By Miracle Mays
When I went home for Thanksgiving, I had food on the brain. Green beans, potatoes, turkey – but all that adds up! When I heard how much my parents usually spent at grocery stores, I always thought, well yeah, that makes sense they’re feeding a whole family, but when I started buying for myself– only one mouth to nourish — I realized I was spending well over $200 a month.
I knew I was spending way too much, so here are some general tips to keep in mind when grocery shopping as a broke college student. Most of these suggestions can be reflected in this article on shopping by College Express.
For one, never shop hungry — it’s a trap to make you spend more than you’d want. I try to counteract this by always going in a clear goal and a full stomach. I write out a grocery list on my phone. At first, I write down the meals I have in mind, then write down each ingredient necessary to make it. I also highly suggest you get a feel for what you actually eat because this can help a lot with understanding necessary ingredients to buy, such as staples or multi-use items. For me, I knew that I’d need quite a few condiments like soy sauce and stuff like flour and cooking oil.
Three months into the semester, I’m just now needing to buy more soy sauce, and my flour and oil are still good. Now for the tricky part – when you don’t want to cook because you’re tired or pressed for time.
Consider two students — both just got off work and have a long night of homework ahead of them. One student made extra rice a couple of nights ago, so the leftovers are off to the microwave for a quick reheat. The other student also made rice a couple of nights ago, but they didn’t make enough for any leftovers. Now they’re going to spend extra money on a delivery service because they aren’t in the mood to cook, and a dangerous cycle begins.
I’ve made this mistake before, and I spent too much buying carryout food my first week here. That’s so much more expensive over time, and you don’t even realize it.
Shopping for food requires organization. You want to be able to quickly look over your pantry and know what you need to restock. If it’s a mess, you cannot do that. Timewise, you want to make sure you give yourself the time to cook whatever you have in mind, so you don’t go the lazy route and buy takeout– not that you can’t ever order takeout. You want to be cautious. I know that for myself, I get off work too late on Fridays, so I am never in the mood to cook, so I make sure that I can buy a pizza slice from the grocery store on the way home.
I know that I need to reserve roughly $4 for my pizza slices, and I suggest if you want to get take out, you do a similar thing where you appoint yourself and estimate the cost, which you can include in your budget.
If you don’t know a good budget, The Daily Beacon has some pertinent information for you. “It depends on your dietary needs and preferences, but a strong rule of thumb for a basic, thrifty-but-nutritious grocery budget is $100 a month. If you go grocery shopping every two weeks, that’s about $50 per trip.” Keep that in mind the next time you’re figuring out your grocery list.
Remember to buy what you know you’ll use, make sure you can make leftovers, and be organized.
Mays is a freshman at the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism.