This year, many students moved into dorms for the first time after having lived at home for over a year. While we were taking classes from home, many students did not have groceries and cooking at the top of their list of priorities. Now, though, with campus life back in full swing, you may be cooking for yourself for the first time. 

With work study jobs and full class schedules, it’s not easy to plan meals, map out expenses and execute a strategy to ensure you don’t spend all your Dooley Dollars in just a month or two. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time and spend your money well when it comes to grocery shopping on a student’s budget.

Illustration by Ha-tien Nguyen // The Emory Wheel

 

Shop weekly instead of monthly

While it may seem wise to do all of your shopping in one go, shopping in bulk for the month can cause you to pick up many items that may go to waste in the end. That bag of apples might seem great now, but after eating all of the other food you bought, you may find that they’ve spoiled by the time you’re ready to eat them. Shopping weekly ensures that you only buy what you know you can eat in a particular time frame. This strategy wastes less food, and you can better keep track of what you spend weekly, helping you set a range for your budget.

This tip may also help you meal plan, as shopping weekly gives you more flexibility to experiment with the options you have on hand. It will allow you to fully make use of everything you buy and enable you to experiment with leftovers. If you know you’ll eat a certain type of meat or vegetable one week, you can try different dishes with the staple item. In the end, you’ll have used all your ingredients and be able to make better choices when you shop the next week.

Try a grocery planner

Going into a grocery store without a plan can leave you spending more than you intended on treats that catch your eye. If you plan ahead of time, you can avoid the temptations that line every aisle and leave knowing you made smart decisions that will save you money in the long run. Making a note of essentials in a notes app before shopping is a great first step, but there are a number of meal planning websites to make your grocery trips easier. Plan to Eat is one such example which organizes recipes, helps you create a meal planner and even generates curated shopping lists based on your tastes. Adding simple tools like this to your shopping plan can certainly simplify your planning stage.

Take advantage of coupons or apps

While most grocery stores always offer discounts, oftentimes you can find additional markdowns from paper coupons or phone apps. Although saving $1 now may seem small, if you grocery shop often, these discounts add up and help you save in the long run. If you search the name of the store you shop at and “discount coupons” online, you should be able to find deals. Also, if you shop at a large franchise grocery store, it’s worth checking to see if they have a mobile app. There, you will likely find discounts or other deals that may not appear in a quick Google search. 

Cook quick with frozen food

Throwing food on the stove or into the microwave quickly after a long day of classes makes life and cooking a whole lot easier. Especially after  running around campus all day, you’re tired, hungry and want to prepare something quickly. Frozen food or pre-made frozen meals are the perfect solution if you don’t want to spend time making a meal yourself. At your next grocery run, buy frozen packs of your favorite foods, whether it be some veggies, burgers or even fully pre-made meals. On top of the ease that comes with preparing a meal, you won’t need to worry about expiration dates. You will save time and energy with this strategy since you won’t have to run to the grocery store as frequently. 

With all that said, living on a college budget can certainly be difficult when it comes to grocery shopping, but it can be manageable if you follow these tips. Whether you begin checking for discounts, buying more frozen food or creating a grocery planner, making small changes can make a big difference in your saving process.