Budget eating: tasty tips for cheap food

Isabella Alessandrini, Culture Columnist

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At UVM there are food cues all around us: appetizing aromas of stir-fries, tacos, popcorn and pizza waft out of dining halls, Brennan’s, the Marketplace, food trucks and the Marché. Snacks and sodas beckon to students from vending machines sprinkled in buildings all over campus.  
We’re in an environment that is constantly sending us signals to eat, yet it excludes many from coming to the table.  
For students that have to pay for meals on campus with more than just the swipe of a CatCard, while also thinking about covering rent and bills, getting enough to eat can burn through their savings.  
“I’ve been spending so much of my money on food here on campus this semester, it’s kind of ridiculous,” junior Will McCarthy said. “Lunch at the Marketplace is so easy but has seriously been adding up.”
If you’ve ever tried to focus on an exam when you haven’t had breakfast or tried listening to a professor while hangry, you know that fullness can feel like a luxury.
Foraging for free food around campus can keep you from getting hungry, but being full is not the same thing as being well-nourished, and snacks like Brennan’s popcorn and handouts from Davis Center tables are usually high in calories but lacking in vitamins and nutrients.
Those free, funsize candies, chocolate chip cookies and Krispy Kreme donuts are enticing lures but tend to pack high amounts of added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.
A little planning can make your grocery money go a long way. Here are a few tips:

Shopping
– Shop in the bulk section and bring your own containers to stock up on whole grain pastas, lentils, rice, beans, tofu, seitan, oats and more. City Market takes 10 percent off everything bought in bulk on Thursdays.
– Sign up for member perks when grocery shopping. Become a “Member with Benefits,” a City Market member to get up to 12 percent off by volunteering in the community. Get the AdvantEdge card at Price Chopper or sign up for SavingStar at Hannaford.  
– Subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture like the Intervale’s college package to get deliveries of fresh produce to your door each week. Split between three roommates, it averages to $10.17 a week.
– Shop for seasonal and hardy produce, which tend to not only be cheaper but last longer, like root veggies, dark leafy greens and fruits such as apples, pears and oranges.
– Always check the reduced price bin first for perfectly edible yet inexpensive produce. Commodities Market in Winooski, for example, has an “ugly but tasty” section.  
– A rule of thumb is to avoid the center aisles of grocery stores because all those packaged foods tend to be overpriced and hard to resist.
– You can buy baked goods for a bargain at City Market every night by the coffee station, including bags of discounted bagels from Willow’s Bagels and reduced-price vegan scones from the day-old shelf at Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup.

Cooking
– Choose one day each week to spend time prepping meals in big batches to bring for lunch instead of buying on campus.
– Label foods so they won’t go bad before you can get to them.

Foraging
– Stay in touch with free food events from the Free Food UVM page on Facebook.
– Every second Thursday of the month there’s a vegan and gluten-free friendly dinner served by the Old North End Community Center  on 20 Allen Stree. Donations are accepted.
– Check out Seven Days’ “From Burlington With Love” magazine for coupons and other deals.
– Sign up for “Dinner and Dialogue” at the Interfaith Center to get a good meal and great conversation about themes like philosophy, resilience and joy.
– Bring Tupperware everywhere, as well as a reusable fork.
– Make a dish to share at Slade Eco Co-op .