Health | Wellness | Yoga | Chicago

How to Be Healthy On A College Budget: An Ode to Trader Joe’s

One of the most popular responses I get from people when they view my healthy lifestyle is, “How do you afford it?” or “Isn’t it so expensive?” It makes me truly sad and discouraged when people are discouraged and turned away from eating and living a healthy lifestyle because of the cost.

 

The first thing I will say and something that I truly believe is that you either pay for your health now, or you pay for it later. You can spend extra money now on organic, non-GMO, non-toxic foods and products, and workouts, or you can spend your money later in your life on your poor health through hospital bills, physical therapy and doctor’s office visits. It’s called health and wellness for a reason; healthy food and healthy decisions keep your body and mind well.

 

However, I do understand that sometimes we wish we could spend extra money now, but our college budget’s do not allow us to do so. I personally make my health and wellness a priority when it comes to spending my money. I work my ass off at several jobs mostly for the fact that it allows me to afford non toxic beauty products, healthy organic foods, and a couple extra kombuchas. But I also understand that people have a lot going on sometimes that prevents them from working all of the time, and they have other necessities that they need to spend their money on. In this post I will talk a little bit bout how to afford healthy foods on a college budget, and in another post I will discuss how to afford workouts!

 

Whenever someone asks me how I afford to be healthy in college, my short answer is Trader Joe’s. This post is in no way, shape, or form sponsored by Trader Joe’s or anything like that, I just truly believe it is the most affordable health foods store. Aldi has some great options as well and I would seriously consider looking there if you have access to one, but I have gotten used to Trader Joe’s at this point and I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

 

This brings me to my first tip for staying healthy on a college budget: shop at Trader Joe’s. Why do I love Trader Joe’s so much? First of all, everything in the store is non-GMO. I also love it because they have organic produce that is significantly cheaper than the organic produce elsewhere. They have also stepped up their game a lot recently by getting in some really cool products that I will share below. I highly recommend buying your produce, nut butters, nuts, dried fruit, baking ingredients, and more at Trader Joe’s. They sell the same organic products as the high end brands at other grocery stores, but cheaper. Here are some of my absolute favorite products from Trader Joe’s.

 

Organic Produce

I would argue that this is one of my favorite things to buy from Trader Joe’s. The prices literally cannot be beat. They do have a smaller selection of organic produce than other grocery stores, but nobody buys every single vegetable every time they go shopping anyways. Plus, it helps me choose which produce I want because I just buy the things that are organic that week. If you’re looking for something specific, you may need to go to Whole Foods (they have almost everything organic–it’s amazing) but sometimes I just cannot afford to spend so much on produce. Some of my favorite produce items from Trader’s are the organic rainbow carrots, organic zuchinni and squash, and the bag of organic apples.

 

Superfoods

 

Trader Joe’s has all kinds of super foods including flax seed meal, chia seeds, and raw shelled hemp seeds that are much cheaper than other name brands, and they are organic! You don’t have to go crazy and buy every super food out there. Although super foods like goji berries and spirulina are nice to have on hand to throw in a smoothie, you can lots of nutritional benefits by incorporating flax, hemp, and chia seeds from Trader’s into your daily routine.

 

I recommend using ground flax seeds rather than whole because the whole seed cannot be digested which means the nutrients don’t really get absorbed into your body. Flax seeds are great to aid digestion, help with constipation, and relieve period cramps. As far as chia seeds go, I incorporate them s. Chia seeds are great for women (and men, I say women because women often times need to eat more fiber) because just one tablespoon contains 5 grams of fiber. By themselves, chia seeds can be hard to digest and cause bloating. Eating the chia seeds either soaked or ground can again, make them easier to digest and absorb. Hemp seeds are my favorite because I genuinely like the taste of them and they are a true super food. Two tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. You don’t have to eat a tablespoon of each of these every single day to get the benefits; don’t become overwhelmed by the idea of super foods. Pick your favorite and stick to it! Or, buy all three and use whichever one you feel like using that day.

 

Dried Fruit & Nuts

 

I will be obsessed with Trader Joe’s almond butter ’till the day I die. It’s that serious. It’s completely raw (the only ingredient is whole raw almonds) and its completely affordable ($7.99 compared to other brands that charge over $12). I love both the creamy and the crunchy; you barely have to stir either one.

 

As far as nuts go, Trader Joe’s has a pretty good selection. It can be a little bit harder to find organic nuts though. I normally look for cashews with no salt because I just like the taste better, but I decided to go with the organic variety this time. BUT, check the ingredients; some of their nuts are roasted in bad, inflammatory oils such as canola oil.

Dried fruit has become one of my favorite treats lately. Dried figs are my jam right now; I was so happy to find organic dried figs at Trader’s. One of those dipped in almond butter makes the perfect dessert. Mango has always been one of my favorite dried fruits and they had this awesome Chokanan variety which tastes awesome. I am also super into freeze dried fruit lately. I like to snack on it by itself, or throw it in “cereal” (granola & almond milk). All of these packages say unsweetened and unsulfured which is key, otherwise they sweeten these high sugar fruits with even more refined sugar which is too sweet for me and honestly just unnecessary.

 

These are SO GOOD; I highly recommend trying them. Even though they’re not organic, they’re seriously one of my favorite snacks. They taste like apple cider! So yummy.

 

Meals

I don’t really venture in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s because a lot of the frozen meals are packed with preservitives and sugars, however, I always check out their kind of “prepared foods” refrigerated section, and I was definitely pleasantly surprised.

 

This chicken soup is so good! I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no noodles in it, and the ingredients are pretty awesome. Ingredients: Chicken Stock (Water, Onion, Chicken Meat, Celery, Carrots, Sea Salt, Garlic, Parsley, Organic White Pepper, Organic Thyme, Organic Marjoram), Chicken Meat, Carrots, Celery Onions, Sea Salt, Chicken Fat, Organic Thyme, Organic Black Pepper, Organic Bay Leaves. I definitely recommend trying this!

