College Cuisine

Smart shopping, cooking and diet choices on a student budget


Photo Courtesy McKenna Bean

Celine Holland, Editor

Living in a vacation destination can be hard for one to save money amongst some of Tahoe’s inflated living expenses. For a college student this challenge is an even greater battle. When it comes to finding the greatest value for your dollar, one’s diet and food is where positive change can bring exponential opportunity. Students on campus are discovering this for themselves and sharing how important it can be to take time reevaluating the grocery list or invest energy in the kitchen. For it is in these stories we discover it to be more affordable, to be sustainable.

So why is food important?

“I’d say at least 75 percent of my money goes to food,” Sierra Nevada College junior sustainability major McKenna Bean said. “I was in Nick Babin’s sustainable agriculture class last semester, which really influenced my food choices, especially produce. I look for organics and I really like to practice juicing now! And I like to stay away from buying processed foods.”

SNC senior sustainability/journalism major Kyly Clark works at the local New Moon Natural Foods store in Tahoe City. She advocates for consumers to make thoughtful food choices.

“I’ve always said that buying wholesome and healthy foods are worth the expense, and although groceries are pricey in Tahoe, I am happy to invest in quality foods for my body,” she said. Senior Isaac Laredo, an SNC environmental science and ODAL major, connects his eating habits to the health of the plane.
“A huge way in which we can reduce our carbon footprints is really monitoring what we eat,” he said.

Healthy food on a student budget

“For me, it’s definitely more feasible to go to the store once a week,” Bean said. “I like to go on Mondays. I think it’s called “Monday Madness” at Raley’s, when everything’s really on sale.

“I’d say Safeway has a bit of cheaper selection [of healthy organics] than Raley’s does. I grew up with a Vons, and they are a partner of Safeway, so when I use my mom’s Safeway card I get money off every time I go. I always come out about $30 short of what I would come out of Raley’s with. But, to be quite honest, I love to go down to Carson City too. I buy stuff at Costco and Trader Joe’s, because I also feel like I can get healthier options for cheaper.”

“I try to do ‘one big shop’ once a week because I’m less likely to buy things I don’t need and would otherwise lose track of my budget with multiple trips to the store,” Clark said. “Having access to a discount at the health food store because of my job makes better choices affordable for me and I am really thankful for that because I’m definitely a ‘foodie.’ New Moon Natural Foods has dozens of discounted items on sale that changes monthly. They also have a 50 percent-off produce bin with blemished/bruised items every day, and a customer appreciation day once a month.”

Laredo follows the axiom of shopping the outside isles of the store.
“I try to avoid processed foods when I go into Raley’s,” he said. “I try to stick to the produce and bulk foods sections. It helps me not only save money but I also know what ingredients are going into my food.
“If you shop in the bulk section bring/get some glass jars and reusable bags to take proper care of those items.”

Maximizing value

“I do like to prepare my meals! Make your food! Because buying processed stuff becomes more expensive in the long run,” Bean said. “Time is money, but guess that’s what I’m more willing to spend. I do like to make my own pizza, but I guess that’s because I’m gluten intolerant and it is more expensive to buy processed foods for people with allergies in the store.”

Clark says her diet and cooking choices influence her food budget.

“I think being a vegetarian helps with saving money, but I also buy foods based on sale items too,” she said. “I freeze a lot of fruits and vegetables when they are in season or on sale, I buy bulk beans and cook them myself, and I buy bulk almonds to make my own almond milk, all of which saves money and creates less trash.”

Laredo isn’t intimidated by experimentation.

“If you have a curiosity about how to make something, look it up, because it’s generally easier than you would think,” he said. “Being able to make things at home, that you know what was put into, is a fun process and a great skillset.

“I make a lot of veggie burgers at home, which are mainly a cool ground beef substitute that still gives you your veggies and protein.”