I was lucky enough to be able to go to Trader Joe’s with the challenge/opportunity to buy groceries for one week with 50$! Trader Joes is my favorite grocery store as a college student because they offer a wide variety of foods for good prices. I am currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh so eating meals that are both cost and time efficient, but also healthy and filling is very important to me. Another important aspect to me is that I am vegan! Being vegan has helped me so much with my relationship with food and just how amazing it makes me feel. With that being said, I have definitely had to master how to be vegan as a college student so hopefully some of my tips can help.
After going to Trader Joe’s I was able to get a ton of good stuff for 57$. I did get a few things that I could for sure go without, but I did not get a few necessities (bread, almond milk, and almond butter) because I still had some at home, so I think the average for the groceries is anywhere from 50-60$.
Now let’s talk about what I got and how to make the best use out of it. My go to breakfast meals are oatmeal, toast, yogurt, or smoothies. For the oatmeal I buy steel cut oats. I cook them with almond milk and flavor with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little bit of vanilla. I top these with lots of different fruits, almond butter, coconut, and anything else you would like! My favorite kind of toast is avocado toast. I use the Trader Joe’s brand sprouted 7-grain bread (60 calories a piece) and top it with mashed avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, Trader Joe’s everything but the bagel seasoning, sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper. You can also put almond butter and sliced banana on this bread. Some other options for breakfast are yogurt (I prefer dairy free) with fresh fruit and granola, vegan (or regular) pancakes/waffles, or a fresh smoothie. To make the vegan pancakes combine one cup of any flour (I use oat), one tbsp baking powder, cinnamon and stevia to taste, one tsp vanilla, and one cup of any plant based milk. For my smoothies I blend frozen mango, strawberry, banana, acai, spinach, almond milk, and a few dates in my nutri bullet and top with coconut almond butter and chia seeds. All of these meals take no more than ten minutes. You can also make a bigger batch and leave in the refrigerator for the next day. For lunch and dinner I eat so many different things, so I will talk about a few. Some of the easiest options that were apart of my purchase from Trader Joe’s are the ‘chickenless crispy tenders’ and the ‘chickenless mandarin orange’. You just pop these in the oven and then they’re done! You can also buy frozen vegetable fried rice or regular brown/white rice that can be cooked in the microwave. If you feel like cooking, one of my easiest and most delicious go to meals is either cauliflower gnocchi or pasta (both apart of my purchase today). For both, I sautée zucchini, tomatoes, and spinach in a pan with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. (A big hack is to get the olive oil spray from Trader Joe’s because it is less calories!) I let all of that cook until its all mixed together. I then add the cauliflower gnocchi or pasta. My favorite pasta to use is Trader Joe’s red lentil pasta. Sometimes if I am craving meat I will add Trader Joe’s sausageless italian sausage which honestly tastes just like sausage. This “sausage” can also be eaten for breakfast. Lastly, for my go to snacks I really try to keep them simple and healthy. An apple with almond butter always keeps me full and satisfied. However, when I need a real snack I always grab Trader Joe’s puffcorn. When I need something sweet, I eat Trader Joe’s almond butter cups. They’re peanut butter cups but with dark chocolate and almond butter and they are so good!
Being in college, I am always in a rush and pretty stressed out, so eating right is not always first on my priority list. However, I have learned that what I fuel my body with is super, super important. It is what gives me the energy to study, workout, go to practice, meetings, you name it. It is absolutely possible to buy enough groceries to keep you full and satisfied for a week for a very reasonable amount of money. Eating right is not about the money you spend. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of planning to know what you need to get you through the week.