 

Anytime I see Grass-Fed, I am definitely drawn in. I normally only buy my meat at Whole Foods because it is extremely high quality and they are connected closely with their farmers. However, this grass-fed Sirloin Roast is perfect if you’re in a hurry! It’s great by itself, but I like to put it in some Siete Foods Almond Flour tortillas and make some awesome steak tacos.

 

Cooking & Baking

Picking a coconut oil brand can be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong with the Trader Joe’s coconut oil. It’s only $7.99, it’s organic, virgin, and it’s cold-pressed. Cold-pressed is always better than buying expeller pressed because using heat to refine oils damages it’s nutritional value significantly. I cook almost everything in either Coconut Oil and Avocado oil. Coconut oil is best for cooking things with medium heat, avocado oil is best for cooking things on high heat, and olive oil is best to not cook with at all. Heating olive oil completely damages the nutritional value, so I choose to only use it over salads and not for cooking or baking.

 

I have two links here about which oils to cook with and all about olive oil specifically that are great reads by Dr. Joseph Mercola:

What Is The Healthiest Cooking Oil

Good Oils Gone Bad: Recognizing Rancidity and Other Defects

 

Along with coconut oil, Trader Joe’s also has their own brand of  Coconut Flour, Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, 100% Pure Bourbon Vanilla, and Almond Meal which are just a few of my other baking staples. Side note about Vanilla: it’s super important to check the ingredients on baking vanilla, often times it is not real vanilla and instead contains artificial coloring, preservatives, and even corn syrup.

Did you know Trader Joe’s has their own spices? They’re pretty affordable and the 21 Seasoning Salute is a lifesaver. If you’re feeling lazy but you want to spice up your food, you just sprinkle on some 21 Seasoning Salute and you get a bunch of awesome flavors with one shake. If you really want to save money though, buy bulk spices like Turmeric in bulk from the bulk section at Whole Foods.

Frozen

I really like the frozen fruits and veggies at Trader Joe’s! They don’t have all varieties of organic fruit, but I really like this berry blend. Just remember to check the ingredients on the back to make sure they don’t sneak in any ingredients. I also really like to buy the Organic Frozen Cauliflower rice from Trader’s. Although they do have a fresh Cauliflower rice, it is not organic so I choose to buy the frozen one instead. It’s great to add in smoothies or to cook for dinner.

 

You don’t have to go out and spend $12 on an acai bowl! You can make one right at home. Loving these Organic Unsweetened Acai Packets to throw in a smoothie.

 

Snacks

If you watch my Instagram stories, you know these are my latest obsession. I will admit that I was a huge fan of Slim-Jims when I was younger, and these are like a way higher quality version! The beef is grass-fed, and they have a collagen casing. The ingredients are: 100% Grass-Fed Beef, Water, Sea Salt, Encapsulated Lactic Acid, Celery Juice, Black Pepper, Red Pepper, Garlic Powder, Coriander, Stuffed in a Beef Collagen Casing.

 

Other snacks that I love from there are LaraBars and Rx Bars! These are two of the three varieties of bars I will actually eat because they have clean, minimal ingredients.

 

Drinks

PSA!!!!! Trader Joe’s now carries Health-Ade Kombucha!!! I don’t know about you, but this is HUGE for me because it’s my all time favorite brand of booch and no other store near me carries it. I’m hoping they will get more flavors in, but this one is super good. They also have their own brand of kombucha and they carry a couple flavors of GT’s.

I hope you enjoyed my recommendations and I highly encourage you to go in Trader Joe’s and search for your own faves! If you find anything new and yummy share it with me and I’ll add it to the post!

Wait until things go on sale at Whole Foods! Every product I list below I have seen on sale at one time or another at Whole Foods. Here are my MUST HAVE products!

Two more quick tips for eating healthy on a college budget:

Sales & Coupons

This may sound obvious, but it’s such a good idea to wait until things go on sale at Whole Foods! Some of my absolute favorite products from Whole Foods such as Rebbl, Siete Foods, Primal Kitchen, etc ALWAYS goes on sale. You just have to be patient. Another thing that is slightly more recent is the Whole Foods app. If you download the app, there are some really good deals on there. A couple weeks ago it was $5 off of $20 air chilled chicken, and $2 off the salad bar. I highly recommend checking the app. There are also coupon books in the front section of each Whole Foods and just sale flyers in general so sometimes, you can get a really good deal.

Disclaimer: I do currently work at Whole Foods, but I was in no way, shaped or form influenced or sponsored to talk about the store.

 

Thrive Market

It’s an online grocery store where you can save money on all of the best products. They have a lot of my favorite brand name products including oils, flours, Primal Kitchen products, Rx bars,  and SO much more. You can also filter by the kind of “diet” you eat, so I am always finding new Paleo products to try! It even tells you how much money you save with each order. If you use this link: http://thrv.me/shapedupsam it will get you 15% off your first order! They have so many products to offer and it’s all discounted. Highly recommend checking that out.

 

R.I.P. Draco

The very last thing I want to say is that I want to dedicate this blog post to my 4 week old kitten, Draco. Unfortunately, he passed away this morning (which is why my blog post was late). One of my good friends found him as a stray and was kind enough to let me take care of him. I truly loved this little guy and I am very sad to see him go. Among other problems, the doctors believe that he had a serious disease such as cat leukemia and we decided to let him go in peace. I do believe things happen for a reason and thing come and go into our lives for a reason. I am grateful to have spent the time I had with him, and it showed me a whole new love for animals. Keep Draco in your prayers!

 

 

 

 

 



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