How To Eat Well When Your Wallet’s Empty

Look, education is expensive and the costs keep climbing.

Even with financial support or a part-time job, the reality for most of us is that being a full-time student also means being near broke. 

The stress that can come along with that is a strain on mental and physical health. It can affect mood, focus and memory, energy levels—  all very important variables in the equation of student success.

After lump-sum payments for rent and tuition, there can be little leftover with which to do that most essential thing— feed ourselves.  

It’s rarely talked about, but food insecurity has quietly become a serious student issue. Much more needs to be done to resolve it, but there is a lot happening already.

If you find yourself cutting out meals or putting nutrition on the back-burner because money is tight, there are options.

On Campus

Fact: postsecondary institutions can be complex to navigate.

If you’re not actively looking then you could miss out on some helpful resources. With a little scouting you might be surprised by what’s available. Many schools have on-campus food banks, and many offer part time employment for students with financial need, for example. If you’re not sure what’s out there, talk to an advisor or counsellor. Your tuition pays them to connect you with the right services.

At Home

Fact: that is far easier said than done.

It means less eating out, more time at home preparing food yourself, plus a little extra time and effort because— let’s face it— the cheaper foods usually need a little extra love.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If I can share one recommendation here, folks, it is this: make friends with the unassuming lentil! That goes for beans, chickpeas, split peas, and anything else from the family known as pulses, too.

These nuggets of nutrients are versatile: they appear in cuisines the world over, they take on flavour from the spices, herbs, acids and sauces you surround them with, and add their own earthy depth and density to dishes. They’re great in soups, salads or sauces, pilafs, pulaos, or paellas. Best of all, they’re dang cheap for something so nutrient-rich! Best of all, protein-packed pulses are available anywhere, which means you can grab a can from the nearest corner store in a pinch.

Here’s a trick: in a favourite recipe that features ground meat, cut the meat down by half (or even entirely) and replace it with lentils or mung beans for their bulk and texture, plus a handful of minced button mushrooms for that rich, savoury taste (called umami) that we usually rely on meats for. Save a few bucks without sacrificing the deliciousness that you deserve!

Off Campus

There are food banks, soup kitchens, and places of worship that offer meals on site or non-perishables to take home. You don’t have to be on the street to use these services, folks. There’s enough for everyone who needs a good meal. Also, in many communities across North America, a new model is popping up to address food insecurity, called the community food centre. At your local CFC, you can eat fresh and nutritious meals, often made with ingredients handpicked from local community gardens and handcrafted by a staff chef. You can also learn and share knowledge about cooking, nutrition, and budgeting. FOR FREE! And, if you’re so inclined, there are often opportunities to volunteer, so you can support and stay connected to a community centred around healthy food!

Those are just a few options to think about. Use that student brain and get creative.

Most importantly, folks, if you find yourself going hungry, we encourage you to reach out. Everybody deserves to have access to the tools to take care of themselves. Everybody— including YOU— deserves to eat.

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Look, education is expensive and the costs keep climbing.

Even with financial support or a part-time job, the reality for most of us is that being a full-time student also means being near broke. 

The stress that can come along with that is a strain on mental and physical health. It can affect mood, focus and memory, energy levels—  all very important variables in the equation of student success.

After lump-sum payments for rent and tuition, there can be little leftover with which to do that most essential thing— feed ourselves.  

It’s rarely talked about, but food insecurity has quietly become a serious student issue. Much more needs to be done to resolve it, but there is a lot happening already.

If you find yourself cutting out meals or putting nutrition on the back-burner because money is tight, there are options.

On Campus

Fact: postsecondary institutions can be complex to navigate.

If you’re not actively looking then you could miss out on some helpful resources. With a little scouting you might be surprised by what’s available. Many schools have on-campus food banks, and many offer part time employment for students with financial need, for example. If you’re not sure what’s out there, talk to an advisor or counsellor. Your tuition pays them to connect you with the right services.

At Home

Fact: that is far easier said than done.

It means less eating out, more time at home preparing food yourself, plus a little extra time and effort because— let’s face it— the cheaper foods usually need a little extra love.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If I can share one recommendation here, folks, it is this: make friends with the unassuming lentil! That goes for beans, chickpeas, split peas, and anything else from the family known as pulses, too.

These nuggets of nutrients are versatile: they appear in cuisines the world over, they take on flavour from the spices, herbs, acids and sauces you surround them with, and add their own earthy depth and density to dishes. They’re great in soups, salads or sauces, pilafs, pulaos, or paellas. Best of all, they’re dang cheap for something so nutrient-rich! Best of all, protein-packed pulses are available anywhere, which means you can grab a can from the nearest corner store in a pinch.

Here’s a trick: in a favourite recipe that features ground meat, cut the meat down by half (or even entirely) and replace it with lentils or mung beans for their bulk and texture, plus a handful of minced button mushrooms for that rich, savoury taste (called umami) that we usually rely on meats for. Save a few bucks without sacrificing the deliciousness that you deserve!

Off Campus

There are food banks, soup kitchens, and places of worship that offer meals on site or non-perishables to take home. You don’t have to be on the street to use these services, folks. There’s enough for everyone who needs a good meal. Also, in many communities across North America, a new model is popping up to address food insecurity, called the community food centre. At your local CFC, you can eat fresh and nutritious meals, often made with ingredients handpicked from local community gardens and handcrafted by a staff chef. You can also learn and share knowledge about cooking, nutrition, and budgeting. FOR FREE! And, if you’re so inclined, there are often opportunities to volunteer, so you can support and stay connected to a community centred around healthy food!

Those are just a few options to think about. Use that student brain and get creative.

Most importantly, folks, if you find yourself going hungry, we encourage you to reach out. Everybody deserves to have access to the tools to take care of themselves. Everybody— including YOU— deserves to eat.

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