How to conquer grocery shopping while on a college student’s budget

By Molly Linder

From high school to college, there are many things that students must figure out – such as, mapping out classes, jobs, time management, tuition, parking passes and how to grocery shop and cook for themselves.

Grocery shopping in college and while on a budget sometimes seems like it could be its own job, with many students having little experience doing so.

Is grocery shopping on a budget in college difficult? 

Zack Bochenek, a fifth-year sport management major at the University of Georgia, said he sometimes has trouble when grocery shopping while on a budget. However, he makes a plan before shopping to help stay on track.

“I usually plan out my meals for the week and try to build almost like a food schedule of when I’m going to eat and what I want,” Bochenek said.

While going from class to hockey practice to games, Bochenek looks for quick and easy meals and snacks.

“I definitely am attracted to prepackaged, ready to eat foods. Lunch meats, meals, fruits and vegetables are a few examples. I do enjoy those veggie trays as well as pre-cut fruit bowls. Being on the go all the time, they’re easy to take with and they’re healthy,” he said.

Katherine Ingerson, a doctoral candidate in nutritional sciences, said in an email interview that students sometimes mention struggling to grocery shop on a budget while they are in nutrition counseling or during the Eating Smart class that she teaches.

While many students try to find the “middle ground” when grocery shopping, there are several things that students can do or look out for to help them in the process, she said. For example, Ingerson recommended that students take a cooking class.

“It costs much less money to prepare food for yourself rather than buying pre-made foods, convenience foods, or foods from fast food or restaurants,” Ingerson said.

To illustrate her statement, Ingerson explained the price difference between a homemade burrito, frozen burrito and a burrito from Barberitos, a local restaurant chain.

She said a homemade burrito containing whole wheat tortilla, brown rice, pinto beans, cheddar cheese, onion and bell pepper costs only $1.84 per burrito and contains 5.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein, and 609 mg of sodium. She explained that a frozen burrito with the same ingredients costs $2.98 and contains 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein, and 580 mg of sodium. A Burrito with the same ingredients from Barberitos costs $10 and contains 21 grams of fat, 25 grams of protein and 1,435 mg of sodium.

“It is so much cheaper – and healthier – to cook and prepare things for yourself,” Ingerson said.

What grocery stores are the best and what should you look for?

There are many grocery stores in Athens, Georgia, including, but not limited to Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Trader Joe’s, EarthFare and Walmart. Grocery shopping can become an even more intimidating task when considering all the stores to choose from.

When looking for low-cost foods, both Bochenek and Ingerson agreed that Aldi is a great choice.

“Aldi is a great store to shop at for low-cost food. They sell their own brand and therefore they control their prices. They have many great choices,” Bochenek said.

Ingerson said in the email interview that Aldi and Walmart are two stores that “tend to have lower prices.” She said that looking at the weekly deals will help “determine which foods to buy and a particular location.

“If a person is willing and able to buy produce from one store, meat from another and canned goods or ready-to-eat foods like breakfast cereal from another store, they are able to save money on their total bill – but it might mean extra time researching or going to more than one location for their groceries rather than the convenience but higher price of buying every grocery item from the same location,” Ingerson said.

When looking for low-cost groceries, Ingerson listed brown rice, beans, eggs, whole wheat bread, bananas, milk, frozen vegetables, oatmeal, grits, peanut butter, tuna fish, bulk yogurt and whole wheat pasta as very affordable and healthy items. She also said seasonal fruits can be an affordable option.


Molly Linder is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.

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