By: Patrick Millar

Say you’re a college student, short on money and cooking experience, and you have to cook a decent meal for yourself. What can you make that’s both budget-friendly and doesn’t taste like cardboard?

Many students living by themselves for the first time have to ask themselves this question on a daily basis; it’s not easy to reconcile price, taste, nutritious value and ease of cooking. Eating healthy, tasty food at a reasonable price doesn’t have to be a challenge though: here are some simple tips to help with day to day cooking.

Eat out less, cook at home more

As long as you’re cautious about what you eat, buying your own food and cooking it is much less expensive than going out to restaurants for lunches and dinners.

“I cook a lot at home because I am very budget conscious,” said Kaitlyn Dullemond, a massage therapy student. “You have to be careful when buying food though; otherwise you could end up spending a lot more than you wanted to.”


“Some days I end up eating pretty healthy, and sometimes it’s Kraft Dinner,” said Jeff Boles, a business administration student. “For the most part, it’s all about moderation.”

If you can, alternating between healthier yet slightly more complex and expensive meals and easy, less nutritious meals like the aforementioned Kraft Dinner can both add variety to your meals and save you some money in the long run, as well as help you follow Health Canada’s diverse food guide.

Buy the right kind of foods
According to Cara Rosenbloom, dietitian at Canadian Living Magazine and online nutrition columnist on the Heart and Stroke’s website, an easy way to get cheap and delicious food is buying the right kinds of food at the right time. In season foods or cheaper cuts of meat are usually affordable, and if you buy premium cuts of meat and off season fruits and vegetables in moderation, you will be able to pull together great meals at an affordable price.

Part of that is that many foods like beans, rice, peas and noodles cost much less per pound for the uncooked materials to cook them, and are healthier as well, than packaged versions. What’s more, a lot of these kinds of foods are as simple to cook as boiling them in water, making them quick, easy and accessible to everybody. It may take a little more time, but the money you save will be worth it in the long run.

One final tip…
Knowing what to buy and how to cook it is a learning experience that quickly becomes vital for those new to living on your own. The best advice I can give is this: practice! Cook meals for yourself and your friends more often, experiment with recipes, and look up new recipes online.

Hopefully this article gives you a bit of food for thought.