College students know more than any other age group how important it is to budget your weekly and monthly spending. It’s so easy to find yourself going out with friends to grab food, spending money on drinks at the bars, or fueling that coffee addition you have at Dunkin’ or Starbucks. That’s why it’s so important to consider budgeting, especially when it’s time to make that weekly grocery list. The biggest yet simplest tip I have is to set a budget. Go shopping a few times and see what amount you end up spending and go from there. Once you have that budget, you can implement a few tricks and tips into your routine that will help you save money and buy all the groceries you love and enjoy eating!
Check for store ads or coupons
If you watched TLC growing up you may have watched the show “Extreme Couponing” like me. Although I’m not promoting dedicating your life to couponing as college kids, couponing is a great and easy way to help save money. You can find them online or in the store ad papers that are usually near the doors. It sounds old-fashioned but you’d be surprised what might be on sale. Another tip I have is to not buy things you wouldn’t normally get. Maybe if it’s a BOGO coupon or “get a free something with your $25 purchase.” I’d recommend finding coupons for products and brands that you usually buy and know you’ll use; otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending more money on things you don’t need.
Make a list of grocery items
If I take the time to plan out what I want to buy at the grocery store, not only does it save the person behind me and myself time, it makes it so much easier to check grocery shopping off the to-do list. I recently have been trying to plan out my weekly meals. Then, once I do that, I check the fridge, freezer and cabinets to see what items I have or what I need. I usually always get the essentials — veggies, fruits, milk, cheese, bagels — but it helps to keep track of the other grocery items I need to buy. This makes it so much easier for me to limit buying extra goodies. I usually give myself one or two items that aren’t on the list, or that you’d consider “junk” or “unhealthy.” For me, that item might be a box of vanilla wafers, a bag of pretzel crisps, or even a small tub of ice cream, depending on if I’m feeling salty or sweet. I’ve found that these options are great for keeping yourself on track and not overspending your weekly budget. With time and practice, you won’t even need a physical list with you but I would recommend bringing one or at least typing it out on your notes app so you don’t forget that one item for a recipe you’ve been eager to make.
Eat before you go to the grocery store
I know this one sounds odd, and although I don’t have any researched data to support this if you go grocery shopping hungry you end up buying more than you need. I’m not sure what it is or why (any science gals who want to help me out here…feel free!) but I’ve noticed this for myself, and my friends and family would attest to this too. So, always eat before grocery shopping. Otherwise, you’ll end up having cravings and want to buy too many grocery items and things that aren’t on that lovely list you made.
Grocery shopping isn’t everyone’s favorite task to do and that’s alright. My dad loves grocery shopping while my mom…not so much. Whether you like grocery shopping or not, consider using these tips to help you save your money and stick to that budget. It’s easy to shop for one person, minus the occasional overage of fresh produce, but just think about how prepared you’ll be if you end up cooking and shopping for other people. At the end of the day no matter how you spend your food money, whether it’s cooking homemade meals or eating out at fast-food restaurants, be sure you do your best to be appreciative and not let any food go to waste. And hey, if you have food regularly going bad before you eat it, adjust that list, scan for coupons and shift your budget. You’ll be good to go for your next grocery trip!