Looking for a grocery list for college students? This might be the most detailed one you’ll find on the internet!
Grocery shopping is a chore for some and an adventure for others. As a senior in college, I’ve spent the last 3 and a half years trying to perfect my college grocery list.
Between wanting endless amounts of snacks and wanting to buy everything in the fruit section, it’s difficult, especially under a budget.
This blog post will give you ideas on what to put in your life, how to create a grocery shopping list, and how to budget for a trip to the grocery store.
How To Create a Grocery List As a College Student
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There are so many college grocery lists out there and not of them honestly can fit one person.
I started out looking at a grocery list for one person, but it didn’t quite fit what I needed to buy for groceries as a student.
Going grocery shopping is one of the most expensive things that you will do after tuition and paying rent. Groceries can cost so much.
Prior to college, my mother would just buy whatever snack I wanted and never honestly knew how expensive food can be.
Groceries are expensive. You should NEVER TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! NEVER.
You are bound to buy more than you need. Before shopping, you should eat a snack or a meal. You do not want to overspend and buy food that you are not going to it.
It is also important to know the basics of food storage and know when items expire. The last thing you want to pick up a loaf of bread that expires the next day when you planned to eat sandwiches all week.
1. Get the basics and know what is already in your kitchen
If you are starting from scratch, then you should find buy the basics that everyone should have in their kitchen or cabinet. You also consider getting any snack or food you know for sure! Do not buy items you know you will not get.
Your college grocery list shouldn’t be as elaborate as a family of four. Instead, it should be compact and start to the point.
Additionally, you need to know what you have in the fridge. One of my BIGGEST mistakes, when I go grocery shopping, is buying something that I already had in my fridge. I also think that I have an ingredient for a meal, BUT it ends up being expired.
2. Figure out what you want to cook/prepare for the week or next 2 weeks
You should plan 2-3 meals that you can make or eat in a week. Before going grocery shopping, you need to figure out what you will cook or make that week. These ingredients will make up your grocery list.
3. Know what you actually eat
This tip is mainly for the snack aisle. Just because there is a sale on Cheez-Its, does not mean you need to buy 3 boxes of them. Know yourself and what you will actually eat. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new things, but take baby steps when doing so.
4. Write it down!
After finding out what you have in the kitchen/fridge/pantry, what you are going to cook, what you actually eat, you should try down your list. If you are like me, then you will want to get a notebook specifically for lists. I also write on my phone so if I forget the list in my car or at home, I have a backup.
You should never go to the grocery store without a list or at least an idea of what you want to buy. Going to the grocery store without a list can result in you spending more money than needed and wasting time. Create your college grocery list and stick to it!
Most Detailed College Grocery List For College Students:
Please adjust this list according to your diet. (E.g. I personally don’t eat ground beef or pork, so I wouldn’t buy it!)
- Green Vegetables (e.g. Spinach, Lettuce, Kale, etc.)
- Frozen Chopped Vegetables
- Green Beans
- Berries (Strawberries, Blue, etc.)
With produce, it’s best to go to a farmer’s market. Their prices usually run cheaper than at the grocery store. It depends on the region, though.
Also, plan to eat most of your fruit and vegetables early in the week or right after a trip to the grocery store. A quick Google search can give you an idea of how long fruit and vegetables can last in the refrigerator. Make sure to eat them in that time period or it will be a waste of your money.
Dairy, Cheese, & Eggs
- Milk (I personally get Almond or Oat!)
- Cheese (e.g. Cream, Shredded, etc.)
- Creamer for Coffee
- String cheese (can be a quick snack for class, too!)
- Sandwich Bread
- Pita Bread
- Tortilla Chips
- Waffle/Pancake Mix
- Pasta (one of the cheapest and easiest options for meals)
- Almonds or any nuts
- Protein Bars
- Cakes, Cupcakes, Muffins
- Trail Mix
- Queso Dip
This section honestly depends on you. I don’t really snack on much other than fruits and chips and popcorn.
- Frozen fruit
- Frozen vegetable (saves time cutting vegetables when you cook)
- Beyond Meat Burgers
- Microwavable meals
- Tyson Chicken Snacks
- Ice Cream
- Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwiches
- Pizza Rolls
The freezer section can honestly save you some money and time. Most grocery stores have big bags of chicken breasts already cut and ready to be baked. Also, if you are lazy or tired, you can easily bake chicken nuggets.
