Tips for Healthy Eating in College Part Two: Shopping for Groceries

Here are some tips for saving money and choosing healthy foods when grocery shopping.

By Mari Whitmore — December 14, 2022


Tips for Healthy Eating in College Part Two: Shopping for Groceries

If you're like most college students, you're probably used to eating food available at home or school and might feel a bit lost when it comes to grocery shopping. Perhaps you're nervous about shopping alone or get overwhelmed and walk out with ingredients that don't make up any meals and cost way more than you expected. Maybe you don't live near a grocery store, or you don't have a car. Whatever your circumstances, keep reading to learn some tips for saving money and choosing healthy foods when grocery shopping.

Making a Shopping List

A shopping list might seem outdated or like a waste of time, but you'll quickly realize that lists can help keep you focused, organized, and within budget. Start by writing down some meals you'd like to make for the next week or so, then go through the ingredients you'll need and note whether you'll need to stock or replenish any of them. You can jot down your list on paper or use a template or app to stay organized.

Whatever your method, record the ingredients you need to buy. It can be helpful to divide your list by food category so that you have a visual reminder to fill in all the major food groups. For example, if you group all the produce, put frozen vegetables in the frozen section of your list. This will keep you from circling the store as you remember things you forgot you needed...I speak from experience on this one! Lastly, include a few snack options. Snacks don't have to be prepackaged, processed foods, particularly if you're trying to maintain a nutrient-dense diet, but you'll want a few foods that don't require a lot of preparation for those busy class days late-night study sessions. Things like cheese, hummus, carrot sticks, hard-boiled eggs, tuna packets, whole grain crackers, peanut butter, and fruit are easy to grab on your way to class and will give you the energy to keep up with your busy schedule.

The Store

Before heading to the grocery store, ensure you've eaten recently and are not feeling hungry. Shopping while hungry makes it difficult to stick to your list, and you can easily exceed your budget and end up with a cart full of extra snacks and treats. Once you get to the store, shop around its perimeter first. Grocery stores often keep the freshest — and usually most nutrient-dense — foods around the perimeter. At a typical grocery store, you can pick up your fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and proteins around the edges of the store. Pick up things from the inside aisles as you need them, and try to stick to your list.

Problem Solving

Transportation Options

Like many college students, you may live on campus with no grocery stores within walking distance. Consider using public transportation. Many cities have reduced-fare bus or train passes for students, which are a great option for running errands and getting around. Try bringing your packable bags, as they will be much easier to transport groceries in than thin plastic or flimsy paper bags, and they're more environmentally friendly! Many reusable bags are insulated and can help keep cold foods cold until you return to campus. Consider shelf-stable alternatives for some items, as frozen foods might not make it back to your dorm without thawing. Many types of fresh produce — such as potatoes, onions, apples, and bananas — are sturdy and can safely be stored without refrigeration. You can also consider investing in a bicycle with a basket to help you get around or try to carpool with friends or roommates.

Delivery Options

If public transportation is not a reliable option or you don't have time to grocery shop, consider looking into apps and websites which provide grocery delivery options. For example, Walmart offers free delivery on groceries, with only a few qualifications. Amazon also offers grocery delivery, with discounts and free delivery for Prime members. As a bonus, Prime is usually offered at a discount for college students! Delivery options are a great way to save time and may even help you save money as you won't need to spend on transportation and won't experience the temptation to pick up food items that aren't on your list while you're at the grocery store. Many local grocery stores also offer delivery, often with a minimum order amount. If you don't meet the minimum on your own, consider ordering with a friend or roommate to save on delivery costs. Look into options in your area and read the fine print to ensure you understand what you need to do to qualify for delivery from your store.

Apps and Coupons

If you're trying to stay organized and save money, coupo ns and grocery store apps can be extremely helpful. Many coupons today are digital, which means you don't have to clip, collect, and remember to bring physical coupons. Check to see if your grocery store has an app; if it does, it's usually a great way to save. Most apps also tailor your coupon preferences to what you typically buy, which helps ensure you're getting relevant coupons. You can also make your grocery list right in the app in some cases, which makes it easier to stay organized and keep track of what you're buying. Some stores offer promotions within the app to get free products, gas points, and other perks.

You've Got This!

No matter how you grocery shop, be sure to make a list, get to know your local options, and utilize coupons and apps to more easily feed yourself in college. Even if you've got your shopping strategy down, consider giving some of these tips a try — you might discover a new way to simplify your routine and make nutritious and filling food choices so you can stay focused on your studies and thrive in college.

Mari Whitmore

Mari Whitmore

Mari Whitmore recently graduated from a tiny private college in the middle of beautiful Wyoming. She spends her time traveling, adventuring in nature, writing, and working as a barista and bartender. Recently, Mari relocated to the gorgeous hill country of Central Texas. In her free time, she loves to hike, paddleboard, read, paint, watch movies, and gather with friends and family.
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