How to shop smart as a college student

Ways to be resourceful when grocery shopping

Cav Daily Shop Smart
Although tomatoes go great in many dishes, they only stay fresh for five to seven days. Molly Wright | Cavalier Daily

Starting a new fall semester may be an exciting time, but if you’re a second, third or fourth-year, somebody needs to buy the groceries in the apartment and that somebody is you. 

As a college student, you’re most likely shopping for one and you will soon realize that grocery stores do not always cater to the single person diet. Unless you plan on having a tall glass of milk with every meal for a week, that large carton of milk you’re buying will definitely expire before you finish it. Here are some tips on how to shop smart as a college student and not waste food.

1. Pay attention to the shelf lives of grocery items, and buy foods that won’t spoil after a week. In my first few attempts at shopping by myself, I was so proud that I was being healthy and buying myself spinach to cook for dinners. I soon realized that spinach wilted after five days, and I only wanted it about once a week, so it didn’t make sense to continue buying big cartons of it. 

Other vegetables such as broccoli stay fresh longer, which is better for a college student who’s maybe not so great at planning meals yet. Yogurt is also a great item to buy because whether you are buying individual flavored yogurts or a big carton of Greek yogurt, it will keep for about a month. Unless you know you’ll have time to cook for yourself that week, don’t buy raw items like chicken, beef or fish because they spoil very fast. 

2. Concentrate on snacks when you go grocery shopping. In between classes, spending time in the library or hanging out with friends, you’ll probably be eating out a lot more than cooking. Buying snacks in bulk at the grocery store is a lot cheaper than purchasing that one granola bar every time you get hungry in Clem. When you shop, purchase items such as trail mix, granola bars and apples that you can easily slip into your backpack for whenever you need a quick snack. 

3. Always keep easy-to-make meals in your pantry. These can include a box of pasta and a jar of marinara sauce ready for whenever you don’t want to leave your apartment for food. Keeping bread, butter and cheese in your kitchen at all times is also a good idea for when you and your apartment mates come back from a night out at bars and need a grilled cheese for some drunk food. It’ll taste amazing at 3 a.m. — I promise.

4. Try to plan your meals ahead of time for the week. Meal prepping is a talent that I need to work on for sure. Before you go to the store, think about what meals you would like to have for the week. Maybe you can buy some yellow rice to serve with salmon for one night, and then use the leftover rice for tacos the next night. Knowing what you want to make each night will help keep you from wasting food.

5. It’s okay to buy frozen food. As a college student you basically have no time, and sometimes, you just have to wolf down a meal in about five minutes before you go to a club meeting or class. Stocking your freezer with a few frozen meals does not mean that you’re not “adulting” — it just means that sometimes you might be too busy to cook. We all have times like that. You can also buy frozen vegetables such as green beans or broccoli, frozen rice and frozen potatoes to help cooking go faster when making a meal. That way you only have to think about cooking that chicken or fish. 

6. Buy the ice cream. With late night studying comes late night sugar cravings, and instead of buying overpriced Arch’s, you can just scoop yourself some ice cream from the freezer. I also like to keep some dark chocolate in the pantry as well in case I don’t feel like having a big dessert but just need a little sweet fix. 

Grocery shopping as a college student is a process of trial and error. There will be times when you’ll have to throw out a tomato you intended on eating a week ago, but there will also be times when you cook yourself a delicious meal. 

Molly Wright is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com .  

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