Chances are you’re probably tired of your dining hall’s eats, and you’re ready for something new. Even though you’ve heard your parent’s pleas of “Shop, don’t spend” when it comes to food, navigating supermarket prices can still be a bit of a challenge. In order to watch your wallet and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, we’ve come up with some great frugal hacks to make sure your grocery list is worth every penny.
Share the Costs
One of the best grocery moves you can make as a college student is to not go it alone. Buying a few things a week can really add up. Plus, you may be left with a lot of food waste. Instead, ask your roommate to split the bill and share your food — or if you have a membership to a big-box supermarket, see if anyone would be willing to go halfsies on the buy-in cost.
Compare Online Prices
Online delivery stores like Amazon Pantry and PeaPod often offer great deals on your favorite foods. All it takes is a bit of research. After a few local shops, start noting the price of your favorite item (such as $1 for yogurt). Then, pick a day to compare the same item online. You may be surprised to see which one is cheaper!
Make a Meal Plan
One of the biggest mistakes grocery shoppers make is not having a plan. Even worse, hungry shopping can lead to lots of unhealthy impulse buys (like that candy bar at the checkout line). Come in with a list of everything you want to buy and stick to it as much as possible.
Compare Labels and Research Organics
Let’s say you’re looking to trim fat but the low-fat option is much more expensive. Is it worth paying the premium? No! Instead, look at the labels of the generic or non-low-fat options. Many brands label their items as low-fat, low-sugar, low-sodium, etc. when they actually didn’t change the recipe at all! The same idea goes for organics. Before you only buy something organic, research the product online to see if it really earns that label.
You probably have a favorite cereal or chip brand. Who doesn’t? But did you know that the recipe is almost identical (if not exactly the same) in that store brand package? You’d be surprised to find out that generic brands usually taste similar to their big brand counterparts. Besides, who doesn’t love hi-lo shopping?
Go Vegetarian or Vegan
Here’s the deal — meat and fish are expensive! And as a college student, you most likely won’t have the means to cook or properly store it. So skip it altogether. Instead, grocery shop around plant-based diets where you’ll spend more on produce than slabs of beef.
Sign Up for Coupons/Loyalty Clubs
Grocery stores LOVE when you sign up for their loyalty clubs, and they will reward you with coupons and exclusive deals. All you have to do is give your email, phone number, and address. Even if you won’t shop there frequently, it’s worth signing up for a few dollars off your bill.
Stock Up Responsibly
If you’ve seen extreme couponing shows, you probably get that to make that work, you need to have a huge pantry or storehouse to keep everything. Not true! To save money this way, follow the rule of stocking up on most used products when it’s on sale. And then purchase an under the bed storage bin to keep your extras out of sight and mind.
Know Your Supermarkets
Some supermarkets are just pricier than the next. Don’t be fooled by lighting, color, or decor. Shop around your college town till you find the most consistent low-priced supermarket. And avoid trendy where you’ll only pay for the better soundtrack. Once you find the perfect fit, use these tips to up your supermarket saving game and skip the dining hall line forever (until graduation).
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