Cooke: College diets can be cheap and healthy

Cody Cooke

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

This summer has felt long and nerve-racking to say the least, and even though I find it hard to believe, the fall semester is less than a month away.

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This semester is bound to be different from anything most of us have experienced. Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell has kept students up-to-date about what to expect once campus opens and classes resume in August. Needless to say, our routines might not look the same as they did at the beginning of last semester.

By now, I’ve come to terms with the fact that most of my life, for at least the next several months, will be characterized by various levels of uncertainty. I don’t think I’m the only one with this attitude either, but one of the most important things for us to keep in mind should be how and what we’re eating.

Our diets can be a great source of stability, nourishment and even growth at any point of our lives. It’s our lifeline, first and foremost, providing us with the energy necessary for literally everything we do.

But, especially now, our eating habits can help keep us grounded and healthy in a world that gets crazier and sicker every day. Our diets can also be affordable and help out our friends, family and community. 

Rice, beans, pasta and eggs have become my staples. They are great sources of fiber and protein, and everything except the eggs stays good for extended periods of time. These foods can be excellent for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it only takes a pinch of seasoning to go from bland to delicious (being from Louisiana, I feel obligated to recommend Tony Chachere’s).

The other great thing about these foods is that they’re relatively cheap to buy in bulk. A pound of rice and two cans of beans together will cost less than $3 at King Soopers before tax. 

For me, just a cup of rice, one can of beans and a couple of eggs (plus my favorite seasonings) stretches into at least four meals, and I’m not a light eater. That means a $10 bill could probably buy dinner for over a week.

“Being able to stock up on cheap staple foods might come in handy during this upcoming semester.”

The same goes for other foods too. A bag of dry pasta and a single jar of tomato sauce — two things that can be stored in a pantry for a while — can be turned into enough spaghetti for several days. Bread and tortillas can be frozen for longevity, and they can be used in multiple ways. I’ve found that burritos are extremely economical and downright delicious.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are also crucial for a healthy diet, but they don’t last as long as rice and beans, even when refrigerated. No matter how you eat them, you can buy them from local vendors or farmer’s markets to support community business. Buying local is always a great thing to do, especially during times like these.

Being able to stock up on cheap staple foods might come in handy during this upcoming semester. If students aren’t on a University meal plan, they’ll probably depend on grocery stores for their food. But with the uncertainties of the pandemic, supplies might fluctuate. Nobody hopes for another lockdown, but if one comes, it might be best to not have to make additional trips to the store.

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Staying stocked and cooking at home can be cheap, delicious and conducive to public safety.

I’ll also be the first to admit that the urge to eat out is sometimes impossible to overcome. Pick-up and delivery options can keep local restaurants viable and hungry customers happy, but it’s important to keep in mind who we are ordering food from. No matter how delicious fast food seems, it is probably better to avoid the chains and spend money on Fort Collins restaurants. Industry giants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell probably won’t feel the pain of a dip in profits as badly as locally-owned places will. Eating out should be done sparingly, and it’s best to support local businesses when possible.

Even though we might not be cooking for parties anytime soon, maintaining balanced and economical diets can still keep us social. I always enjoy getting messages from my friends when they show me what they’ve cooked up. I’ve also started exporting my own recipes to friends and family — whenever they turn out edible, that is.

Cody Cooke can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @CodyCooke17.