It would be difficult to find a Boston College student who, by the end of their four years, has never taken a trip to one of Chestnut Hill’s local grocery stores. For the majority of these students, the art of grocery shopping is one that is tough to master and sometimes takes years to perfect. They often spend too much money just for items to expire and be wasted or buy too few items and have to replenish often. Here is a guide for the most economically friendly and efficient way to go grocery shopping on a college budget.
Make a list of the items you will need, planning for one to two weeks of groceries.
Something that many college students struggle with when walking into a grocery store is coming without a prepared list. Because of this, they end up purchasing too many items that they do not need. So, for your next trip, make sure you look through your fridge and pantry to see what you already have. Keep a running list throughout the week of things you run out of or might need for a new recipe. My advice for a rough outline is to aim to pick up two to three sources of protein (you can always freeze it), two sources of carbohydrates or grains (including rice, pasta, quinoa, or couscous), two to three vegetable, two fruit, milk (or dairy substitutes, depending on your dietary needs), and eggs. Some guides that have great ideas and ingredients for college meals include BLENDtw College, World Scholarship Forum, and Out of Milk for healthy, versatile ingredients.
Shop at stores with rewards programs, deals, and generic brands.
Looking at BC’s local and most popular stores, Wegmans Shoppers Club and Star Market for U are rewards programs you can sign up for. To ensure you receive the benefits from these programs upon each purchase, you need to make sure you enter your phone number or email address at every check out. If you prefer to shop for completely organic and locally grown products, Whole Foods has a partnership with Amazon Prime that offers special discounts for Prime members. Additionally, nearly all grocery stores have their individual generic brands, for which it’s important to keep an eye out. More often than not, the generic brand is the same quality as the name brand sold right next to it. One store that predominantly sells its own brand at a low cost is Trader Joe’s. With multiple locations nearby in Cambridge and Brookline, it has been popular among students. Other local grocery stores include Stop & Shop and Market Basket, both of which are notoriously low-priced.
Bring your own reusable bags.
One aspect of grocery shopping that most shoppers tend to forget (not just college students!) is bringing a reusable bag. Most grocery stores sell their own reusable shopping bags for typically $3 or less. It is a worthy investment to purchase one or two bags for the next time you go shopping. Other options for bags include tote bags, beach bags, other retail stores’ reusable bags, or bags you can purchase on Amazon. Nowadays, local mandates require grocery stores to charge at least 5 cents per bag, an unnecessary expense that adds up with consistent trips. Therefore, setting reminders to bring your own reusable bags before your trip will save you some money and contribute toward saving the environment.
Stock up on frozen foods.
A secret key to grocery shopping is to purchase from the frozen foods aisle. Whether it be breakfast items, fruits and vegetables, or pre-made lunch and dinners, frozen foods are valuable since they do not expire as quickly and are easy to make. Spoon University offers great recommendations on foods and brands such as veggie burgers, dumplings, burrito bowls, pasta, waffles, and more. Trader Joe’s is a personal favorite for this area, offering a variety of meals that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat!
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab / Heights Editor