How to College: Grocery Shopping


Brittany Moore

Most college students live on their own for the first time when they enroll at their new home away from home, whether it be in dorms or off campus. Students can easily become overwhelmed when they realize they have so many things to learn about living alone. A task students need to master is how to grocery shop effectively, so Spinnaker compiled a list of tips to help young adults start adulting.

  1. Plan your meals. Knowing what you need on your shopping list is almost impossible if you don’t already know what meals you want to cook during the week. I shop every week, but you can shop more frequently if you have more space to store food. If you want to shop less frequently, keep in mind that perishable items like bananas may go bad before your next shopping trip.
  2. Take inventory of your pantry and fridge. Once you know what meals you need to plan for, determine what ingredients you need for the recipes. Also check for basic necessities around the dorm such as toilet paper, a new toothbrush, and dish soap.
  3. Make your list. Along with everything you have determined you need, do not forget to put a couple things on your list that are wants, not just needs. I am less likely to make impulse purchases when I make a place for them on my shopping list.
  4. Stick to your plan. This is one of the more difficult goals to achieve when grocery shopping because stores have so many aisles that tempt even the most focused shoppers. With that in mind, stick to one section of the store at a time and only travel down the aisles that contain the items on your list.
  5. Buy in bulk what can be frozen and/or stored. The cost per oz or item tends to decrease as the amount of the product increases, but remember to take storage space into account. If you don’t have space for the family sized box of cereal in your cabinet or pantry then you shouldn’t buy it. It will just be clutter.
  6. Separate food items intended for the freezer before you put them away. Take a couple minutes to put each item, or portion size, in separate airtight bags. This step can prevent problems later on when you only need one piece of chicken from its frozen block of packaging.
  7. Buy only what you will use of perishables. To avoid throwing money away, buy what you will use within reason. You’re getting more bang for your buck when you buy a gallon of milk, but it is still more expensive than the half gallon. If you don’t usually drink milk and don’t need it for a recipe, save yourself some cash and opt for the half gallon.
  8. Do not go to the store hungry. Everything appears appetizing for those who go to the store on an empty stomach. The chances that you will grab useless or unneeded items skyrocket the moment you walk in the front doors especially when that grocery store offers ready to eat meals.
  9. Look online or in your app store for helpful coupons or apps for your local grocery store. Most grocery stores have applications meant to save you a buck or two. Whether you need coupons, notifications of upcoming sales, cheap recipe ideas or ways to earn money back, there is an app for it.


The grocery store can be a money pit for college students with an income. Use these tips before grocery shopping to conquer the aisles.

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