Eating well on a tight budget

How to stay healthy without breaking the bank

Buying fresh vegetables, peeling them and chopping them up at home as soon as you get back from the grocery store will give you the convenience of pre-cut vegetables for the rest of the week, without the added cost.
Buying fresh vegetables, peeling them and chopping them up at home as soon as you get back from the grocery store will give you the convenience of pre-cut vegetables for the rest of the week, without the added cost.

So here’s the deal: Canada’s Food Guide emphasizes that eating a balanced diet that is low in fat
and rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables is important to our health. In fact, it warns Canadians
that eating poorly can lead to ailments such as obesity, cancer and heart disease. As well, the Food Guide points out that eating well leads to increased energy and a general sense of well being, which can help with the demanding lifestyle we lead as students.

And yet, one glance around any cafeteria on campus will tell you that we don’t always eat the way we
should. There are probably many reasons, including time pressures, stress and our intense devotion to
beer and wing night. But I think another big factor in the student’s lack of dietary effort is cost: healthy food is expensive.

A recent study in the Canadian Journal of Public Health examined food prices at different grocery
stores and found that healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables, is generally more expensive than
choices that are low in nutrients and high in fat and calories. So if you’re on a tight budget, here are five steps to do to ensure you’re eating right. Make your own fresh-cut veggies at home.

I’ve found that pre-cut veggies are great because they make eating vegetables easier and therefore
more likely to happen. I mean, who has time to cut and peel carrot sticks in the middle of midterms? But, if you compare the cost of pre-cut veggies to their whole counterparts, you’ll notice that you pay for convenience. If you want the convenience without the cost, buy some carrots, celery, cauliflower and broccoli, or whatever else you fancy, and wash, peel and cut them up as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Store them in zipper bags and place them in your refrigerator. Brown bag it.
Buying a slice of pizza or an assorted sub with everything on it can really put a dent in your budget, and it can also sabotage your diet. Even if you order the turkey on brown, can you really be sure that’s
light mayo being spread all over your sandwich? Granted, packing a lunch isn’t easy when you’re time-pressed. The key is to make it a habit and to keep things simple by taking leftovers or a sandwich.

Buy everything you need on the weekend, choosing whole grain breads and lots of fresh fruits and veggies, as well as lean meats, low fat cheeses and vegetarian options. Buy frozen fruits when they are out of season. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, berries are nutrition powerhouses, full of antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals, all of which help to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

But in the winter-time, fresh berries are extremely expensive. I’ve seen blueberries for as high as $5.99 for 1/2 pint, which is one serving. The other downside to out-of-season fruit is the environmental toll it takes to truck in all of that produce from warmer locales. Luckily, you can buy frozen berries and other fruits for a much better deal. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says frozen varieties are just as beneficial to our health as the fresh variety because they are picked and frozen at the height of their season. Buy a bag of frozen berries and put them on top of your cereal or make them into a smoothie with milk and yogurt in the mornings for a fast and nutritious breakfast.

Try alternative forms of protein. The Canadian Food Guide recommends having meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu more often, because they are lower in saturated fats and calories than animal forms of protein. And if you find that meat is eating away at your budget, you’ll be happy to know that meat alternatives are generally much less costly per serving than meat. For example, a can of beans costs 67 cents at Food Basics, and provides four servings. Four servings of extra-lean ground beef cost around $4, by comparison. Consider using the AMS Food Bank. If you’ve tried all of these strategies and are still having trouble eating healthy, the food bank can help. Tara Tran, director of the AMS Food Bank, said any Queen’s student with a valid student card, who is having difficulty affording a balanced diet is eligible. “If you are finding you are having to make the trade-off between healthy foods and less expensive items, or if your school work is suffering due to an unbalanced diet, we can help,” Tran said. The trick is to use the food bank to stock up on essentials such as pasta, soups and other canned items so that you can purchase healthier foods at the grocery store.
“We are here to provide the basics so that you can save the money to buy fresh items such as fish or chicken,” Tran said. She also said it’s important to debunk some myths surrounding the food bank. A common misconception is that people who run out of money for food have made improper budgeting choices or have poor life skills.

“Queen’s students come from a variety of backgrounds and economic situations,” Tran said, adding that many have legitimate reasons for using the food bank.

Still, if you are feeling nervous about using the food bank, a new locker service can help alleviate
some of your reservations. Go to to fill out an online request form, and food will be delivered to you at a discreet location on campus.

You can also visit the AMS Food Bank at MacGillivray-Brown Hall during walk-in hours: Wednesday
5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Sunday from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Overheard in Kingston

Facebook lurker: “Did you see that Karen Hitchcock has Facebook now? So many people are in a relationship with her.”
—Class in Botterell Hall

Guy #1: “Nice icicles.”
Guy #2: “Yeah … My landlord paid someone to come over and knock them down.”
—Outside a house near Earl and Division Streets.

Girl: “This is disgusting. There are starving children in Africa and people can’t finish their pop.”
—Walking past the CESA office in the JDUC

Girl: “Can the shot give you Hep A after you get it? Cause my arm hurts.”
—Holding her arm, in line at the Common Ground

Guy who’s seen too many Harry Potter movies: “No prof at Queen’s could ever be as good as Dumbledore. They just like to get our hopes up.”
—Looking at ad for Knox Teaching Award

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