9 ways college students can stop overspending on groceries
This post is all about grocery shopping on budget.
Are you a college student struggling to keep your grocery shopping on budget? Truthfully, this is probably one of the biggest struggles a college student can have. Keeping your grocery shopping on budget is so much easier said than done.
Whether you’ve been in college for a while or are a freshman who wants to get your grocery shopping system right from the start, you need tips that other students swear by to keep their grocery shopping on budget. And a low budget, at that. Because we all know that as students, we need to keep our budgets as low as possible!
This post is all about grocery shopping on budget.
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TOP HACKS FOR GROCERY SHOPPING ON BUDGET:
1. Decide on monthly & weekly budgets
Having a monthly grocery budget is a must. But it’s important to keep a weekly budget in mind, too, every time you shop.
This makes it easier to keep track of where you’re at with your budget each time you shop (supposing you shop once per week).
For example, let’s say my grocery budget is $200 per month (it actually is). By the third week of the month, it’ll be hard to remember what I spent the first week so that I can calculate how much I have left.
Instead, I can think of my budget as $50 per week. That way, instead of trying to figure out how much money I have left in my budget for the month, I can simply focus on keeping every shopping trip under $50. This is a lot more manageable!
[RELATED POST – How to Budget in College: 4 Simple Budgeting Tips]
2. Stop buying plastic bags
Let’s face it: There is no benefit to buying plastic bags every time you shop.
They’re bad for the environment. and that $0.05 adds up eventually.
Not only that….
Have you ever thought about all the money you waste on plastic sandwich bags and plastic wrap?
Instead, buy reusable shopping bags, sandwich/snack bags and food wrap. They save SO MUCH money in the long run and you’re doing the environment a huge favour while you’re at it.
Here are some of my favourites:
2. Buy meat on sale and freeze it
If a best before date is creeping up, stores will often put that meat on sale, making it 30% or 50% off. Buy that and freeze it. As long as you thaw it when you intend to use it, it’s still good (and cheaper).
3. Eat less meat
I love meat. I would eat it every day. But it’s expensive.
So, I save money on groceries by not eating it every day. There are healthy alternatives that are much cheaper but still provide protein, like beans and chickpeas. Those are only $1-2 per can. So, if you can help it, swap out meat for other protein and stick to eating meat just 3-4 times per week.
You can also space it out and get creative with how to make the most of it. Two chicken breasts will last me four meals, and they might not all be the same meal. It’s easy to repurpose leftovers. I can eat them on their own, in a stir fry, in pasta, in a sandwich… the list goes on.
4. Plan before you shop
Never go into the grocery store without a plan. This is a recipe for guaranteed disaster.
Even if you think you’re going to find ideas based on what you see. It never works.
Instead, plan out every meal for every day of the week. Make a list of the ingredients you need for each of those meals. Make a list of the snacks you might need. And then stick to that list. You should only go off the list if you genuinely spot something you forgot that you need for one of those recipes.
[RELATED POST – Tips on Meal Prep (+ 3 Cheap Breakfast Ideas for Students)]
5. Go to cheaper stores
This is a huge one. Find out which stores are cheaper. Even if you have to go a bit further to get to those stores, make it happen because it will save you so much in the end.
Your city might also have produce markets or independent markets where produce is much cheaper. Where I live, there are a few independent markets downtown that sell produce at insanely cheap prices compared to the big name grocery stores. Explore your area for these kinds of things!
6. Buy longer-lasting items in bulk
If you spot a 2-for-1 sale on things that can last longer or things that can be frozen, get it. Or, if there’s a place you can go to buy items in bulk, do it. This might mean that you spend $75 one week on bulk items and $20 the next week just to replenish your produce, but it’s worth it.
Items you might consider buying in bulk include:
- Frozen fruit
7. Buy a lot more the first time you shop
The first time you shop, you WILL have to spend significantly more to acquire certain staples that you won’t have to purchase again for a while. For example:
- Salt + pepper
- Salad dressings
- Condiments and sauces
The list could go on. The point is, be prepared to spend a little more money the first time you shop. It’s okay to do this because you won’t have to buy these items often at all (and hopefully, they won’t all run out at the same time).
8. Buy frozen fruits when a fruit is not in season
Fruits like strawberries and blueberries can be so expensive (and honestly, not the best quality) when they’re out of season. If you love fruits like this, don’t waste your money on buying them fresh when they’re out of season (and probably kinda sour, anyways). Buy them frozen. They’re already sliced for you, you get more value for your money, and you can eat them in a few different ways: with cereal, yogurt, in a smoothie, or on their own.
BONUS TIP: Keep tabs on what you have
Ever noticed that something you made a month ago is still hanging out in the fridge? Not fun, right?
It’s so important to keep tabs on what you have, because this will save you huge amounts of money. Even when it comes to ingredients!
Before you go grocery shopping, check out what you have left in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Plan your meals around that. For example, if you have a package of burger buns in the freezer, get ingredients to make burgers that you can meal prep and then eat throughout the week. If you’ve got a few bell peppers and rice, grab some chicken to make stir fry. This way, you won’t be constantly planning every meal at random and buying more ingredients that you won’t completely use.