Grocery Shopping On A Student Budget

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As a student living on campus, my diet consisted of Doritos, ramen, and Reeses. It was delicious but not sustainable. After moving off campus and finding a job, I knew I needed to change my diet and focus on my budget. Today, there are so many different products popping up every week, it’s easy to get swept up and overspend. At one point I was spending $200 on one round of groceries and would be out of food in a week. I would navigate the aisles not sure which items would last me the longest, or which were the healthiest. Grocery shopping can be extremely overwhelming. 

After some trial and error, I learned that I can start saving money by transitioning to a well balanced, whole food diet. Today, I have a much better understanding of which foods and recipes work best for my lifestyle.

Below is information that helped me budget my grocery spending and change my diet:

Build the Basics

  • Pasta
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Tortillas
  • Onions
  • Marinara sauce
  • Salsa 
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jam/Jelly 
  • Oats
  • Veggie or chicken broth

These foods are so easy to throw together for a quick meal. Create a creamy potato soup with a side of veggies. Or add tomato sauce to your pasta with onions. At a typical grocery store, these products are always on sale for under $5. Be smart and buy in bulk. You will be good for a month after buying a couple of boxes of each. Add garlic, thyme, or salt & pepper for flavor. 

Buy Local

Between spring and fall, all of the farmer’s markets will be open. Be on the lookout for small food stands in parking lots or near the park. Make sure to carry cash since most markets do not accept credit. Personally, I’ve bought two pounds worth of strawberries for only $5! You can not beat the deals local markets bring. 

Meal Prep

Balancing classes, a job, and social life is not easy. At the end of the day, my brain would be fried and I would succumb to decision fatigue. There are many days where I still experience this. To help myself out, I meal prep our lunches once a week. Since I work early, I also pack my breakfast. For dinner, I buy items that can be quickly made in 30 minutes. Thinking about what you will eat ahead of time creates one less decision you need to make. 

Breakfast:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Overnight oats with almond milk, blueberries, and cinnamon
  • Fruit smoothie with spinach

Lunch: 

  • Teriyaki chicken with sriracha and broccoli
  • Beef with carrots and rice
  • Veggie burgers and sweet potato 
  • Salsa chicken with rice 
  • Sweet potato with portabella mushrooms 

Dinner:

  • Pasta with salmon and broccoli
  • Rotisserie chicken with rice 
  • Tilapia with pineapple salsa and tortillas
  • Pasta with cheese and marinara sauce
  • Red cabbage, cauliflower rice, green peppers, and salmon 

I rarely go outside these meals because they are the easiest to make, and most satiating. 

Check The Freezer Aisle

We make a lot of smoothies at home so it’s easiest for us to buy frozen berries. I love adding blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and spinach. Blueberries are also known as ‘brain berries’ due to their proven antioxidant and anti-aging components. I can always use some extra focus in the morning so I try to eat these regularly. Even buying steam packets of sweet potato, broccoli or green beans is better than not eating them at all. 

Sticking to a healthy and sustainable diet is not impossible. Start by adding a few of these tips into your routine the next time you shop. Your health should always be a top priority. 

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