Eating is a basic need, but a recent study shows that nearly 40 percent of students at the University of Saskatchewan have experienced "food insecurity".   The term food security means that everybody is able to get safe, sufficient and nutritious food to be well and active. Being personally part of this statistic has been a challenge, but at the same time it has been an opportunity to develop a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle, while on a budget. 

Food in Ecuador

pineapple, watermelon, mango, juice
Veronica Santafe
Veronica Santafe

A cup of fresh orange juice, a bowl of organic tropical fruits, and a cup of organic hot chocolate was my daily breakfast back home. I could afford such luxuries because fresh food is very inexpensive in Ecuador—my home country.  This breakfast option disappeared from my life when I moved to Canada three years ago to pursue my PhD studies. 

Food in Canada

chocolate, coffee
Veronica Santafe

Becoming an international student in Canada challenged the healthy lifestyle I was used to.  Tuition and living expenses have been my priority while food expenses have been in second place. During the first term of the program, I adjusted my food choices to the well-known "Bachelor Lifestyle": cheap cereal, fake fruit juice, pasta, and lots of canned food.

This time was very difficult because it was also my first winter; I felt sick, depressed and low in energy. After seeing a doctor, I realized that most of my health problems were related to poor nutrition and almost no physical activity. The doctor told me that if I continued neglecting my health, I would not perform well in my studies. It's funny—my PhD research is about food sovereignty, yet I was not able to maintain my own nutritional health.

I started reading a lot about nutrition and food insecurity among post-secondary students. I was stunned when I found the study mentioned earlier that reported nearly 40% of students in campus experienced some form of food insecurity. Another study reported that international students are more likely to suffer from food insecurity. According to these studies, rising cost of tuition and living expenses is perceived among students as the main factor to suffer food insecurity. The fact that nutritional health is crucial for mental performance made me think that I should take immediate actions to improve my nutritional well-being. During this journey, I learned lots of strategies for eating well on a budget.  Here, I share the most important things I learned:

1.  Get inspired

ice cream, chocolate, ice, cream
Veronica Santafe
Following bloggers and you tubers has inspired my path to a healthier lifestyle. I learned from them how to prepare easy meals, grown your own food and so on. My favourites are and

2.  Kitchen tools for cheap

milk, espresso, coffee
Veronica Santafe

Having a healthy lifestyle requires key appliances that usually are expensive in stores; for this reason, I recommend getting some second-hand appliances. Look for them on Kijiji, second-hand stores like Value Village, and local garage sales. 

3. Store deals

Vicky Nguyen

Some stores in the city offer deals on seasonal produce or offer reduced prices for food that is close to the expired date. When I go to the store, my first stop is always the reduced priced shelve of fruits and vegetables—perfect for preparing my juices and smoothies. Worried about expired date food? Check out Just Eat It, a documentary about food waste.

4. Get your groceries from local farmers

Veronica Santafe

Buying from local farmers has been the most rewarding experience on my path to improving my nutritional health. It is not only about eating quality food, but it is also supporting local farmers and building community. The Wandering Market, CHEP, Souls Food Groceries Store and Twigs and Squirrels are my favourites when I need some organic species and booster powders.

5. (Almost) Free Fruits and Veggies

cherry tomato, tomato, pasture, vegetable
Veronica Santafe

Yes, this alternative is possible in Saskatoon! During summer and early fall, you should check some adds on Kijiji of people giving for free, or for very cheap, the fruits or veggies in their backyards or gardens. 

6. Grow your own food

vegetable, pasture
Veronica Santafe

My last recommendation could be a real challenge. But, if you have space in your backyard, it will be easy. Having a garden is not expensive and does not actually take a lot of time to maintain. This summer, I spent less than $40 dollars on my garden. I grew tomatoes, pepper, carrots, strawberries, kohlrabi, zucchinis, and so much more! Having a garden substantially reduced my groceries bill, and I will have some veggies during the winter months.

vegetable, pasture
Veronica Santafe

Eating well on a budget can be a real challenge for post-secondary students, but there are lots of options to improve your nutritional health. I promise that if you put in the effort, you will see the results. Good luck with your studies and health this year!