Canned Items & Pantry
- Canned Tomato Sauce
- Alfredo Sauce
- Peanut Butter
- Cooking Oil
Check the dates of canned items every week because some items expire before others and will often will be forgotten in the pantry!
Spices & Dressings
- Italian Seasoning
- Cayenne Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Salad Dressing
- Bread Crumbs
- BBQ Sauce
You can build up your spice rack over time. Spices can become expensive if you grab a bunch of them in the store. Also, getting the cheaper spice will not taste that different from the one that costs $5.
- Water (GET A FILTER)
- Tea (hot and cold)
- ONLY IF YOU’RE OVER THE AGE OF 21:
How To Budget For Grocery Shopping:
To expose my poor college student grocery list tips, I will give you a few of the tips I use when creating my college grocery list.
1. Meal Plan:
Like I mentioned before, you need to have a plan in place when you go grocery shopping. When I plan on going to the grocery store, I find easy recipes on Pinterest to cook. As a student, I do not have the time (or the patience) to cook. Every week, I plan around 2-3 meals to cook or prepare. I cook on Sundays, sometimes on Wednesdays and Fridays. Most food expires within 3-4 days.
So, I cook or prepare a meal that can last me almost the whole week. There are so many resources on how to meal plan. I recommend starting with simple items, such as salads and meals that require pasta (all you need is pasta and sauce and you’re good).
I use containers specifically made for meal planning. After you finish making your meal for the week, you place it in the containers so you can take it to work or school.
2. Scout every local market:
If you are going to college in a whole different state, you should understand the cost of food in that area. For example, I live in a state next to the water, so items such as fish and seafood are going to cost lower compared to a state in the middle of the country. Produce that is not native or grown around here costs more.
Grocery stores also have a HUGE say in how much food costs. Some stores have prices low and some have grocery high. The costs also depend on if the item is organic, vegan, gluten-free, etc. Grocery stores also inflate prices all the time. Ask around on campus on what are the best grocery stores for college students to shop at. RA’s and classmates should give you some insight.
Also, if you have a meal plan on-campus, make sure to see if you have a mini grocery store on campus that sells snacks! For example, my university has 2-3 mini convenience-like stores on campus. The items are pricey, but I used them to buy groceries. My campus’s agricultural department holds a small farmer’s market some days of the week. I’d use to buy some fruits on that day because they were cheaper compared to local grocery stores.
Research grocery stores and other options near you! Your campus might be able to help you as well!
3. Purchase a water filter:
Having this water filter has saved me money over the past two years. I can not recommend this enough! Bottled water costs so much money over time and is not the best option for the environment either.
Aside from saving money, a water filter will last a long time and ideal for anyone. The only downside that you will need to change the filter after a few weeks, which isn’t difficult at all.
The Levoit water pitcher above has been my to-go since moving into my apartment. I use it every day. It holds 2.5 liters which last about 2 days, depending on if I fill it up all the way. Changing the filter is not hard at all, and I’ve never had any issues with it. The water also tastes amazing and better than any bottled water I’ve had.
4. Buy the basics and what you will eat:
You know the grocery basics: milk, butter, bread, eggs, vegan and plant-based foods, etc.
But it also depends on you. If know that you do not like spinach, then do not go out and buy it. If you love eating bagels in the morning, then purchase bagels.
Know what you want to get when going to the store. Grocery stores spend hundreds of thousands of dollars researching how to make you buy more. The stores are designed to get you to spend. (I learned this from my marketing class.) There is also a line of psychology dedicated to retail shopping!
Spend wisely and go in for what you want!
5. Groceries > Eating out every night:
If you haven’t heard by now, one way to save money is to learn how to cook and eat at home! Eating out costs the average American around $3,000 annually. That’s around $250 per month and 62.50 per week. Of course, college students aren’t (hopefully) spending that much dining out.
One college hack I learned is that cooking is hard at first, but it saves so much money. It also seems unreasonable to pay so much just for one item (e.g. $.9.99 for a bag of frozen chicken), but it can create 3-4 meals that can last a few days. Compare that to paying $12 for a meal 3 times a week. It’s all in the math.
Pinterest is full of easy recipes that take no longer than 30 minutes to cook. I don’t know what I’d do without Pinterest because it is the main website where I get recipes to cook! I will link my personal Pinterest board with the recipes I’ve tried below!
This blog post gave you the most detailed college grocery list for college students.
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