We all know how tempting it is to come home from a night on the town to order a bunch of pizzas with your friends. We all know how easy it is to skip packing a lunch and grab a quick burger from the cafeteria. We all know how rewarding it is to come home from a long day and devour a pint of mint chocolate chip. However these practices aren't going to help you move forward, progress, and achieve your goals.
People often complain about how hard it is to have proper nutrition while being a full-time student. It is expensive, it is time consuming, and my friends don't do it. That is all true, but there are some very basic practices that you can adopt to improve your diet and your performance. These practices can be boiled down to three simple rules: buy in bulk, prep your food, and don't eat out!
Show me the Money
The number one rule to live by when trying to minimize spending when it comes to grocery shopping is to BUY IN BULK. In the short term, it starts by going to the grocery store, finding a local wholesaler or Costco, and buying 10 lb bags of rice and oatmeal, family packs of chicken and ground beef, 18 or 24 cartons of eggs, and similar sizes for all of your dietary staples. Focus on everything non-perishable and meat, and then spend time freezing your meat and organizing your non-perishables properly to avoid freezer burn and any waste. This practice will result in significantly higher grocery spending for the first couple weeks when stocking up on these items, however that high cost will quickly level out. The overall structure will become smaller shops every week for produce and other small or perishable items (that can’t be frozen), and then a “top-up” shop every month or so to refill your stocks of your staple items. In the long term, you will save an incredible amount of money on your grocery bill and maintain consistently good nutrition.
The Sunday Grind
You often see professional bodybuilders, fitness models, and other strength and fitness athletes posting on social media about their food preparation methods and routines. This isn’t just for the high caliber or professional athlete, food preparation will cause three positive results for anyone and everyone: maintaining proper nutrition (quality and amount), having meals ready to go when you are busiest during the week, and saving you money by not going to buy food at a restaurant or cafeteria. My personal food preparation routine happens on Sunday nights, and has three main parts: meat, vegetables, and carbohydrates.
Meat is very simple, rarely changes, and involves two different parts:
- Cook 5 - 7 chicken breasts on a George Foreman grill, vary seasoning
- Cook a family pack of ground beef in the frying pan, sometimes with nuts, mushrooms, or other garnish/addition
Vegetable preparation can be looked at for two reasons:
- Cut up a variety of vegetables (changing week to week) to eat in a stir fry, as a side dish, or a snack with hummus throughout the week
- Cut and measure out vegetables and put in smaller containers to quickly be able to juice with breakfast or as a snack during the day
Carbohydrates are the last and the easiest:
- using a rice cooker, prepare a very large amount of rice, quinoa, couscous, etc... to have at most meals throughout the week
It’s a Trap!
The biggest and most common error that people, and especially students make is to eat out too often. It isn’t to say that you should never go out with your buddies on wing night, but eating at a restaurant will always be more expensive, less healthy, and often not as good and worse quality than eating at home. Restaurants are a business built on customer satisfaction and return customers, which leads to the addition of unnerving amounts of salt, sugars/carbs, and other non-essential ingredients to their recipes to make them significantly less healthy, but more appealing to the general population. If you do go out to a restaurant, there are a couple ways to get the best bang for your buck: always ask for all the ingredients of items, order very basic dishes (ex. ask for unflavoured and plain rice instead of their normal flavoured and salty variety), and ALWAYS get any sauces on the side. This will allow you to still enjoy the social atmosphere and maintain your nutrition practices.
The Good, The Bad, and the Healthy
The good news is that it is very realistic to be able to eat healthy, eat natural, and make your macros on a strict budget when abiding by a few basic rules and strategies. The bad is that it will mean spending some extra time preparing food, smart grocery shopping, potentially travelling further to get better value, and sometimes being the odd one out at the table when most people are pounding hamburgers from the cafeteria and you’re eating out of a Tupperware...again. Finally, the healthy is you! Diet is as big a factor as working out, sleep, or anything else in living a healthy lifestyle and improving your fitness and athletic performance.
I hope you found this article helpful and learned something new, and I always welcome any questions or comments you may have!
Jay Krause | @jkrause07
Jay is an Honours Bachelor of Commerce student at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University.
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