Grocery Shopping 101: How to save money on food while away at college.
One of the most exciting rites of passage for a college student, in my opinion, is moving off campus when becoming an upperclassman. With this comes a whole new level of independence, and unfortunately a new batch of responsibilities. No more room and board and no meal plan. It will make you wish you had your dinning hall taco night back on the agenda.
Although it seems impossible for anything to compare to your mom’s home-cooked dinners, eating out for every meal is no way to live. Not to mention the wear and tear it must take on your (parent’s) wallet. Say you spend around $5 per breakfast, $10 at lunch, and $10-20 on dinner everyday, you are looking at $125-175 per school-week on food alone!
Below I provide some advice on how to take advantage of this newly independent time in your life by learning how save money and stay healthy. Included are tips on grocery shopping, preparing your own meals, and proving to your parents that moving off campus wasn’t a huge mistake can be!
Make a List.
Growing up in my family, I always volunteered to go grocery shopping with my mom because that meant I could pick out anything I wanted. Little did I realize that buying all of my favorite snacks at once really added up. This is why it’s best to make a list beforehand, so that you know exactly where to go without passing by the chip aisle, tempting you to make unhealthy and over-budget purchases. Leave a magnetic shopping list on the fridge so that you can add things throughout the week, and so that you don’t forget any important items if making a quick list off the top of your head. If you are not into handwriting lists, you can also use an app. If you have the time, add up the estimated total cost of your list and remove any unnecessary items that don’t quite make your budget.
Coupons & deals come in all shapes and sizes. Some may be via e-mail, others from past purchases via receipt, and when in doubt, check the front of the store for coupon clippings. Another reliable way to save is from membership rewards. In other words, filling out a simple form for a membership card is not only free, but worth it! When in luck, something you already planned on purchasing may be on sale, and if not, check if there’s a store brand version of the product available. Now this is the ultimate “make your mom proud” power move.
Pack a Lunch.
Now that you have a pantry and refrigerator full of fresh produce and cold-cuts there should be no need to purchase food elsewhere. It’s no myth that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so avoid the long line at the Dunkin Donuts across from campus and use that time to enjoy a bowl of cereal in the convenience of your own home while your coffee brews, and grab a banana for the ride. By packing a lunch and some healthy snacks the night before, you avoid spending money in the over-priced places on campus and give yourself time to sit outside the lecture halls with friends and make plans for the night ahead.
Even more importantly, never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach! This is where I usually lose all self control. Prepared list or not, food you may not have known existed will suddenly catch your craving. You can avoid the chip aisle, but there’s no getting around the 2 for $5 Breyer’s ice-cream on the way to the picking up your milk, butter, and eggs.
Put it to the Test.
I encourage each of my readers to try this for a minimum of one month and then compare your total costs from the previous month. My goal is to not only help you save money, but also feel healthier by no longer letting fast-food chains make the decision for you. Are you up for the challenge?
Respond below with any comments or additional advice on how to get the most bang for your buck when grocery shopping