals are healthy, filling and fuel my entire day. Here’s a sample.
- 4 egg scramble with spinach, green onions and a protein
- Cup of coffee
- A piece or handful of fresh fruit
- Vegetable medley with ground turkey
- Banana or other fruit
- Chicken breast or steak
- Broccoli or steamed veggies
Because I go from class to class, then to the ball field, I snack a lot. When you’re using up energy, you have to replace it with something. I usually stick to snacking on carrots and apples. They’re both refreshing and healthy.
Balancing the college athlete lifestyle is a difficult act. There isn’t a class on meal planning on a budget. I learned from trial and error what has worked for me, and I hope it helps you.
Cheers to my first blog post!