College 101: Grocery Shopping

September 24, 2010

Let’s pretend for just a minute. It’s the weekend and you’re sick of the food on campus, but you certainly don’t want to order Chinese. It’s nearing supper time, but you’re not jonesing for “normal” college eats like pizza. You want something fresh, something healthy, something you can recognize (and we all know that doesn’t come from any cafeteria on campus). You want to (brace yourself) cook something! But how can you do this?! How can you afford to buy tasty treats when you’re on a budget? Besides, aren’t grocery stores for moms and their screaming kids in the carts?

Give me cookies, woman

Well, my friend, never fear. There’s a way you can buy groceries on a college budget so you can safely satisfy your craving for recognizable, tasty food. Here are my top tips for anyone (not just college kids!) to reduce your grocery bill so you can afford tuition and textbooks.

1) Don’t go to Earth Fare or Whole Foods. Okay, I know this one’s a bit obvious. We know these stores are more expensive from the get go. If you don’t need to buy specifically gluten free or organic products that you can’t find anywhere else, then don’t go there. You will be sucked in by the hot bar. Or the vegan cookie dough.

2) Buy local, local, and local. You know what’s fun? Going to the farmer’s market! It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning (as long as you’re not nursing a hangover… *cough*) and it’s a good money saver. I bought 6 local, organic, hugh jass cucumbers for a dollar once. It made me a happy bunny.

3) Clip coupons. They’re not just for your grandma anymore.

4) If you have a roommate, see if they’d be interested in chipping in and buying food to cook together. This works especially well if you live in an apartment and have more than one. You guys can totally make an awesome meal and split the bill at the supermarket. Even if you only make a joint meal once or twice a week, you’ll save some cash.

5) Talk to your parental units. Even if you’ve got a job, money can be tight. Parents (usually) understand this. Ask if they’d be willing to send you a monthly stipend to help cover some food costs. A little goes a long way.

6) Buy frozen veggies. I know, I know, fresh is always better. But if you’re in class all day long, then go to work, then have epic parties and occasionally fit homework somewhere in between, your veggie drawer might be a little neglected. If you don’t have time to always cook fresh picked produce, go for frozen ones (with no salt added!). They’ll keep for longer and they’re cheaper so sometimes you can even go organic. Woah, slow down now…

7) Canned veggies are okay, too! I regularly stock up on green beens, canned mixed vegetables, diced tomatoes, and beans. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

8 ) At the supermarket, go for the store’s own brand. Depending on the chain, their own knock-offs are usually pretty darn tasty. Plus, if they have reward card programs, you can score sweet deals such as buying 2 cans of green beans and getting 3 free. I may or may not have bought 10 for the price of 4. Hey, I was set.

9) Look in the clearance. Yeah, I said it. I went there. No, don’t you dare buy those apples that are bruised just because they’re .50 cents. I’m saying really look through that clearance section. You can find some good stuff for killer prices on a good day. We’re talking anything from hair care to lady things to produce. People get to the register and realize they actually didn’t want that asparagus. Employees will throw the food away or if they’re not feeling lazy, it’ll go on the restock or clearance shelf.

10) Don’t buy organic. Shock and horror, I know, that’s probably the worst advice you’ve ever gotten. But seriously, if you can’t afford organic produce, it’s not the end of the world. To be honest, I can’t afford to buy all organic all the time and I don’t know many people who do, so I do what I can. I use this rule of thumb when buying fresh produce: if it has skin that you’ll eat and comes from underground, buy organic. After I check the frozen section.

So there you have it. Ways to be super cheap when you’re buying groceries. I can’t help you with the whole “wanting to slap that screaming kid” problem, though.

What’s your number 1 money saving tip?

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14 Responses to “College 101: Grocery Shopping”


  1. […] College 101: Grocery Shopping « Clean Eats in the Dirty South […]

  2. Jessie Says:

    I love your advice, and it can be applied to more than just college students. It never hurts to be frugal. I especially agree about the organic stuff. Yes, organic is ideal, but it is more important to eat veggies than to eat organic veggies.

  3. Robin Says:

    Awesome post!!! I agree with baaaaiscally 110% of the things you said. I love me a pound of TJ’s frozen broccoli for $1.29 or bananas for 19c each, and that 3lb bag of apples I get from the farmer’s market every week for $1. My roommates eat shitty food so chipping in might not work out too well, but rarely buying organic + using coupons (haha my mom mails me them, too … i am going to grow up to be an coupon-clipping cat lady) = makes up for it. Living in NYC sucks because everything is super expensive to begin with (apparently rent is 4x the national average?! wahh) but doing the stuff you suggested helps so much!!

    Thanks for an awesome post =)


  4. Canned beans are my savior. Gotta love them at $1 each. Dried beans are even more economical but you have to be willing to wait the time to cook them.

  5. spoonfulofsugarfree Says:

    This is so awesome! I am going to college in a couple years, so this information is really helpful. Thanks!


  6. Can this also be “Teacher 101: Grocery Shopping” 🙂

  7. Megan Says:

    I buy frozen veg too! Love all these tips. I fall prey to WF waaay too often though! I use their coupon book so I feel better. Coupons/sales are the way to go for sure! Hope you’re doing well love 🙂


  8. […] more from the original source: College 101: Grocery Shopping « Clean Eats in the Dirty South By admin | category: eat organic | tags: advice, eat organic, foods, here-the-four, […]


  9. Great advice! my greatest regret is that when I’m on a budget (happens to the full time workers too!) I have to stop buying organic food and buy the regular stuff. Well, I always remind myself it’s better than going to McDonald’s for 1€ hamburgers, at least it’s healthy!


  10. […] College 101: Grocery Shopping « Clean Eats in the Dirty South […]


  11. I, for sure have been hoarding money for grocery shopping trips. Unemployment sucks. Great tips 🙂

  12. Ann Claire Says:

    Thanks for the awesome money saving grocery tips! I save money on food by not purchasing food at places where it is way over priced (movie theatres, theme parks, sporting events, ect). Oh and I spend almost no money on beverages. I always fill up a reusable bottle with filtered water from my house and the only other things I drink are the occasionally almond milk or tea which I brew myself.


  13. I will follow these tips to reduce my grocery bill. I am sure that this works.


  14. I don’t need to pretend. I’ve experienced this before.. 🙂 great tips by the ways. Thanks.


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