You Can Eat From All The Food Groups And Still Be Healthy

It’s official (or at least I’m making it so). You absolutely should not be cutting food groups out of your diet in order to stay healthy. Even the fitness stars you religiously follow on Instagram are able to eat fully balanced diets that involve carbs, fats, dairy, everything. So if you were thinking of taking on the Whole30 diet or trying out Paleo in order to do the whole “New Year, New Me” thing, put the kale down and back away slowly.

A healthy diet does not involve depriving yourself. In fact, you should be enjoying yourself. A good diet includes colorful plates of food, filling portions, tasty flavor combinations, and treats. Especially treats.

5-food-groups-6

The most important thing, for me, is making sure my meals 1. have variety and 2. look happy. What I mean is, I want to be healthy but I don’t want to eat salad every day. Mind you, I’m not a salad hater, but sometimes, constantly eating leaves gets boring, no matter how much you dress them up. So instead of drowning myself in vegetables in the pursuit of a healthy body, I simply make sure I get the amount I need. The rest of the diet equation can be played with, and when it comes to food groups, I’m v. inclusive.

Of course, a lot of people also think that eating well has to come with a ton of planning and monetary resources. Well, I’m going to be honest with you. I have not used a grocery list in over a year, and, being a college student, money gets tight sometimes. And yet, I can still manage to make healthy meals. How? When I go to the grocery store, I shop by food group. I make sure I have grains, starches, veggies, fruits. proteins, dairy, and something sweet. I also stay stocked with spices, herbs, and oil. Then, when I get home, I find creative ways to combine the items from all the food groups with a sense of balance. I don’t have to buy anything fancy, but I can actually make fairly elegant dishes if I’m willing to search for recipes based on the hodgepodge of things I have on hand.

5-food-groups-7

It also helps to have certain go-to recipes and hacks that you know will contribute to keeping a balanced diet. If I am going to eat a salad, I make an oil infused vinaigrette to ensure I get those extra nutrients. A glass of milk after a workout can be even more beneficial than water (when I was in high school, my cross country coach would even have chocolate milk for us to drink after interval training on hills). Instead of consistently using meat for protein, I’ll sometimes have peanut butter on toast first thing in the morning.

The beauty of eating this way is that you can actually eat more. When you eat mostly processed junk or diet restrict by eliminating food groups, you waste caloric intake on things you don’t need. This is what causes people to gain weight, bloat, and feel sluggish. When you give your body the recommended amounts of each food group, you’ll quickly find that your plate can be twice as full as before and yet you won’t gain weight. This is because you’re being strategic with your food.

5-food-groups-final

Today, for example, I had pasta for lunch. Pasta is one of those dreaded carb foods that a lot of fitness people avoid, but guess what? It’s perfectly fine. Eating grains is normal for the body and expected. I started my day off with an apple before my morning workout. For lunch, a small bowl of leftover chicken alfredo and a cup of Indian chai, which kept me full until a late dinner. Since I wasn’t eating some wimpy salad for lunch, I didn’t experience any lust for sweet and salty snacks around 4pm. For dinner, black bean stuffed sweet potatoes and peas. And after I finish writing this? A cookie wouldn’t hurt. On a day like this, I’m eating fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, and proteins, along with plenty of water and a workout. And frankly, I feel great!

What You Need To Know About Travel Anxiety Amidst The Terror Attacks

298h

Photo credit to Gratisography

Tis the season for increased travel. Whether your recent promotion blessed you with the opportunity to take a holiday vacation this year, or you’re just heading to a relative’s house to eat, drink, and be merry, millions of people will be hitting the airports this season. While for many people, the month of December is an exciting time, it can also be a time for increased anxiety — especially for people who tend to feel uncomfortable with the travel process. Large crowds, unpredictable flights, and new places can easily leave you feeling uneasy during this time of year. Now, with terror attacks occurring across Europe, and countries being  stricken by war, it may be difficult to overcome the fear of traveling to places both near and far.

Just in the last week, A Russian Ambassador was fatally shot while attending an art exhibit, and a truck plowed into a German Christmas market by a man affiliated with ISIS.

In times like these, finding ways to cope with the stressful time in between the workday grind and the holiday unwind is of the utmost importance.

This year, I personally won’t be flying anywhere (I’ll be visiting a sibling in my home state of North Carolina), but I did travel to Mexico last winter. For the most part, the trip was a blast, but my anxiety definitely reared its ugly head when I nearly missed my flight out of Mexico due to an airline scheduling error, and wound up being flown to Chicago rather than home (FYI: my holiday vacation clothes did not hold up in the Chicago snow). Ever since then, I’ve made sure to be fully prepared — or as prepared as I can be — for mishaps, scary situations, or anxious moments.

First, I’ve learned that it is crucial to really do my research before traveling, especially if I’m flying to an airport or location I’ve never visited. It helps me to read travel blogs, watch YouTube Vlogs, and read about airports so that I feel like I have a better understanding of the lay of the land. When I feel like I know exactly where I’m going, I’m less likely to feel panicked or overwhelmed when I get there if I’m not being picked up from the airport by a friend or family member. If I’m really worried, I set up what I call a “virtual travel companion”. A virtual travel companion is a friend or family member who roughly knows your itinerary and is prepared to take calls from you should you need a little help. If you’re traveling to a foreign country over the holidays for example, you might want someone in your home country who knows where you will be for the majority of your excursion. It can give you a little peace of mind if you are prone to feeling alone or lost, and if something does go wrong, you have someone you can call and talk to, get advice from, or ask to google translate something when you can’t figure out the word for “Wi-Fi” in another language.

If you get nervous when you’re up in the air, it can help to distract yourself as much as possible. I very rarely pay for music (read: I am a broke college student) so, as a special treat, I usually buy myself news songs or a new album when I fly. Having new music to listen to on the plane keeps my brain engaged with something other than the possibility of a plane crash, and it really helps the time pass. You can also make the travel process less uncomfortable by giving yourself other self-care treats, like getting your favorite snack to eat on the plane or buying yourself a box of chocolates. Trying all the the different flavors of truffles and cremes in a “Whitman’s” box can be a fun way to relax during an otherwise stressful experience.

If you do find yourself having an anxiety attack while traveling during the holiday season, use deescalating techniques to calm yourself down and move forward. Personally, I find that it best to redirect myself from thinking about questions. When I catch myself thinking a million thoughts that start with the phrase “what if”, I pause and switch myself to statements. When my internal monologue asks, “What if the person who is supposed to pick me up from the airport can’t find me because I got lost? What if they don’t show up on time and I’m alone in a strange place with a lot of bags?” I stop, take a breath and respond to my internal monologue: “If I get lost, I’ll find a map or ask someone in uniform for directions. If my ride is late, I’ll find a very comfortable chair and read a funny thread on Reddit”. Once you do that, it may be easier to take several deep breaths and be on your way.

The holiday season might always bring a little stress, and scary news stories often make it worse, but travel doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence now, or any other time of the year. Go forth, and enjoy all the greatness of the world this December and all throughout 2017!

 

A Fake Instagram Influencer Just Taught Me A Lesson

splitshire-2371

Social media influencers, meaning people who are heavily followed on one or more social media accounts, often team up with brands to sell products. This marketing technique is achieved with varying levels of stealth and success. Someone as influential and well-known as Kim Kardashian can cause products to sell out of stock, simply by endorsing the product on Instagram or Twitter. While many campaigns have reached great success by paying influencers to interact with and endorse their products, social health campaigns and other issues of public welfare have worked with influencers far less often, especially if the influencer isn’t an extremely famous celebrity. So far, many brands have been able to successfully market products like clothing, food, or technology through the help of influencers who have 40,000 to 80,000 followers, but social issue campaigns, like voting registration, tend to use high profile celebrities to get their point across.

Addict Aide, a french organization that seeks to prevent substance abuse, decided it wouldn’t be shelling out that kind of money for a high profile campaign endorsement. The solution? They created their own influencer, built her social media presence from the ground up, and then used the fake profile to spread their message.

I don’t follow many influencers on social media. I love their aesthetic profiles, but I prefer for my content feed to be mainly composed of people I know in real life. Yet, when I read an article about Louise Delage, the fake persona created by Addict Aide and their ad agency BETC, I noticed two things: 1. She posted the exact type of content that many of my friends and peers like to follow and  2. Had she been a friend of mine, I would not have noticed anything abnormal about her pictures.

🍸 Cheerz 🍸

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

But there is something abnormal.

Good Time

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

She is drinking in every photo she posts.

👀 Look 👀

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

When you look at all of the photos together, it seems so obvious that the fake character might have a drinking problem, but in real life, people rarely post several photos of themselves drinking, one after the other within a short period of time. You might see a photo from a friend or peer once per week, and it is mixed into your feed with tons of other images. You could be regularly looking at the evidence that someone you know has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and never realize it because you don’t put the pieces together.

Having just turned 21 a couple of weeks ago, I’m acutely aware of my new responsibilities. I can buy a drink or a bottle of wine any time I want, and because I’m a college student, I’m almost constantly surrounded by alcohol (or at the very least, conversation about alcohol, parties, tailgates, and more). At my university, many people are starting to talk more candidly about mental health, but alcoholism and substance abuse are often left out of the conversation. Instead, we treat alcohol abuse like a joke.

Images like these are extremely common on the social media feeds of my peers, and are occasionally given hashtags like #alcoholic for good measure:

14596795_192743397828396_7058569160866922496_n

alcohol-3

Social media content like this as well as popular TV characters who heavily rely on alcohol such as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development or the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, are supposed to be silly and humorous. Of course this humor trope and normalization of substance abuse also blurs lines when it comes to discerning when someone has an alcohol problem. Many millennials seem to believe that as long as you have a job/make it to class, avoid receiving a DUI, and keep up a healthy appearance, they do not have an alcohol problem and are not in danger of developing one. This is a myth, and it is becoming increasingly important for college students and all young people to be aware that just because you are functioning on a daily basis doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Further, young people need to be better educated on how to spot warning signs of substance abuse in their peers and ways to address them.

For students who experience mental illness, it is paramount that substance use is approached with care, as heavy use of some substances, like alcohol, can worsen depression or anxiety over time. If you notice that you or someone you know seems to be self-medicating a mental problem with alcohol, it is extremely important to find more effective therapies and medication, as the seemingly helpful properties of alcohol won’t last forever.

If you notice that it takes you significantly more alcohol than it used to in order for you to feel tipsy or drunk, that’s another sign you might need to cut back. It’s natural for your body to get continuously more acclimated to alcohol, but if you seem to be building up a tolerance that results in you needing more than a few drinks to feel the effects, you have likely been drinking too heavily. Alcohol limits vary from body to body, so use your discretion and take notes of how many drinks you order at the bar. If the number starts creeping up over the course of a year, its time to cut back.

Finally, know that alcoholism doesn’t happen all at once. You won’t wake up one day and suddenly be an alcoholic. Becoming an addict is a gradual process, which is precisely why many people don’t recognize when their joking love for whiskey and vodka has become a full out addiction. Being drunk on occasion is not a problem, but if you are specifically aiming to get drunk or wasted every time you drink, your relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy. You should be able to enjoy alcohol for its taste or its light effect (i.e. being tipsy at most) without wanting to get constantly drunk. You should also take note that you should avoid drinking alcohol to feel better about something. Sure, if you have a bad day at work, you might want to pour yourself a glass of wine, but if you drink every time you’re in a bad mood, you’ll naturally develop a habit.

If you notice that you have a friend, like Louise Delage, who always has a drink in her hand  and/or shows any of the above signs, be sure to have a discussion. If you haven’t recognized the warning signs, its possible that they haven’t recognized them either.

 

 

The Truth About Women And STEM

stem

None of my closest friends are going into the STEM fields. Not a single one. Instead, we are all pursuing things like advertising, women’s studies, theater, and music. Honestly, I’m pretty torn about how that makes me feel.

This subject came to mind earlier today as I was reading an article about high paying, low stress jobs. The Occupational Information Network came out with a list of jobs in which the professionals were experiencing below average stress levels. When you look through the list, you’ll find that most of the higher paying jobs that also come with low stress are in STEM.

After reading this, I thought about my career of choice, advertising, and my general temperament. I kind of enjoy stress. I like being busy and dipping my hands in multiple projects at once. I like it when no two days of the week are the same, and pulling an all-nighter to work on a creative project is a guilty pleasure. Most of my female friends operate in the same mindset.

Our choices to go into non-STEM fields that will likely result in working way past 5 pm on the regular does not seem like a coincidence. As young girls, we grew up being told that building things was for boys and communicating/socializing was for girls. As we grew older, we were told that computer club was for boys and chorus was for girls. It’s no wonder that our choices in college majors panned out the way they did. Chances are, at some point the all-nighters will get old. We’ll tire of pumping our bodies with caffeine and working on weekends for a less than 6 figure salary. We might even grow to envy some of our male friends who are clocking out at a reasonable hour in silicon valley.

Part of me feels disappointed that none of my female friends chose STEM careers because it reminds me that we are part of a depressing statistic. All of my friends are feminists, and we spend plenty of time lamenting the lack of women in engineering or math, but none of us are changing that picture ourselves. On the one hand, I feel hypocritical, but on the other hand, I’m studying what I love — and I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Does that mean that one day, I’ll be making less than my male friends from college and also be twice as stressed? Maybe.

Of course, women who are going into the STEM field face a whole other set of challenges. A career as a computer hardware engineer may be lucrative and low-stress overall, but women in the field can face less welcoming environments that lead to anxiety, depression, and general frustration. Many women in STEM careers report experiencing a micro-aggression, receiving negative reactions from peers and family members for choosing a traditionally masculine field, or feeling excluded by the culture in their workplace. Surely this is not true for every woman in STEM, but it seems to be a common thread among many of the young women I have spoken to who are currently pursuing a degree in these fields.

As a young woman who isn’t pursuing a degree in STEM, I feel all I can do is learn from the awesome women who are . This is why I carefully follow women like Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of the Stemettes.  I love the degree I’ve chosen and I don’t intend on changing my career path, but I also feel it is my duty to think critically about why I chose a career in a rapidly feminizing field. I also feel it is my duty to make sure my children know that they can choose any field they want — and hopefully not feel any guilt related to their choice whether it’s in STEM or something else. I know what I’m getting into by choosing a career in advertising. It means I’m not going to get offered a 65k per year job right out of college and it means I’m going to experience a little more stress. Right now, I wouldn’t change it for the world — but I also might start learning how to code, simply for the sake of exploration.

 

You Should Call Your Parents Today

man-using-his-iphone-6-on-a-sofa-picjumbo-com

 

****This is a very thoughtful post, but let’s have a funny video for levity!

If you’re lucky enough to have one or both of your parents in your life, you should give them a ring on the phone today. If you don’t, call a sibling, a cousin, or your close long-distance friend.

I say this because I know for a fact that I don’t call my mom enough. After I moved to New York City in the beginning of the summer for work, my mom was trying to contact me twice as often and I was returning the calls less and less. I was busy all the time and constantly surrounded by people so I didn’t want to be bothered — at home my mom was worried about her little girl moving to the city alone and she was anxious to hear how things were going. I know, I sound pretty heartless for not calling her back, but let’s be real here, most adults probably don’t call their parents as often as they ought to. I’m no exception.

The weird thing is, you would think I’d be the type of person who calls their mom all the time. When I was 17, my dad died unexpectedly, and a lot of people who experience the sudden loss of a loved one talk about going through some sort of transformation in which they cherish every moment with their loved ones because, “who knows when it will end?”

I’ve always been one to push back on the idea of the sudden transformation after one of those supposedly formative life events. After I lost a parent, I was sad, angry, confused, surprised, and … still myself. I still laughed at funny TV shows, and I still forgot to eat all of my bananas before they went brown, and I still went to parties with my friends, and I still visited my dad’s parents house where I always get scolded for walking around in the backyard with bare, dirty feet. And I still didn’t learn to appreciate the sound of my mom’s voice on my voicemail, even though I would kill to hear my dad’s.

It has nothing to do with the love I have for my mother. It has everything to do with the fact that, no matter what happens in life, it’s so easy to sink into a routine and forget to cherish the people you love.

It seems to me that my mom would be happy if I called her once a week, and normally, when I’m away at college, I do. But for the month I’ve spent in New York, I’ve been so caught up in the whirlwind of activity and change that I created a new routine for myself that didn’t include her. It didn’t really break through to me that she was feeling particularly neglected until she started texting me every morning saying she loved and missed me. Then, this morning, she said she really missed me. Something about that “really” set an alarm off in my brain. She was upset and she had every right to be.

If you’re an adult who calls your parents a couple times per month or less, your parents are probably upset too — even if they don’t say so. Imagine, you spend 18-22 years raising a child and then, you only hear about their lives once a month. You know that they’re busy with a life of their own now, but it still hurts that you can put so much energy into growing someone, only to watch them remove you from their circle as soon as it becomes inconvenient. It has to hurt.

So, make an effort. If you don’t have a phone call with your loved ones scheduled into your weekly routine, find a way to make it fit. Even if that means you have to leave your apartment and go to the park so you can have a conversation away from your roommates. Even if you have to squeeze the call in while you’re elbowing people out of your way at the grocery store to get the last bunch of green bananas. Find time, make time, schedule time. Save your family from feeling neglected.

And save yourself from neglect too. If you’ve had a close relationship with your parent in the past, but you’ve stopped talking to them as often as you used to, a call home for some parental connection can leave you feeling emotionally nourished in a way that your partner or your work friends can’t provide. You can also get answers to the questions that are best answered by parental wisdom rather than Google, like: What should I put into chocolate chip cookies to make them taste more like the ones grandma used to make? Or when do I know if I’ve fallen in love? Or can you just give me a really good pep talk?

In addition to answering all your questions, parents tend to give out a little unsolicited advice too. We often roll our eyes when our mom advises us to lay off the sweets or our dad reminds us to get to bed early for our big day tomorrow. But the truth is, you were probably already thinking it before your loved one even said it, and it ends up being an affirmation that you need. Studies have even shown that talking on the phone with your mom can reduce your stress level.

If all of those selfish benefits aren’t enough to get you to pick up the phone, then just remember this: Having parents, or someone equally close is a blessing. One day, your close loved one will disappear from the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That loss could change you, or maybe you’ll stay the same. But don’t wait until they’re gone to start really assessing whether you cherished them enough when you had the chance.

 

Tips For Waking Up Earlier (Naturally)

man-waking-up-rested

Like most people in their early 20s, I have a roommate. We share a loft apartment with absolutely no privacy, so we know all about one another’s sleep habits. I tend to wake up around 7:30-8:00 am naturally and I usually lie in my bed dreading the moment my alarm clock goes off. My roommate wakes up closer to 6:45 and as soon as she’s conscious, she’s wide awake. While part of me relishes my early morning half-awake, half-asleep phase, a larger part of me is jealous that my roommate has such an easy time waking up and getting started with the day.

It’s hard not to be jealous of natural morning people. Waking up early has a lot of benefits! For example, if you wake up earlier in the morning, you won’t feel as rushed and stressed as you’re getting into the office. Feeling less stressed makes it easier to start the day in an organized fashion that makes you more efficient on the job. You’ll also have more time to complete important morning activities like eating a healthy breakfast so you can make it through the day with energy.

After observing my roommate for the last couple of weeks and doing some research I’ve worked out some of the differences between us and figured out why I wake up groggy and late while she wakes up early and refreshed.

At first I thought that my roommate wakes up earlier than I do because she just doesn’t need as much sleep. In order to investigate, I began tracking the number of hours between my head first hitting the pillow and my first moment of early morning consciousness. She did the same. We found that we actually sleep for about the same length of time, but I wake up feeling more tired, which could suggest that I need more sleep than she does. Of course this is by no means scientific, but I also know that some people sleep naturally longer than others, so it’s best to track your sleep and figure out what your natural sleep time is. Then, base your bedtime and wake-up time around that rather than an arbitrary number of hours. This way, you can set up a natural schedule that results in an earlier wake-up time.

Next I found that you should be wary of your caffeine and nap habits. I’m not a big coffee or soda drinker myself, but cutting down on caffeine (even earlier in the day) can make it easier to keep your natural circadian rhythm. In the same vein, taking a nap after work can throw your sleep schedule off balance and make it harder to fall asleep later in the evening — meaning it will be more difficult to wake up early in the morning. In order to fix this problem, replace caffeine and naps with fruit, water, and exercise. These replacements will give your body a more natural boost that will subside by bedtime (As long as you don’t workout right before bed).

Once you set your body up to start waking up earlier naturally, you can then set up your mind. If you have trouble waking up early, you have to teach yourself that mornings aren’t the enemy. I noticed that I have a bad attitude about mornings whereas my roommate enjoys them, so I figured I needed to change my mindset. I started this process by changing my alarm sound. I used to use a loud beeping noise, but I switched it to a softer, more musical bell chime. I also turned the volume on my alarm clock down. By making my wake-up sound more gentle and calm, I stopped waking up with automatic anxiety towards the alarm clock. When I stopped waking up feeling stressed in general, it was easier to wake up early and calm.

After I established the morning as a less stressful time, I wanted to also give it an element of enjoyment. I found that choosing to do something I enjoy every morning made it a lot easier to wake up early naturally because I had something to look forward to. Since I like writing, I chose to move my journaling time from evening to the early morning and that made me feel more excited to wake up! So, if you have a hobby or activity that you wish you had more time to do, try setting up a time for that activity first thing in the morning, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. This can give your morning the positive spin that it needs to help you wake up early, refreshed, and excited for the day.

