Healthy food can be expensive, especially as a college student on a budget. It can be so tempting to drive through your favorite fast food place when you’re tired or need something quick. But I promise, there are plenty of tips and tricks to eat healthy while also being smart with your money! Here are some money saving ways to trade in that Big Mac for some nutrient-packed goodness.

Plan Out Your Meals Ahead of Time

Take an hour each week to plan all your meals, and make a grocery list based on that. This way, you only get exactly what you need instead of items you won’t use and waste money!

And stick to this plan when you get to the grocery store: don’t give in to an impulse buy or random junk food.

Cook Larger Meals

When you cook larger portions, you can save the leftovers. Invest in some plastic containers and keep your leftover food for lunches or dinners on days when you’re in a hurry. This will replace those frantic stops at a drive-thru!

Buy in Bulk

Many grocery stores are adding bulk food sections, where you can get large quantities of certain items at cheap prices.

Food like grains, rice, oats, nuts, and snack mixes are healthy options that can be used in many recipes and last a long time when stored in airtight containers!

Take Advantage of Frozen Produce

Fresh fruits and veggies are optimal, but can sometimes be expensive when it’s not in season. Canned produce is full of preservatives and often has less nutritional value.

When produce is out of season or more expensive, go check the frozen section! Frozen fruits and veggies can be used year-round, steamed with your meals, or thrown into a delicious smoothie.

Get Creative with Your Protein

Replacing meats with other proteins a couple times a week can save you money. Try opting for other healthy protein sources like eggs, beans, nuts, quinoa, or tofu a couple times a week.

When you do buy meat, aim for healthier types like turkey, fish, and chicken instead of red meat and cured items. Red meats and cured foods (like bacon and sausage) have more bad fats and preservatives than poultry, so try replacing these types of meat in your meals.

Switch to Whole Grains

They are full of fiber and help your digestive system! If you eat foods with white flour, switch to ones with whole grain: good places to start are bread and crackers. Opt for brown rice instead of white rice. These are easy switches to make that won’t change your grocery bill at all!

These are just a few tips to get started on your new healthy lifestyle, while not breaking the bank! There are many ways to save money and eat foods that are good for you and will build healthy habits through your college years!

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Summer is in the air and you’re ready for some fun with friends after a long semester! Summer time is always great for family vacations, road trips with friends, and other big, exciting adventures. However, sometimes you just want to have fun without spending lots of money! Here are some great ways to spend your time hanging out with friends that don’t break the bank.

Game Night
Having a game night with my friends is probably the cheapest and most frequent activity we do. It can also be an inclusive activity especially when you have friends with kids (hello twenties). Board games don’t have to be boring, so we usually opt for different games every week such as:

1. Mafia – this card game can get pretty intense especially if your friends are great at being secretive! Essentially, you are assigned a card and given the role of either a detective, a doctor, a mafia member (the killer), or an innocent civilian. The purpose of the game is to find the killer before everyone else gets killed. Find all the rules here.

2. Murder Mystery Games – with this game, you can either go all out or play it casually. There are hundreds of free downloadable online if you don’t feel like paying for a pack. Here is a website with 9 free ones you can look at right now!

3. Heads Up! – this app is great for a large group of people. The purpose is to get someone to correctly guess the word that is on the screen, either by singing, miming, or giving clues. The app is free to download and has tons of categories to choose from!

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When the beautiful spring and summer weather hits, take advantage of pretty days by having a picnic or even a barbeque! Like game night, this activity can also be pretty inclusive and if you plan on hosting, there’s no shame in making it a potluck/bring-your-own-food outing. The great thing about picnics is that you can host it at pretty much any free place. Bonus points if it’s at the beach or a lake!

Exploring
This category is pretty broad, but exploring your city is always an option. You probably would take the option to travel instead of staying home, but what allures us to hitting the road is the notion of experiencing new things and seeing new places. If you live in a pretty big city, chances are you haven’t seen everything. Try out that new coffee shop or go to a restaurant you’ve never been before. You can even use this opportunity to sharpen your photography skills! If you live in a pretty old city, there’s probably a bunch of historic places that offer guided tours.

