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A Collegiette’s Guide to Grocery Shopping On A Dime

If you find yourself having to ask your parents to help you refill your campus dollars more often than not, there’s a good chance you’re spending way too much on overpriced meals, snacks, and beverages sold on campus. In fact, those $2.85 Powerades you’re buying in the Bison after a tough cardio Pilates class or the $5 cups of strawberries sold in the library may be draining your funds faster than you realize.

Thankfully, it’s extremely easy to save money on food just by making a few small tweaks, doing your grocery shopping elsewhere, and planning ahead.

Buy your drinks in bulk…

It’s no secret that any restaurant or café will jack up the price of an individual bottled drink to make a profit. Whether you’re addicted to Diet Coke or seltzer water, buying a 12-pack of cans or bottles at a real grocery store means you can blissfully sip at the price of around 50 cents a can, as opposed to a bottle that is marked at over $2!

… but not water!

There is no reason to spend any money on plastic, disposable water bottles.  Unless you’re a real hydration connoisseur, it’s quite difficult to detect the difference between the electrolyte-enhanced SmartWater and the water that comes out of your tap or fountain. There is a huge selection of cute, reusable, and environmentally friendly water bottles out there, many of which have a lifetime warranty. Invest in a Camelbak (which also claims to increase your daily water intake through it’s straw-sipping mechanism!) and you’ll never waste another quarter on an overpriced Dasani again.

Consider your breakfast staples .

Do you eat the same thing every morning when you wake up? Is it a Chobani and a coffee, or tea and Luna bar? Are you buying these items at 7th Street or the library, scrambling to get to your 9 a.m. class? Streamline your morning routine and stock up on these items in bulk! Large grocery stores will often have 10 for $10 Chobani deals, and the cost of a 12-pack of bars is the price of what you would pay for three that are sold individually. If you don’t have a kitchen of your own, these items don’t take up much space and can easily fit in a mini-fridge or on the corner of a top shelf.  Furthermore, the cost of a hot cup of water anywhere on campus is only 25 cents. Keep a stash of tea bags tucked away in your backpack and save a dollar every time you enjoy your morning brew.

Consider frozen essentials.

Although frozen foods sometimes get a bad rap, research has shown that frozen fruits and vegetables only lose a small portion of their key vitamins and nutrients during the freezing process.  Fruits and vegetables are among some of the items that are the most overpriced, and stocking up on frozen fruits that can be used at any time to make a delicious smoothie, or frozen veggies that can easily be steamed or broiled is a great way to not only prepare your own meals just how you like them, but save a bundle too. Our schedules are so hectic in college that our meal plans can get off track, but with frozen veggies in the freezer you never have to worry about all of your fresh produce going bad before you’ve had a chance to cook or eat it! 

Stock up on non-perishable snack bundles.

For foods that you know you will eventually eat over the course of a semester and will never spoil, go ahead and buy the bundle pack. This applies to items like microwaveable popcorn, individual snack packs or dried fruit or nuts, and canned soup. No harm will be done to the product even if it sits out for over a month, and you’ll save by buying in bulk.

Have your club card ready.

Practically every major grocery store chains offer a savings card, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one. It takes about two minutes to sign up for one, and you automatically save on items you didn’t even know were on sale until you check out! Even if you forget it when you go shopping, the cashier can still look you up in the system, so you don’t miss out on the deals.

Most importantly, plan ahead.

No matter how much you save on grocery shopping, it will go to waste if you don’t plan ahead and pack what you’ll need throughout the day. If you have a late night in the library ahead of you, throw one or two of those Cokes you bought in your bag. If you think you’ll get hungry in between your noon and 2:30 class, pack a snack. And as always, never forget your reusable water bottle! By being prepared with your favorite foods in tow, you’ll never succumb to the lure of a $6 bed of lettuce with some croutons sprinkled on top again.

And remember, you should always have some Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers on hand that you can save your cooked leftovers for another delicious meal!

Margaret is a senior at Bucknell University majoring in psychology and economics. She is a campus correspondent for Her Campus Bucknell, a member of the women's squash team, and spent last semester abroad in Rome. She loves all kinds of music from Michael Buble to old-school hip hop, Kiawah Island (SC), Oprah magazine, crossword puzzles and going out to leisurely weekend brunches with her friends. 
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