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Buying Groceries on a Student Budget: Food for Thought

Female student carrying groceries For many students, going away for university consists of a lot of prep work; what classes will you take? What clubs will you join? What will you pack up from home to bring with you? With all of these new experiences, it’s easy for people to forget one important question: What will you eat?

Food is crucial to human survival. This means ensuring that your diet consists of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and a wide variety of vitamins. But can you really afford to eat well on a student budget? Here are 4 tips on how to manage your student grocery budget.

1. Find Your Budget

In order to stick to a budget, you need to actually have a budget to manage! Since everyone has a different financial status, this budget is something you will need to determine on your own. To do this, you must consider exactly where your money is going outside of purchasing groceries. Items such as tuition, housing, groceries, and toiletries should be considered non-negotiable items. These are things you will need and use on a daily basis. Items such as new clothing, alcohol, and money for activities should be secondary or optional since they are not vital to your survival. Once you determine your budget, you can move onto the next step.

2. Make a List

Entering a grocery store is an intimidating task. With tons of aisles filled with people browsing for items, it can become easily overwhelming for those whom have never grocery shopped for themselves before. To make this a bit easier, come up with a detailed list for the items you need! This will allow you to gather a rough estimate of the final cost of your shopping trip. If you want to make things even easier, make note of what section the item will likely be found in: i.e. apples will likely be in the produce section near the front of the store.

3. Opt for a Basket

When you enter a grocery store with an empty cart, it’s easy to fill it with items you don’t actually need. In fact, many stores use oversized carts as a sales tactic since people are inclined to fill their carts, therefore a bigger cart equals a bigger bill. To avoid this trap, opt for using a basket. After all, you are one person and food expires. If you are filling an entire cart in one trip, there is a good chance that a lot of the food will spoil before you even have a chance to eat it. Grocery shopping is a weekly or bi-weekly task so don’t be fooled by the “all-or-nothing” thinking that could arise.

4. Buy Food That Makes You Feel Good

Many students fall victim to the idea that you are guaranteed to gain weight or eat only processed foods during your time at school since it’s a cheaper way to eat. While this is certainly true for some, it is simply not the outcome for people who nourish their body well. To do this, you need to ensure you are getting the correct amount of foods from each food group. While this can vary from person to person based on factors such as sex, weight, dietary needs, and culture, an easy way to ensure you are getting what you need is to divide your shopping list into different food groups such as grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, and alternatives. Cheap food will leave you feeling hungry again sooner, thus it’s more cost-efficient to spend money on whole foods rich in nutrients.

5. Use Coupons!

Another simple way to save money while shopping is to look for coupons and discounts. You should also look to see which grocery stores in your area offer local student deals.

Making proper food choices is a lifelong skill that is vital to overall wellbeing. You are given only one body and it should be fueled properly. This does not mean that you shouldn’t indulge in sweets and snacks; it simply means that you should have a well-balanced diet that powers your body, mind, and soul in a positive way. Have another great tip to eating well on a student budget? Sound off in the comments below.

Elkins, K. (2015, October 24). 19 tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from

Mack, S. (2015, May 06). Why Does the Human Body Need Food to Survive? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from