Try a New Recipe
This may be hit or miss with some people, but at the end of the day, eating is essential. Pick a recipe that aligns with your cooking experience and try it out. If you’re new to cooking (or think you’re terrible at it), get someone who has experience to help you out. You can do this with friends, your significant other or even do it to bond with your family. Plus, this will give you an opportunity to try out all those recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest!

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In the age of DIY, there’s plenty of how-to videos floating on the internet. Don’t be afraid to get artsy and try something new! You can try pretty much anything, from crocheting to woodworking. Put on a Bob Ross video and paint with your friends! You can even plan crafting events around holidays and birthdays like card making, pumpkin carving, and gingerbread house building.

Mini Golf/Bowling
Not every city has a TopGolf or a Main Event, but chances are, there may be something similar. There are also tons of other options like indoor skydiving, VR arcades, go-karting, ice skating, and roller skating. Check out your local entertainment spots to see if they offer discounted evenings, or browse Groupon for some deals to save money!

Escape Rooms
Escape Rooms are hot right now and they keep getting better and better! The most expensive we’ve seen was $30/person, but there are some rooms that go for around $15. Do your research and pick the best one that suits you and your group.

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You don’t always have to pay for a concert. So many restaurants, lounges, and even coffee shops have live music. And if you’re feeling bold, some places even have open mic nights! A lot of downtown areas carry events like this almost every night, so check out their calendars and see what sounds best to you and your friends!

Use some of these ideas or brainstorm your own, and go have some fun this summer!

The end of the semester is drawing near and summer is right around the corner! The only thing standing between you and binging on Netflix at the beach is one thing: final exams. The week of finals is always stressful and can cause anxiety in many college students. Last week, we gave tips on how to stay organized and prep for finals. This time, we have some specific ways to get rid of that test anxiety in the hours leading up to your exams! Here are 9 ways to relax and reduce your stress right before you take that test.

1. Make sure you’re eating right. Too much caffeine, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and heavy preservatives right before your exam can make you tired and sluggish, and affect your memory negatively. Instead, opt for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other healthy snacks and meals for the hours leading up to the exam. And don’t go to the test on an empty stomach! Make sure you eat a good meal beforehand.

2. Get some sleep! This goes without saying, but it’s important to get enough sleep before an exam. Cramming for 12 hours straight is only going to make you more tired and groggy.

3. Stop working/studying at least 30 minutes before going to bed the night before the test. Put away your laptop and phone: the blue lights from these screens can mess with your sleep cycle and make it harder to sleep. You’ll feel more refreshed in the morning!

4. Take a bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salt has magnesium sulfate, which helps promote calmness and relaxation.

5. Try aromatherapy! Essential oils like lavender, lemon, bergamot, clary sage, and jasmine are great for relaxing those nerves and clearing your mind. There are several ways you can use essential oils:

  • Put a few drops in your bath or shower.
  • Use a diffuser so that the oils are diffused all through the room.
  • Apply it directly onto your body, such as around your temple or your wrist. Be careful when you do this because undiluted oils are very strong and can irritate the skin. Make sure you have essential oils that are diluted in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.

6. Focus on your breathing. It may sound silly, but deep breathing exercises can really help calm your mind. When you’re stressed, you often take short, shallow breaths and are not getting proper oxygen amounts through your blood. The next time you feel anxious, stop and take a few moments to inhale and exhale deeply. Repeat this breathing exercise (or find some other ones here) several times until you feel more calm.

7. Stretching and yoga can actually help calm your mind by releasing tension that’s built up in your muscles. Take a few minutes the night before your exam and the day of to really stretch out your muscles. You can even try a few yoga poses suggested here!

8. Treat yourself! The day before the exam, go get something small or do a short activity that you find enjoyable. This could be a sweet treat, a walk around the park, or whatever will help you relax and feel special.

9. Think positive! This is sometimes easier said than done, but part of why you may be so stressed is because you keep thinking of the worst that could happen. Instead of psyching yourself out, try to stay positive and surround yourself with people who will cheer you up and keep you optimistic. Remember, it’s just one exam and it’ll be over soon!

We all know what typical college life looks like the week of final exams: tons of students holed up in the library till 3am with a double shot of espresso in one hand, and a textbook in the other. Final exams bring a feeling of instant fear and pressure to most college students, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Below is a list of ways to help you de-stress and prepare for that dreaded finals week. Just remember, summer is right around the corner!

Get organized!

Often, we don’t take time to organize our schedule and study time and it leaves us feeling rushed and panicked. Before finals week rolls around, take some time to organize your notes, create a schedule for studying and exams, and even put together some study groups and schedule meeting times. Finals will seem much less stressful when you’re organized and prepared!

Exercise, or spend time outside.

When we exercise, our bodies naturally release endorphins which help you calm down and defeat stress! Don’t stay isolated inside the whole time; fresh air can do wonders and clear your head.

Make sure you sleep!

A huge college cliche is pulling all-nighters to cram for exams. This is very unhealthy and leaves you feeling drained and unmotivated. Getting sleep actually helps solidify the material you’ve studied, and you’ll feel refreshed instead of stressed. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night!

Find something that helps you clear your head.

This could be music, meditation, yoga, massages, herbal tea, or anything that helps calm you down and get out of the frenzied mindset. Take a break for just 10 minutes and do whatever you find relaxing.

Plan your meals!

When it comes to finals week, the last thing you’re thinking about is cooking. Usually, that means fast food for 3 meals a day! This will only make you feel more sluggish and have sugar crashes throughout the week (not to mention take a huge toll on your wallet). Instead, take some time in advance to meal prep. This could be as simple as making tons of sandwiches and setting aside baggies of fruit, vegetables, and chips to grab and go! It will bring you relief knowing your food is taken care of and you don’t have to spend money.

Stay hydrated!

Your brain works best when it is hydrated. If you haven’t had enough water, or you’ve had too much caffeine and sugary drinks, you’ll feel more and more tired and distracted. Get a reusable water bottle and keep it filled at all times!

Don’t procrastinate on other assignments.

Some classes have final projects or essays due around the same time as finals, but you have weeks (or even months) to complete those. Don’t wait until the last minute to finish those assignments, on top of studying for exams!

Use positive self-talk!

What is your attitude like during finals week? Are you constantly negative and put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself to get perfect scores? Your mindset going into finals can be what’s stressing you out the most! Practice changing your attitude and using positive self-talk: it’s like having an optimistic voice in your head all the time, making you feel good and confident in yourself. There are actually studies that show that positive self-talk strengthens your performance and well-being!

Hopefully these tips can help you prepare for finals and not take as much anxiety with you. Always remember the bigger picture and what you’re working towards! It will all be worth it in the end!

Happy Earth Day! In honor of Earth Day this year, we have put together a list of 5 ways to be eco-friendly in college. There are plenty of ways to take care of the environment and do our part in keeping it clean and safe!

Turn off the lights when you leave a room. It seems so simple, but many of us forget to do it! It can make a big difference in energy usage and your electric bill! Less energy usage = less waste.

Walk, bike, or take a bus. Cars emit a lot of gasses that are polluting our air. As much as possible, try to take another form of transportation or just walk! Walking and biking are super convenient for getting around college towns and campuses. Many cities offer a public transportation system that saves on gas money and decreases the amount of cars on the street!

Use a reusable water bottle. Did you know that the average time it takes a plastic water bottle to completely degrade is 450 years? Plastic is not good for the environment, and having a plastic water bottle at almost every meal creates so much waste that will stick around for centuries. Switching to a reusable water bottle is very easy, saves money, and is better for the earth! Plus, there are thousands of designs to suit everyone’s style.

Along the same lines, use a reusable bag when shopping. 100 million plastic bags used by retail and grocery stores in America every year. They are made using nonrenewable resources, and are not decomposing in landfill sites. Making the switch to a reusable bag or opting for brown bags at the grocery store is simple and can have a great impact on the environment!

Be smart with water usage. You have probably heard the stats on water before: only 3% of the Earth’s water is freshwater, and only 0.5% is good for drinking. With the growing population, we need to be conserving this water! You can do this easily in college by simply turning off the water when brushing your teeth or washing your face, and cutting down your shower time by just 5 minutes. This is an easy sacrifice and can save hundreds of gallons of water per year!

These are just a few ways to be eco-friendly in your college years (and beyond). There are many more ways we can do what’s best for the environment and protect the Earth we live on! Happy Earth Day, and think green!