How to Eat Well When You're Young and Broke

It doesn't have to be all dollar menus and junk food.
August 26, 2016, 6:33pm
A cornucopia of fruit and veg. Photo via Wikimedia

A cornucopia of fruit and veg. Photo via Wikimedia

Eating well is a struggle for everyone, and when you're on a budget, it's damn near impossible. Walk into the grocery store with dreams of stocking your fridge with organic, free-range, and locally sourced foods, and after finding out that a bag of organic spinach costs $8, you'll walk out with 19 boxes of mac 'n' cheese.

That's the sad truth of living in a country that's not-so-secretly run by the sugar lobby: Processed box meals and fast foods are cheaper and easier to find than the good stuff. But that doesn't mean that you can't eat well on a budget—here's how young people just like you are making it work.

GO VEG, OR BUY CHEAPER CUTS OF MEAT

I'm occasionally an income-based vegetarian: I love meat, but when money is tight, my girlfriend and I cut it out and save around $30 per week on groceries as a result. If I'm craving chicken, I'll buy thighs or drumsticks because they're cheaper per pound than breasts. Skirt steaks are also a fraction of the price of fancier cuts of steak, and they make for delicious steak sandwiches. - Dan, 24

BUY A CROCK POT

I'm obsessed with my crock pot. Every Sunday, I use mine to make a giant batch of something versatile (think chicken breasts, chili, weed butter—you know, your typical kitchen staples) and portion it out into tupperware to eat throughout the week. You might think eating the same things every day would get boring, but I don't have to think about going out to lunch at the office, or cooking when I get home from work. I switch my recipes up week to week, so I don't get tired of anything. - Jamie, 28

FARMERS' MARKET

If you care about making sustainable food choices, shopping in-season, supporting local farmers, and spending less on produce than you would at the supermarket, then you'll love farmers' markets. Many farmers' markets even take SNAP, so if you live in a place that's warm all year-round, do the majority of your food shopping at your local farmers' market. It'll force you to learn new, seasonal recipes and will encourage healthy-eating habits. - Rebecca, 32

GROW YOUR OWN FOOD

If you're lucky enough to have access to a yard, start a mini-garden and grow your own herbs and veggies. You can even do this in a cramped city apartment with a few pots, some big windows, and a little patience. When it comes to flavor, there's a huge difference between dried and fresh herbs! - Emily, 22

SHOP AT NIGHT

I work at a grocery store, and we start pricing deli items at half-off around closing time. I always tell people to go shopping late at night for this reason. Also, most grocery stores restock on Tuesday nights, so go shopping on Wednesday and you'll get your pick of the freshest items and the newest sales. - Corey, 24

GO ETHNIC

My local Chinese market has prices that are almost half off what I'd pay at the Whole Foods down the street. I've started doing all of my shopping there, and it's forced me to learn how to make exciting new meals every time I go. - Grant, 28

BUY IN BULK

Meats are cheaper if you buy them in big portions. I like to buy a giant brisket for cheap and break it down into meal-size portions. I freeze those and thaw them out when I need them. This way I can spend, say, $15 on a week's worth of protein. This saved my life when I was in college, and I've done it ever since. - Wayne, 29