Grocery Shopping for College Students

Grocery Shopping for College Students

Starting a new school year away from home cooking can lead to tons of fast food, convenience foods and a bad case of the dining hall bubble guts. In this post I am going to teach you how to stock your kitchen with fresh foods, new flavors and endless possibilities, all within a small budget.

The first step in grasping your culinary freedom is to go to the grocery store with your friends and roommates. Combining funds on basic kitchen staples will save you time and money while increasing options and flavor combinations. Start with a list of essential items, a budget, a solid plan and most importantly, NEVER SHOP with THE MUNCHIES!!!

I am going to walk you through the grocery store with one mission at hand: To buy food that is fresh, on the cheap, that provides good energy and can be switched up for different combinations all week long.


Get fresh fruits and veggies that are on sale and in small amounts for the whole week. I like to get produce that gives you good nutrition and flavor and can be used in wide variety of meals.

  • Fruits like oranges, apples, plums, pears and bananas are great for travel while pineapples, melons and berries can be cut up and eaten all week long.

  • Keep the fridge stocked with basics like lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, onions can be easily chopped up and made into salads, soups and cooked into a million different international flavors all year long.

    Seafood and Meat

    Check the seafood and meat counter for weekly sales and get what's fresh. I like to keep items on hand that are inexpensive, taste great and freeze well.

  • Meats like chicken legs and thighs, ground beef, chicken or turkey, sausage, and pork chops and loins are always on sale and can be cooked easily.

  • If they have a great sale stock up, wrap with plastic, label it with a date then pop it in the fridge for the future.

  • Remember to defrost frozen meats and seafood in the fridge overnight for the best results.

    Dairy and Cheese

    Cheese and dairy can get complicated with so many options to choose from. When you shop in the dairy and cheese section, keep it simple and you cant go wrong.

  • Buy one everyday cheese for sandwiches like American, cheddar, Swiss or provolone.

  • Try out a cool new cheeses like Brie, goat or blue cheese for tasting and experimenting. Remember to buy small amounts for the week to reduce spoilage and increase the types of cheese you can use in your meals.

  • Talk with your roommates about milk. I once lived in a house with 5 different types of milk in the fridge. It turned out that we could all compromise and chip in a dollar or two and get a gallon of one type of milk every week. This saved room in the fridge, reduced waste and kept the milk fresh.

    Canned Foods

    I love to stock up on canned foods like beans, soups, stocks and broth, corn, green beans, tomatoes, and chilies. Canned foods can be a great time saver, stretch a meal and add flavor to dishes.

  • Watch out for salt levels in canned foods because they can be high, try low sodium versions if you can.

    Dry Goods

    When walking through the grocery isles, make an effort to pass by all of the prepared foods. They have tons of salt, are packed with processed ingredients and can be costly.

  • Purchase plain pasta, rice, quinoa and other grains, they are inexpensive, filling and easy to cook. You can dress these foods any way you like with different sauces and dressings in a pinch.

    Frozen Foods

    The freezer section of the store can be an exciting moment. This is where they keep the ice cream, frozen pizzas, taquitos, hot pockets and frozen dinners. These foods look really tasty on the package but less appetizing when actually cooked. They are also filled with tons of weird chemicals, preservatives, sugar and salt. Rememeber to roll through the freezer section with purpose.

  • Frozen vegetables and fruit are always a great deal, easy to prepare and very nutritious.

  • As a rule of thumb I allow myself 1 tasty frozen dessert (I like Ben and Jerry's), 1 pack of fries or tots that I can bake and a frozen pizza or chicken tenders for an easy late night meal.

    Chips and Desserts

    Buy 1 chip preferably baked like pita chips, pretzels, crackers and one dessert like cookies. I don't like to deny myself a tasty treat, but I know that we can all go overboard if given the option.

    Breads and Bakes Goods

    The bakery smells so great with all of the fresh breads, cookies, cakes and muffins.

  • Pick 1 sliced bread you can use everyday like whole wheat, white, French or Italian.

  • Bread can be kept fresh in the freezer and popped in the toaster to bring back to life.

  • Keep flour tortillas around for quesadillas and wraps.

  • Its cool to pick up a special dessert every once in a while but try keep sweet bakery items to a minimum. Skip the sticky buns and sweets, they taste great but can be costly and slow you down at the start of your day.

    Seasonings and Baking

    Basic spices and baking products can allow you to create any number of awesome dishes.

  • Start simple and buy a small bag of flour and sugar to begin. Once you open the bags place them in airtight containers or zip lock bags to keep fresh.

  • Keep a baking mix like Bisquik in the house just in case I want to make pancakes or biscuits in the middle of the night. These mixes are great because they have baking powder, baking soda in them and can be used in a variety of recipes.

  • When you are looking at the spice section remember to keep it simple. First you will need a box of kosher salt ($2.75) and ground pepper ($2.00). These simple ingredients will boost the flavor of all of your meals throughout the day and are a great value.

    You can get crazy with dried herbs and spices but they can start to pile up in your cabinet and spoil before you get your dollars worth.

  • Keep herb and spice mixes that can be used in a bunch of dishes like dried Italian herbs (oregano, parsley and basil).

  • Mix it up with spice mixes like pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg), curry powder (turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard and cayenne), taco/chili seasoning (onion, garlic, chili pepper, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper) and BBQ seasoning (brown sugar, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and paprika).

  • Remember, buy small portions to keep spices and herbs fresh and try different flavors all of the time.

    International Foods

    The international isle in any market will have really exciting and new flavors for you to experience. You will see authentic Spanish, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Kosher foods in most grocers. Take a walk and soak up the new possibilities.

  • Keep simple items like soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, marinara sauce and Indian cooking sauces around the house. These cooking sauces and condiments will spice up any ordinary meal.

  • Try a new flavor every time you visit the store and remember to share those flavors with your friends and roommates.


    Fats in the kitchen need to be kept to a minimum. They can add tons of flavor to a meal but also add lots of calories. When you are buying fats in the grocery store follow these steps for success.

  • Purchase butter by the pound; keep one stick in the fridge and the rest in the freezer to keep fresh.

  • Buy the smallest portion of vegetable oil for the pantry. Vegetable oil is inexpensive, wont spoil too fast and can be used in most recipes.

    Next time you go to the store remember that grocery shopping should be fun and not a chore. Enjoy the new foods and flavors that you will experience and keep evolving your flavor pallet, even if you are on a budget. This is a great opportunity to start caring for your self and those around you and most important to gain your culinary independence.

    Now Get Crackin'! Chef Egg


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