Guess what Bulls? Eating healthy CAN be done while on a tight budget! 

Making healthy choices, such as consuming nutritious foods, on a daily basis during usual times is challenging enough. When you factor in added stress, such as what we’re all experiencing due to the Coronavirus, it may feel like even more of a challenge, and at times, impossible. During times of stress its important that you’re fueling your body as best as possible with foods that will give you both the physical and mental strength to effectively function at peak performance. The good news is that even on a budget, there a number of ways to eat healthy and tasty foods to keep you in the zone!  

You can still eat healthy with limited funds by creating meals with inexpensive, but nutritious items. To decrease trips to the grocery store, focus on stocking up on shelf stable or frozen items that you can create meals from. Before picking up items, create a list that includes foods from all five food groups. (Image of MyPlate here) 

Here are some lowcost examples of each food group: 

  • Canned or dry beans 
  • Canned Tuna 
  • Canned chicken 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Frozen fish, chicken or meat 
  • Canned fruit, packed in 100% juice 
  • Fruit cups 
  • Raisins 
  • Frozen fruit 
  • Bananas or apples (typically inexpensive year-round) 
  • Fresh fruit that is in season is less expensive 
  • Canned veggies, no added salt or low-sodium varieties if available 
  • Frozen vegetables 
  • Lettuce, potatoes, onions, broccoli (typically inexpensive year-round) 
  • Fresh vegetables, in season 
  • Tub of low-fat or fat-free yogurt 
  • Value bag of shredded cheese
  • 1% of fat-free milk, or plant-based dairy alternative 
  • Shelf stable milk carton 
  • Tub of low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese 
  • Whole wheat dry pasta 
  • Brown rice 
  • Whole-wheat bread 
  • Whole wheat tortillas 
  • Canister of rolled oats 
  • Whole grain cereal (such as cheerios) 

 If you’re able to buy items in larger “value” sizes, this can be more cost effective. For example, purchase a large package of raw chicken, then separate and label in freezer safe bags for use later on (remember to wash your hands with hot soapy water after touching raw meat!). Other items, such as bread or cheese, can also be frozen for use later on. 

Easy Overnight Oats 

Prep Time: 5 Min.Total Time: 8 hours, 5 Min.Servings: 1 


  • ½ cup uncooked oats 
  • 1 cup milk or juice 
  • Optional add ins:  
  • Flavors (1/4-1/2 teaspoon): cinnamon, vanilla extract, ginger, cocoa powder, ginger, lemon zest 
  • Toppings: dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, yogurt 
  • Sweeteners (1-2 teaspoons): peanut butter, maple syrup, applesauce, coconut flakes 


  1. Add oats to a jar or container with a lid. 
  2. Pour milk or juice over the oats. 
  3. If using, add flavor ingredients to the container and stir.  
  4. Add toppings to the container, but do not stir. 
  5. Place lid on jar or container and refrigerate for 4-8 hours. 
  6. Add sweeteners in before enjoying. 
  7. Eat cold out or can be heated in the microwave.   

Microwave Black Beans and Rice 

Prep Time: 2 min.Total Time: 5 min.Servings: 1 

 All you need for this quick, easy meal is a few ingredients and a microwave. This recipe uses brown rice and black beans, which are high in fiber and will keep you fuller for longer.  


  • ¾ cup cooked brown rice 
  • ½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained.  
  • ¼ cup canned tomatoes 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste 


  1. Combine all ingredients, in a microwave-safe bowl and mix. 
  2. Microwave on high for 3 minutes.  
  3. Stir and enjoy! 


Tips for eating healthy while staying at home: 

Less structure may mean skipping meals and snacking more. Snacking is fine  between  meals, but snacks aren’t always good sources of important nutrients our bodies need. Aiming for a consistent meal pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and making sure to combine foods from all five food groups throughout the day can help to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs, and help avoid snacking too much. For more personalized nutrition counseling and education, schedule a telehealth appointment with a dietitian at Student Health Services,   

Concerned about not having enough food? Know that you are not alone, and USF is here to support you. Once per week, students can pick up bag containing a variety of nutritious foods and personal hygiene products from USF’s food pantry, Feed-A-Bull, which was created through a partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay. Simply arrive to the pantry during open hours, and student staff will guide you through the process, while maintaining social distancing. See the website for location and hours  

For information on other pantries in the Tampa Bay area, see WUSF’s April news story: