By Terrance Bynum

Photo illustration by Breanna Denney/Nevada Sagebrush

Photo illustration by Breanna Denney/Nevada Sagebrush

It’s Monday night, you just got home from class and you have a discussion to respond to on WebCampus, two exams to study for and you still haven’t cleaned your house after the party you had on Saturday night. Food may not be the first thing on your mind.

To compromise, you either make a TV dinner or grab some fast food and take care of the other things that seem a little more important.

You shouldn’t do that to yourself anymore.

You are only hurting yourself if you don’t put some thought into your meals. As a college student, you need to get all of the nutrients you can to keep your body healthy. TV dinners and food with preservatives just won’t cut it. You’re also doing your wallet a favor by not eating fast food, because even if you’re not buying a lot of fast food, it still adds up.

With winter on the horizon, it’s time to make sure all of your meals are nourishing and, more importantly, delicious. There’s no reason to wait until the New Year to practice better eating habits when your wallet, taste buds and stomach could be reaping the benefits of a better diet, starting today.

As students, we tend to forget that we do have options when it comes to our food. Why not get creative now? If you start now, then in the future, making meals to accommodate for a busy schedule, or even a laid-back one, will become second nature.

Make your own meals at home, or even better, at a friend’s home. The key to producing more satisfying meals is to actually enjoy creating them. If you don’t want to cook it, then you’re not going to cook it. Added company while cooking is always fun, especially if they’re contributing too.

If finances are keeping you from making your own meals, don’t fret, I have a little method I’d like to propose to you: mix-matching. Write down a few base ingredients you know you like to eat, like proteins, starches, whole grains and a vegetable or fruit.

I’ve started doing this in my own life and it has helped quite a bit. I listed my favorite foods and ingredients I wanted to try like peas, mixed vegetables, chicken, salmon, milk, eggs, corn, whole grain bread, cold-cut turkey, sweet potatoes, brown rice, heavy wheat cereals and oatmeal. These were foods I found a little cheaper, both in small and ample amounts.

I found almost 60 recipes online that were fast and easy to make, and they all had similar ingredients. I only ended up spending around $50 for almost 2 1/2 weeks of pretty well rounded meals that I enjoyed.

You can also create your own recipes, or find recipes online like I did, that only require 5 to 10 ingredients. That said, the next step is to find more recipes that you like with similar ingredients.

Since the recipes don’t contain a lot of ingredients, it can be inferred that they won’t take long to prep or cook.

Put a couple of hours away on your least busy day of the week, and go shop. When you go out, don’t just go to one store: go to several. Compare prices and consolidate accordingly. If you’re the type of person who loves to plan, a really cool tool to look into before shopping is the Wal-Mart app.

On the app, there is an option where you can scan your Wal-Mart receipt, and if you find a product sold at another establishment that is cheaper than the product sold at Wal-Mart, they will refund you the price difference between the two. Within a 42-hour period, Wal-Mart will give you a gift card for their store in the total amount of the difference.

Tying in nutritious ingredients that you enjoy and saving money while shopping can make cooking an anxiety-free process with plenty of good meals in store for you.

Getting creative with food is tough when you have a lot of stuff going on, but as long as you look at it as an outlet for fun and not a chore, you’ll love it. Make sure you put yourself first this winter by getting creative with your food instead of being lazy. It will pay off.

Terrance Bynum studies journalism. He can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.