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Students: Eating well without breaking the bank

14 September 2016 by National Bank
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The back-to-school season can be expensive You've got to cover rent, moving in (if you haven't already), tuition, school supplies and textbooks, public transit passes and much more.

On top of all this, you still need to eat! Here are a few tips for making or buying meals on a budget.

Eat in and save big

It can be tempting to save time by eating out or buying ready-made meals. But cooking at home is the best way to maintain a healthy diet while saving money. A number of options are available to help you save on groceries:

  • Order a basket of ugly but delicious produce via second-life.ca or browse through your local grocery store for discounted fruits and vegetables nearing expiry. Certain supermarkets, such as Loblaws (which also owns Maxi and Provigo), now offer a range of "imperfect" fresh products at affordable prices.
  • Use the Ubifood app to quickly and easily review radically discounted food options from grocers and restaurants.
  • The Reebee app can also save you money by letting you compare flyers. The app highlights current discounts on various items, listing them by merchant.
  • Community fridges, which have been popping up all over the country, are a great option for getting free food while cutting down on food waste. However, you'll need to be flexible and adapt your recipes based on the products available.

Since there's currently no website or app listing all community fridges, you'll need to do some research to find one in your neighbourhood.

  • Some supermarkets, such as Provigo, also offer student discounts one day a week. Ask your local grocery store!

Strength in numbers

If you're not skilled at cooking or you don't enjoy cooking for one, collective kitchens may be right for you. The mission of a collective kitchen is to bring a group of people together to choose recipes, buy groceries, cook meals and evaluate the activity as a whole. Participating in a collective kitchen will allow you to improve your cooking skills and bring home a number of healthy, balanced and inexpensive meals.

To find the nearest collective kitchen, visit the Group of Collective Kitchens of Quebec website.

Food collectives and soup kitchens

Depending on where you go to school, a food collective or soup kitchen could be a good option. Some are even located on-campus at universities and other educational establishments:

  • The People’s Potato at Concordia University is a collectively-run soup kitchen that offers vegan meals on a by-donation basis. The organization notes that "no one is turned away for lack of funds."
  • The Midnight Kitchen at McGill University also offers free vegan meals on a free or by-donation basis.
  • The Garden Spot at Carleton University serves nutritious vegan meals using a "pay-what-you-can" system.

To find out if there is a food collective at your educational institution, contact your student union.

Eating out on a budget

If you like to treat yourself by dining out from time to time, be sure to choose a restaurant that fits your budget. A number of websites list restaurants that offer discounts (including student discounts):

Under Advanced Search, select Deals/Coupons or Specials from the Features menu to narrow your search.

Tonresto.ca also lets you search for restaurants that offer discounts in the Quebec City, Montreal, Laurentians and Saguenay regions. Just select "Restaurants with coupons and deals" from the Specificities menu.

As you can see, meal planning on a budget doesn’t mean eating poorly. A wide range of options are available to help students eat healthy and satisfying meals.


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