Whether you live in an apartment near campus or you’ve got a mini fridge to stock in the dorms, the responsibility of buying groceries now falls on you as a college student. While your parents may have made it look simple, grocery shopping isn’t as easy as it seems. In addition to balancing your time between classes and a part-time job, it’s important to take care of your budget and save as much money as possible when buying groceries. Whether you are shopping for yourself or a house full of roommates, here are some money-saving grocery tips for students just like you.
Before You Head to the Store
Start With a Plan
Before you even step foot outside your door, you need to start with a grocery shopping plan. Without it, it’s less likely that you’ll stay a savvy shopper. That’s why determining how much you are willing to spend on your groceries should always be your first step.
Next, you’ll want to determine which stores are budget-friendly. Some stores offer discounts to students, so look out for those. Others have rewards cards that provide discounts as well. You’ll also want to consider shopping at budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl that help cut costs.
Once you determine which stores to shop at, find out if they have mobile apps; it’s likely they’ll have coupons and ads that you can use for your grocery trip. One last thing to consider before you go shopping: be conscious of how much space you have to store your food. Most dorms are limited in space and only have enough room for a mini-fridge, and a long grocery list may leave you with more food than space.
Make a List
Making a grocery list will not only save you time but will also keep you on track and ensure you are staying within your budget. Map out the meals you plan on eating and break down each meal by its ingredients. A helpful app you can use to find meals and recipes to try is Tasty. Tasty provides thousands of recipes, video tutorials, and ingredient lists right in the palm of your hand.
After you determine what meals you are shopping for, group similar food types together on your list (meats, dairy, etc.). This will make your shopping trip easier and have you in and out of the store much sooner.
While You’re Shopping
Shop With a Calculator
The easiest way to stay within your budget is to shop with a calculator. As you add items to your cart, add the price to your calculator. That way, you can see when you’re getting close to your budget cap. Don’t forget to account for sales taxes that will be added to your total at the end. Sales taxes range from 0% to 8.25%, depending on your state.
Buy Generic Brands
We understand that some name brands you just can’t give up. However, for average products, such as butter, cheese, and sandwich meat, consider buying generic versions. Most of the time, they taste pretty similar to the name brand products, and you’ll save money by making the simple switch.
Grab Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables not only are super affordable, but they are the perfect solution for a busy college student like yourself. They are easy to prepare, last longer in your freezer, and are better for your overall health than a bag of potato chips or other processed snacks.
After You Head Home
Avoid Wasting Food
When you waste the groceries you bought, it’s like kissing all the money you spent goodbye. Try your best to make the most out of everything you bought, so that it’s all worth it in the end. When you’re buying groceries, try to get a variety of dry goods with a long shelf life, or items that you can easily freeze and reheat.
Keep Your Receipts For Coupons
Most grocery stores are generous with distributing coupons to their customers. Before throwing your receipts away, look them over and check for any coupons you can use on your next grocery trip. Your future self will thank you.
Enjoy Your Meals
Once all the hard work is over, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your meals. But don’t get too comfortable—you still have classes to attend!
At Varsity, We’re On Your Team
Learning to budget your money is often one of the biggest challenges students face when they head to college. At Varsity, we’re dedicated to making that transition easier for college students with products and services that help them grow and maintain financial independence. Discover more about Varsity today!