How To: Grocery Shop as a College Student

I’m willing to bet most of us, upon reaching college, grossly underestimated how expensive food is. And I’m not talking about your meal plan or even prepared food. I mean groceries. Now, I’m aware many of us live on-campus, and here at Murray State and elsewhere, you’re not allowed to cook in the residence halls. Even if this is the case, most of us still have a small fridge and a microwave. And if you live off-campus, you’re allowed even more freedom! Grocery shopping is daunting, especially if you’re not used to doing it yourself, or you’re shopping in a new store for the first time. Full disclosure, I am currently employed by Kroger, and I see a lot of my fellow students in my workday. So if anyone would know the ins-and-outs of getting your essentials, it’s me. Here are my tips for a successful food shopping trip!

                                                                                                           (Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

1. Shop on a schedule.

     Whether it’s once a week or twice a month, try to get into the habit of buying food on a regular basis, on the same day each week. Having that structure helps in a few ways. For one, it prevents you from ever running out of food accidentally, and it also allows you to set aside a time when you can do it. For some of us, especially if you have a lot of roommates and shop as a household, buying groceries can take an hour or more, so having a set day to get it done can really aid in planning your week. And this ties into my next point...

2. Make a list.

     A list is of the utmost importance. It tells you what you need, and keeps you restrained, so you don’t spend too much money. Between trips to the store, you can write down what you need (or record it on your phone,) and that way when you get there, you can just grab your stuff and be out the door! Trust me, a list will save you so much time. Going into a store aimlessly without the foggiest idea of what you need versus having a list that tells you exactly what you went there for? I think we all know what the better option is.

3. Coupons, coupons, coupons!

     Now, I know, clipping coupons out of an ad seems exhausting, and who has the time? But there are a lot of ways the task can be made easier. Speaking from personal experience, our own local Kroger lets you attach electronic coupons right onto your rewards card. The app will even recommend you deals and sales based on your purchase history! It may not seem like much, but smart couponing can take quite a chunk of change out of what you owe, and when you’re on the grind, $5 off a $30 order is a huge amount. And speaking of rewards cards…

4. Always check for discounts.

     Honestly, this goes for a lot more than just grocery shopping. Lots of businesses like to reach out to the college market, so ask your cashier if they offer a student discount. If the store offers a free rewards card, by all means, invest in that! They can come with a lot of perks, like cheaper gas or personalized coupons (see above.) A free way to potentially save a lot of money? Yes, please!

                                                                                                        (Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash)

5. Learn to be practical.

     I know, it’s easier said than done, but knowing what you need to buy, as opposed to what you want to buy, will save you lots of money. Buy food that won’t spoil quickly, and if you have the resources and storage, buying in bulk will really stretch your dollar. My fellow HC/Murray State writer Mackenzie wrote an article about how to cook as a college student and with my tips and hers, you’ll soon be whipping up meals that will make everyone wish you were their roommate, and save a few bucks, too!  

(Thumbnail by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash)