College Grocery List Ideas That Will Save You Money

Did you just move to college but have no clue how to cook or shop for yourself? This post will teach you how to make a college grocery list that won’t break the bank.

college grocery list ideas

If you’re anything like I was in college, you’re probably realizing that eating out with friends all the time was great at first but is getting old quick. You’ve realized that eating healthy is completely your responsibility and you need to figure something out fast.

You’re on your own for the first time and all decisions start and end with you. That can be really exciting but it also means you need to figure out this whole cooking thing as soon as possible.

After learning these grocery shopping tips, you will be able to make the best college student grocery list possible while saving time and money.

This post is all about how to make a college grocery list on a budget for your next shopping trip.

I remember my freshman year of college being a major free for all. Our dining hall was not very good so we opted to eat out or buy frozen foods to eat in our dorms. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it got old quick. I knew I needed to learn how to grocery shop, and quick.

Over the years, my grocery shopping got more involved as I moved into an apartment and started making full blown meals.

I have learned a lot about grocery shopping in college and I still use these same tips to grocery shop on a budget in my post grad life.

Why Make Grocery List In College?

The literal worst thing you can do for your budget is to go to the grocery store without a plan. Whether you live in a dorm or in a college apartment, you should know what you are shopping for before you head to the store.

Something I quickly learned in college is that even with a meal plan, you will end up grocery shopping. In order to save money on your late night snacks or quick breakfasts, you will need to learn how to create an effective college student grocery list.

Creating a shopping list will help you:

  • save money
  • eat healthier
  • have a plan
  • reduce stress around food

Having a running list throughout the week helps you keep track of snacks you want, items you are running low on, or new recipes you plan to try.

Related:Grocery Shopping On A College Budget: How You Can Save Money Now

How To Shop For One

A lot of people feel like grocery shopping for just one person is pointless. If you don’t know how to make a college grocery list for one person you might end up overspending or wasting a bunch of food.

It can be hard to figure out how much food you actually need for the week on your own.

One way to combat this is to grab a roommate and plan meals together. That way, you can create one list and split the costs down the middle.

However, if that is not an option for you there are still a few ways to save money on your grocery budget.

First, plan your meals. Having a plan for what you’re going to eat each week will keep you from buying extra things you don’t need.

Next, plan fewer meals with full portions. It can be hard trying to split a recipe to fit the needs of one person. Instead, plan fewer meals and make the full recipe.

If we eat 3 meals a day we will eat 21 meals in the week. Instead of planning 21 separate meals, plan a few and eat the same thing multiple times. For example, I like to plan 1 meal for lunch and I portion it out to be at least 5 lunches for the week. I will also make 2 dinners that provide me with an additional 3-4 servings each.

Plan a leftovers day. I love this because it means you don’t have to spend a bunch of time cooking and you save food from being wasted. For at least 1-2 meals, I plan to eat leftovers. If I end up not having leftovers, it’s a nice excuse to grab friends and go out to eat.

Sample College Student Grocery List

Every grocery list will look different based on your needs and wants. As you get better at making your college grocery list, you will start to learn what your staples are and how you want to organize it.

Once you figure out your staples, those will likely always be on your grocery list. Then you will add in the ingredients from whatever meals you’re making for the week.

I recommend starting out by listing your items by category so you don’t have to walk all over the store 500 times.

Below is a sample grocery list for college students that includes mainly staples split up by category:


  • Milk or nut milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs (not really dairy but in the same section at the store)


  • Deli meat
  • Chicken (I always buy the family pack of chicken breast to save money. I package them in sandwich baggies and freeze them, then defrost a bag anytime I need one)
  • Ground turkey


  • Fresh fruit (bananas, apples, grapes, oranges, etc)
  • Fresh veggies (broccoli, lettuce for salads, carrots, etc)
  • Frozen fruit (for smoothies)
  • Frozen veggies (really good for nights when you don’t know what to cook or don’t have any fresh stuff)

Dry Goods

  • Bread/Bagels
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Chips
  • Cereal
  • Beans

Snacks and Extras

  • Granola Bars
  • Cookies
  • Crackers

This post was all about how to create a college grocery list.

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