The Ultimate First Apartment Grocery List (& Suggested Meals!)

First and foremost, congratulations! You've secured a killer apartment and we're seriously impressed (and totally jealous). 

To prepare for the big move, you've purchased the cutest kitchen decor and the best of cooking supplies. Now, there's just one thing missing—the actual food! The grocery store can be a scary and overwhelming place, and with so many options, it's nearly impossible to know what to get once you get there. That's why we're removing the guesswork and equipping you with a foolproof game-plan. 

Say hello to the ultimate first apartment grocery store shopping list—complete with the most versatile of foods to ensure that you save money, avoid food boredom and never have to deal with something going stale (because you'll be using it all). Even better? We've included links to meals to help you form a unique and diversified meal plan. 

Ready to overcome that food-shopping phobia? We've broken the list down by category to ensure you aren't weaving through the aisles lost and confused, and each category is accompanied by usage or specific purchasing suggestions so you never have to wonder what to make again!


  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini

Essential veggies include salad ingredients, because once you've got the lettuce and spinach, you can add almost anything to them. Onions add flavor to any dish and taste great in pastas or omelets. Avocados are one of the most versatile foods out there—make a delicious guacamole, avocado-infused sandwiches or even avocado pasta sauce. Potatoes make the list because of their additional versatility. Since they come in mashed, smashed, baked and wedged varieties, there are endless easy possibilities! While zucchini may seem like a random addition, it's definitely useful. Try zucchini chips, zucchini-strand "pasta" and more, all with the ingredients found in this list!


  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Dried cranberries
  • Lemons and limes (or their juices)

We completely understand that you can be picky with your fruit, so feel free to swap some of these for your fruity favorites! We've suggested this list because each item is incredibly adaptable. Apples can turn into delicious and nutritious crisps and taste amazing in baked goods or dipped in peanut butter or honey. Bananas can be added to cereal, peanut butter sandwiches and smoothies, but can also be fried for an incredibly tasty treat. Tomatoes are a cooking essential for any salad or pasta dish, and lemons can add serious flavor to a basic chicken breast. Finally, dried cranberries (or another berry of your choice—dried is best because they last!) can also be added into flavorful salads or breakfast classics like cereal and granola.


  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter 
  • Ice cream

Milk, cheese, and butter can go in anything or on anything—just ask famous chef Paula Deen! And ice cream? You've earned it after a day at the grocery store, trust us.


  • Chicken breast
  • Ground beef
  • Cold cuts
  • Bacon

Chicken and beef are the most common meal meats—they're relatively easy to cook and taste good with even minimal seasoning. Cold cuts are perfect for sandwiches, antipasto salads and chef salads. You can even pan-fry them in some olive oil for a crispy addition to any omelet. Choose any cold cuts that you prefer, but remember that salamis, pepperonis and hams last much longer than chicken or turkey.

While bacon seems like an indulgence, it's really not, we promise. Bacon-ize your salads, sandwiches, pastas, veggies and more. You don't even necessarily have to touch a frying pan, as most packages come with microwave instructions, and once the bacon's cooked, you can store it for a while in the fridge. 


  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Ramen or pasta
  • Granola, oats or cereal

Breads are an absolute essential for home-made subs, toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and more. Purchase good old whole wheat bread to optimize on nutrients or expand your horizons with wraps and rolls. Also make sure to pick up some buns for hot dogs and hamburgers—you can freeze them until they need to be used! 

Rice can be flavored with any seasoning and comes in tons of variety—pair it with tacos or Asian-inspired dishes. With oil, soy sauce, honey, onions, tomatoes and eggs, you can have easy fried rice in no time! 

There are tons of mouth-watering ramen and pasta recipes out there (although you might need a few extra ingredients), and take your pick of granola, oats, or cereal for a satisfying breakfast—just add in some sugar, honey, dried berries or bananas.


  • Sauces
  • Condiments
  • Spices
  • Nuts

Only you know what flavors you crave, so you'll have to have a little more independence here—you can do it! Suggested sauces are hot sauce, BBQ and soy sauce—flavors that can be used in tons of dishes and mixed together for unique flavoring. Grab some mustard, ketchup, mayo, or relish—or all four! They'll add flavor to any sandwich and can even help you make salad dressings or delicious egg salads and pasta salads. 

At minimum, grab salt, pepper, cinnamon and garlic—but red pepper flakes are also awesome for dressings and sauces. It may be worth it to invest in a full pre-made spice rack, because you never know when you'll need some of the basic spices! Finally, nuts add crunch and flavor to tons of dishes and stand alone as a filling snack. Cashews, almonds and peanuts are great options.


  • Eggs
  • Olive and vegetable oils
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Bread crumbs

Scrambled, fried, poached, deviled, hard-boiled, omelets, egg salads... Eggs are the ultimate ingredient. Olive oils and vinegar can dress baked veggies (like those zucchini chips) and are perfect for any pan dish, salad dressing or sauce. PB&J? A meal must-have—but so are these savory jelly meatballs and this trendy Thai peanut sauce, or this satisfying protein smoothie. And of course, you can always use peanut butter as a veggie or cracker dip. Yum!

Sugar, flour and baking soda can help you with any dessert, and honey never goes bad and perfectly caramelizes onions. Finally, bread crumbs make easy peasy cutlets, add a little crunch to pasta, and can be stored forever in your pantry. Not about that additional cost? Just save any leftover stale bread and make your own bread crumbs (as well as croutons)! Talk about innovative.

Mix and match the items on this grocery list and you'll never go through a food rut. Best of all, these ingredients are all extremely easy to work with, so even if they're perishable, you'll use them up before they go rotten. After all, there's plenty to worry about before moving in—delicious, nutritious food shouldn't be one of them. Just don't forget that ice cream!