One of my favorite things about waking up earlier is that I get two things: 1. More “me” time and 2. More mindful time. When I wake up earlier, not only do I get to write in the morning, but I also get a few minutes to myself in the office to get in the zone without having to listen to cubicle conversation. I also get the chance to enjoy under appreciated things like sunrises and the lovely food smells on the walk to work. Waking up without a rush allows me to enjoy all the little things that I would otherwise miss. I wouldn’t say I’m a 100% early riser just yet, but I’m definitely starting to see how my roommate does it. It turns out this healthy habit is totally achievable.

 

How I Eat Healthy On Tiny Intern Wages

budget health

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”  ~Jim Rohn

It’s 6 pm and you’re getting home from work. You’re exhausted, irritated, and hungry. It feels like lunch and breakfast occurred in an alternate universe and your stomach could go concave at any moment. This is a recipe for disaster and you know it, but you pass a cheap burger place on the way home and you can’t resist. You end up ordering a greasy dinner for yourself and eating it with your laptop balanced on your belly while you watch Game of Thrones. It isn’t a pretty sight.

Hopefully the above scenario doesn’t describe you, but it definitely describes me … and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Eating healthy is especially challenging when you’re a perfect storm of almost broke and super busy. If you’re in the middle of job searching, working in an entry level position, working as an intern, or just live in a really expensive city, it will seem a lot easier to buy $1 pizza slices after work rather than cook a healthy meal — Unless you have the right knowledge about cheap, easy dishes that can be made in advance.

At some point you’ve probably heard the term “meal prep” which usually refers to the process of making one large dish that can be eaten throughout an entire week. The term gets tossed around in the blog community and in real life, but how many people are actually doing it? From my quick survey of the interns and young professionals I work with, not very many. Meal prepping and eating on the cheap seems so good in theory but few people want to do the research necessary to figure out how to do it. Well, as previously mentioned, I’m broke and busy, so I did the research for us all.

The first thing you need to know is that not all cheap foods are created equal and not all expensive foods are created equal. For example, if you’re looking to buy a cooking oil for meats and other items, you might feel inclined to reach for one of the cheaper options like a generic vegetable oil. This is actually the wrong choice, however, because a bottle of olive oil will do a better job flavoring your food and you can use it to make dressings for salads as well — say goodbye to overpriced, over-caloried Ranch. You also have to pay close attention to sales. Sometimes an item seems cheap (like an out-of-season fruit that has been placed on sale) but it actually still costs more than another option. You might reach for the sale item because it seemingly makes sense and then end up walking away from the register with a frown because your groceries were more expensive than you imagined as you were shopping. To fix this problem, remember to compare sale prices on fancy items to the regular prices on regular items. If strawberries are on sale for $3.50 but apples always cost $1.50 .. well, you can do the math.

Next, you should know that canned foods are not the enemy. We all know that canned foods are cheap, but most people don’t consider them healthy. However, you can often modify canned foods to be healthier than the nutrition label. For example, you can buy canned beans and rinse them and drain them in the sink to remove the excess salt for a healthy meat substitute when you can’t afford fresh, lean meats.

Lastly, you should know that some foods seem “fancy” but they’re actually cheaper than you think. Growing up, I always thought edamame was a special treat reserved for the girls who came to lunch swinging a Vera Bradley lunchbox that matched their monogrammed backpack. I was wrong. You can buy frozen edamame for the same price as a lot of frozen vegetables and toss them in salt for a healthy snack or a side dish without breaking the bank.

So once you have this information, you can start thinking about meal prep. If you want to really make the cheap life convenient, you’re going to have to learn to cook some basic meals in large quantities. This may seem daunting at first, but it’s really not so bad. To make things simple, think about your meals in terms of a base, a middle, and a top. Your base is the bulk of the meal that fills you up and it’s typically a grain (pasta, rice, tortillas, quinoa). Your middle is what makes your meal interesting and it’s typically fruit, veggies, meats/beans, and cheeses (cheap options include chicken or beef bought in bulk, broccoli, oranges, canned tuna, nuts, there’s tons of options!). Your top is usually a sauce or literal topping like guacamole or hummus and it’s typically the most expensive purchase of the three. When you shop, you should be buying your bottom in bulk, your middle on sale, and your top as a little luxury item. You can create all sorts of combos with your options that can translate into different meals throughout the week. For example, I can make a ton of pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce on my day off and turn some of it into a casserole later in the week by adding an extra middle or two and throwing it into the oven.

Of course, this guide is by no means comprehensive, but I’m mainly just trying to explain that eating on the cheap and meal prep isn’t as difficult as it may sound. If you’re looking for recipe ideas, there’s tons of sites available, and some of my favorites are here and here.

Good luck and happy (cheap) eating!