Healthy Eats on the Cheap, Inspired by College Grads

Each summer, a new collection of freshly minted college graduates enters the workforce. They move their futons out of campus housing or coveted off-campus apartments, shed their school-issued I.D. cards, which no longer provide easy access to food, photocopies, and laundry facilities, and experience an about-face with reality. It’s an exhilarating transition and a tad shocking– especially from a financial standpoint.
Of this humble period in our lives, I’ll never forget my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Karen, recounting with more than a little nostalgia, “You’re so broke, and you don’t care! You’re sitting on the floor, eating a can of tuna for dinner, and it’s awesome because it’s your apartment and you bought that can of tuna.”
Well said.
Nevertheless, all the independence in the world doesn’t negate the fact that being strapped for cash is challenging– whether you’re a recent college grad or anyone else grappling with this rickety economy . . . Show of hands? Tight budgets force us to scrutinize our spending habits and forgo certain things; however, healthy and speedy meals need not be among them.
With the help of’s favorite member of the class of 2010, Erin the Intern, I’ve compiled three quick recipes, inspired by campus favorites including pizza, fried rice, and ice cream, which scrimp on cost and time like their takeout counterparts, but not nutrition.
Original Dish: Pizza
Time: Whenever the delivery guy gets there.
Cost: $13.50 (1 large, thin crust pizza with 1 non-meat topping).

Om Gal Upgrade: Tortilla Pizza with Veggies
Time: Depends how crispy you like it.
Cost: $11.28 (with plenty of leftover ingredients for later).

After college, I went on a pizza hiatus and just regained my appreciation for it last year, while in training for the Boston Marathon. Ask my Thursday night training partners. On certain nights, I was fueled solely by the promise of pizza afterward. We joked that I should have worn a shirt that read: Will Run for Pizza.
This healthier variation comes from Meghan Telpner at Making Love in the Kitchen. Her recipe features many more vegetables, which I highly recommend; yet, for the sake of cost, I chose only a few key ingredients here:
  • Organic tortilla ($2.50 for a 10-pack)
  • Organic tomato & basil sauce ($3.00 for jar of Newman’s Own)
  • 1 small jar artichoke hearts ($1.79)
  • Organic baby spinach, ($3.99)
Healthy How-To: Assemble the ingredients as shown above. Sprinkle with pepper. Pop in the oven. Cook at 300 degrees, until crisp.
Original Dish: Fried Rice
Time: 20-minutes to an hour for delivery
Cost: $7.70

Om Gal Upgrade: Quinoa Goes to China
Time: 20-25 minutes.
Cost: $3.64 (or $7.28 for double the serving size).

  • Quinoa (2 cups uncooked), $5.29
  • 2 organic eggs (scrambled), less than $1.00
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, .99
  • Soy sauce
Healthy How-To: The most protein-rich grain on the planet, substituting quinoa for rice instantly makes this dish more nutritious. While your quinoa is cooking, lightly scramble two eggs. Add the eggs to the fully-cooked quinoa, along with some water chestnuts (drained). Flavor with soy sauce. Do a victory lap around the kitchen at your new found culinary skills. Next stop: Iron Chef.
Original Dish: Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Rainbow Sprinkles
Time: Depends how long the line & how hot the weather.
Cost: $3.75
Om Gal Upgrade: Yogi Approved Yogurt & Berries
Time: Just long enough to locate a clean spoon.
Cost: $3.25 ($6.50/2 servings, estimate)
Healthy How-To: You don’t need a diploma to figure out this one. Buy a tart yogurt with as few ingredients as possible and add some frozen fruit. I dig Haagen Dazs, which isn’t cheap; however, it still beats out most to-go counter options. Plus, even the most frugal guys and gals splurge on occasion. Why not make it on a scrumptious, summer dessert?
*Please note: Prices vary depending on grocer, location, season, etc.
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  • Jen

    Love the quinoa goes to China! I'm going to have to try that. It sounds really good.

    And, I'm making my own pizza Friday night with my new pizza stone! Not sure how healthy it is, but hopefully it comes out ok. :-)

  • Emily

    Very excited about the quinoa recipe. Thank you!!