One of the toughest things about college is the eating situation. Once you move away from a dining plan and start to cook all of your own meals, it can become frustrating and overwhelming. The simple solution for a lot of people is to just buy frozen meals and snacks to make life easier, but there is a much better way to maximize your trips to the grocery store.
- Join rewards programs
Grocery stores like Giant, Target, and Kroger offer various rewards for frequent shoppers. Check out stores near you to research what benefits are offered, because it can be a huge relief on your wallet if you find a good deal. Staying loyal to one store also helps you have quicker shopping trips as you become familiar with the layout and location of your favorite items.
- Look for specials and coupons before you shop
Along with the rewards programs, most grocery stores will publish a list of sales, specials, and discounts on a weekly basis. This is helpful for buying bulk items like pasta or seasonings, as well as grabbing more expensive items for steeply discounted prices. Keep an eye out for these as you think about what to eat each week!
- Plan ahead & meal prep for the week
My biggest life-saving piece of advice is to plan your meals ahead of time. I always sit down and scroll through Pinterest recipes to figure out what I’m craving and how many ingredients can overlap in each recipe. Checking my current pantry inventory is also helpful in guiding the creation of a grocery list and meal plan. As a busy student, I don’t like to cook multiple nights a week, so I try to make everything for the week ahead of time; if you have a packed schedule or just hate to cook, it would be smart to look into meal prepping.
- Go for cheap, easy, filling meals
Nobody wants to make complicated, elaborate meals when they have piles of homework or a nap schedule to stick to. Find out what you enjoy eating and cooking, then try to find the simplest recipes to make those meals. Don’t spend too much time or money on spices and garnishes that aren’t necessary to the overall taste of the dish. Frozen vegetables and fruits are cheap alternatives that have longer shelf lives, and as much as I condemned the frozen-food-only lifestyle, sometimes those options work best for your lifestyle and taste. If your meals aren’t super filling, try to find snacks and sides to satisfy your hunger between mealtimes.
- Use what you already have
Try to avoid food waste as much as you can. If you have eggs leftover from last week’s meal prep, look for a way to incorporate them into your upcoming week’s meal plan. This will not only get your money’s worth of food items, but it will also give you more storage space in your kitchen (which is already limited if you live with roommates).