Shopping Smart as a College Student

by Jenna Ranney, Product Specialist


Entering my junior year meant moving from traditional dorm style living into an apartment - complete with my very own kitchen. As exciting as this upgrade has been, the idea of being entirely responsible for managing my own groceries and meal prep was admittedly pretty daunting. After a few months, though, I can confidently say I’ve got the hang of it now; I’ve figured out a solid meal schedule, and I’m getting some impressive savings. Here’s my top tips for shopping smart and saving money as a college student.

  1. Know your meal plan options. This one is kind of cheating, but as a nursing student with long days in labs & clinical I knew that some days I might be stuck on campus and not able to make it back to my apartment for lunch or even dinner. I checked my school’s meal plan options and found a very limited plan intended for commuter students that allows me to grab a quick lunch on campus when I’m in a bind. The key is to make those trips to the dining hall count - I usually bring home a few apples or bananas in my backpack, and sometimes I even manage to sneak out a salad or some extra milk in a to-go container!

  2. Make your list - and keep it. A grocery list might seem like a very obvious trick, but it’s also really important to hold onto it (or just keep it in your notes app like I do). Odds are you’ll be buying pretty much the same food week to week, so holding on to this list and highlighting the things you’ve run out of right before you head to the store can help you make sure you don’t forget anything important.

  3. Find your favorite store. At first, I had no idea which of the four supermarkets in my college town I should pick for my groceries - but after a trip to each I realized that they are not all created equal. I learned which supermarkets have great sales, which ones have the best quality food, which ones have a better variety of options, and which are just entirely overpriced.

  4. Follow the sales and savings. I am by no means a crazy couponer, but I have really come to appreciate the magic of a good sale. Particularly with fresh fruit - which I must admit I buy a lot of - buying things when they are in season and on sale often means paying significantly less. My favorite discovery has been the mobile apps that major supermarkets offer, where you can check weekly sales and online deals ahead of time to plan your grocery shopping accordingly. Signing up for the supermarket’s rewards program is another great way to access deals that you might not otherwise have, and usually you just need your email or phone number.

  5. Find free food! Most colleges will hold events pretty often that offer free stuff, and a lot of the time that will include snacks, foods, and even desserts! I make sure to check my weekly email and keep track of any on-campus events that I can swing by and grab a complimentary treat.