It’s much easier to eat healthy at the grocery store than at the fast food places around campus. But guess what the nearest grocery store is to my school? I’ll give you a hint: the one that has parking attendants and the apples cost $5? I’m kidding about the apples costing $5/each — it’s probably more like $10 — but we’re not to that part of the story yet.
I make roughly $200 every two weeks as part of my teaching stipend while I finish my masters, which is great and I’m not complaining, but I’m also broke all the time. (This is my fault, entirely, and I’m NOT EVEN blaming Whole Foods’ $15 apples for any of this.)
Between classes, I usually have a window of time in which I can run out and get food during the day. All I really want to eat are French fries and then take a nap in my car like a normal graduate student. But I’m trying to be healthy, so instead of staying on campus and eating disgusting fried food I go to Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) to hit the salad bar and buy an apple for a snack.
Now, if you’ve ever been to Whole Foods you know the allure of the prepared foods section. It always looks nice and respectable, approachable even, but if you’re hungry, RED ALERT, wallet. That’s why I approach the salad bar like I would a sworn enemy, slowly and with care.
Unfortunately, this is how it usually goes. I’m so hungry and my resolve waivers and I add maybe a few more carrots and maybe like two pieces of broccoli (and that broccoli is heavy, yo). But it looks really good and “broccoli is so good for you,” I mutter to myself as nearby shoppers look alarmed at my soliloquy to this nutritious vegetable. OK, maybe one more and oh, ranch! Yes, ranch, but just a little. OK, just a little more. “That can’t be more than $4 of ranch on top,” I mutter again. People start to move away slowly.
All right, I’ve finished putting together my salad and I head to the checkout. I do a rough calculation of what this will cost me and I always, without fail, am off by $6. I have my salad and my apple and the little box of salad sits on the weight as I anxiously grasp my hands together in a silent prayer of “Don’t be over $15, salad” and “Ugh, do I really want this $20 apple?” The grand total is almost always around $15 except once when it was inexplicably $7, and there was just magic in the air (so much magic).
After that, I swipe with my credit card and return the receipt to its home next to the receipts of all my various indiscretions. Then I sigh loudly causing more people to look at me nervously out of the corners of their eyes. I head back to campus and enjoy my $15 salad and make myself a promise that maybe tomorrow I’ll bring lunch, but I never do. Oh, $15 salads, you’re the death of my stipend.
The takeaway? If I skip the Whole Foods salad and buy a head of romaine lettuce for $2.68, carrots for $3 and three bell peppers for $2 a pop instead, that will get me through the week for about half the cost. (And I know for a fact the English department keeps packets of ranch in the fridge.)
The savings I would realize by doing so adds up to around $33 a week, and if I did that 52 weeks a year, it would add up to $1,716 — math I can live with. And that’s without even giving up my apples from Whole Foods.
What do you think? Do you ever blow your budget on lunch? Do you find it’s more expensive to eat healthy?please add your thoughts now! }