Living on your own for the first time can be pretty intimidating, especially when it comes to the whole eating thing. Sure, you could rely on the cafeteria and the takeout menus you find. But do you really want to leave your health and your stomach to chance? Instead of having others do the cooking, learn how to shop for your food made for dorm rooms with this basic Grocery Shopping 101 guide.
Making Your Dorm Room Grocery List
Before you go anywhere, you need a shopping list. It’ll keep you from buying things you don’t need and from overspending on what you want. A grocery list also expedites the process and gets you in and out much faster.
So what do you need? It’s important to remember that you don’t have the fully loaded kitchen like you do at home. A full grocery cart will go to waste so avoid overbuying. Instead, stick to the basics with this list:
- ½ gallon of milk
- Instant breakfast drink mixes
- Fruit (apples, bananas, berries, etc.)
- Eggs (half-dozen)
- Bread (or tortillas)
- Sliced or shredded cheese
- Peanut butter
- Small tub of butter
- Veggies (lettuce, cucumber, baby carrots, etc.)
- Sliced chicken or pre-cooked meat
- Instant noodles, pasta, and soup (mac and cheese, ramen, etc.)
- Instant rice
- Snacks (cookies, chips, pretzels, popcorn)
- Coffee, tea, or other drinks you enjoy
- Salt, pepper, and other spices you use frequently
Where to Shop
Any grocery store will do just fine, to be honest. However, if you’ve never been grocery shopping on your own before, you may want to try somewhere smaller. Discount stores are a good place to start because there’s less selection and the prices aren’t so high. If you’re more health conscious, stores with a focus on organic products or local farmers markets are even better bets.
It also helps to do a pre-shop so you can get the lay of the land. Big box stores in particular can be overwhelming and confusing. If you find you’re going to be in a rush or you hate larger stores, just doing a practice shop to pick up a few items and explore the aisles can really come in handy.
When to Shop
Frequency matters, especially if you’re working with limited fridge, freezer, or pantry space. A good rule of thumb is to shop weekly. That keeps your perishable items from going bad, and it means buying less each shop.
Go on a weekday, if possible. Weekends are terribly busy, and you may get stuck in a checkout line forever. Weekdays, especially in the afternoon, means you’ll have the place to take your time and do your thing with zero pressure. Plus, the pricier items go on sale during the week!
Shopping Tips and Tricks
A few sturdy and large grocery bags are essential these days. Plastic and paper aren’t in style, and having those things around is annoying and wasteful. Cloth or reusable plastic is a must.
Don’t forget to pick up some storage tubs and baggies. Avoid insect problems by locking it up if it can be easily gotten to. Plus, then it makes it easier to store in places like under your bed or in a grocery storage cube.
Coupon and cashback apps are essential to saving money. Ibotta is one example where you can get money back for buying certain grocery items. Seriously! Even more stores have reward programs where you can get discounts the more frequently you use it. If you’ve got the option, carry the card on your keys so it’s always handy.
Explore grocery delivery services if you’ve got the cash. They can be pricey, but they are good to know in case you’re sick and in need of soup and tea and can’t make it to the store yourself.