Grocery Shopping On A College Budget: How You Can Save Money Now
Grocery shopping is an expense that can add up quickly. In the last six months I have learned just how hard it is to stay on budget while shopping for food at the grocery store. College is a time when the budget we have for food is probably much smaller. This post is going to show you how to become a grocery shopping wizard.
*this post may contain affiliate links. See full disclosure for more details.
The first thing you need to do is decide your budget. If you are living with roommates then this will be an easy way to split costs and not have to worry about what food belongs to each person. The budget that I have for 2 weeks worth of food for three people is $80. Following these steps will help you stay within your grocery budget and make your life easier.
Meal Plan Before Grocery Shopping
You may not have had to meal plan in the past, I hadn’t before I was on a budget. We would just have different types of food in my house and we would make whatever we could think of that night. Now that I meal plan, I can’t understand how I got by so many years without doing it. My meal planning looks a little something like this.
AAANNNNDDDD I have made it available for you today!
To get me started on my meal planning, I look through Pinterest for any new or interesting meals I might want to try. I typically have a few go to meals that I automatically think of as options.
Another thing you need to consider is how many meals a day you want to plan. I only plan dinner because I typically eat quick things for breakfast like granola bars or cereal and leftovers for lunch.
TIP: if you are meal planning for you and your roommates ask for suggestions on meals. We sometimes alternate nights that we cook, so on the nights that smeone else is cooking, I have them choose the meals.
Create A Grocery Shopping List
After you have decided on the meals you will be cooking for the next two weeks, it is time to make your grocery shopping list. The first step in our process is to look at or think of all the ingredients you need for your chosen recipes. For this step you can make a mental list of everything, a physical list, or save time and look through your kitchen as you look at each recipe.
Once you have checked off the ingridients you have, you need to make your shopping list. If you previously wrote out all your ingredients, you already have your shopping list (yaaaayy)!
Personally, I like to use a shopping list app on my phone. The one that I have found to be the most useful is AnyList. Unfortunately, it is only currently available for iPhone users. In the app you can create different shopping lists (great for when you have to go to multiple stores).
You can cross off items as you go by tapping on said item
Delete an item completely if you changed your mind about needing it by swiping to the left and pressing delete
add notes to any item
AND my favorite feature in the app is that your list is automatically organized by department/food group as you add items to the list!
In case you are someone that likes paper lists…
I have so kindly provided you with two different versions in the meal planning printable that you can get now if you haven’t already!
TIP: Fold either of the shopping lists in half (hot dog style) so you don’t feel like you have such a big paper!
After I have made my grocery list I head to the store. There are a few ways you can save money while shopping. You could have previously looked through the weekly adds to see where the sales are for the week and find any cupons you might need or want. You could also go to the same stores all the time and know the general prices of the things you buy. This way your meals will already be planned around the cost of the ingredients. Or finally, you could download Ibotta and look for any rebates they have for the week.
Take some time to download the app from the link above right now. If you dont, you are seriously throwing away money!!!
Not being loyal to a certian brand allows me to save a lot of money since I usually opt for the cheapest brand. I choose to shop at the stores that are closest to my home for convenience.
*If you choose to shop at health food stores such as Sprouts or Trader Joe’s you may have higher expenses and need a larger budget*
Doing Your Grocery Shopping
Make sure you stick to your list. Try to avoid the tempting aisles or the ones that don’t have what you’re looking for. By walking down these aisles you will be more likely to add something to your cart that isn’t on your list. Continue to get only the items you need and check them off your list as you go! Staying focused on your planned list will save you money.
TIP: remember to check your Ibotta app to see if anything you are buying is available for a rebate!!
One option for using Ibotta is to go through the deals and see what items are being offered as rebates. Keep these in mind while shopping and refer back to them on the app at any time. You can also make note of which items have rebates in the notes section of the AnyList app! For my grocery trip I had a $2.00 rebate for Ibotta when I bought three pasta products from a certain brand!
When you get home, before you put away your groceries, make sure to check Ibotta one more time! Have your prodcts and your receipt ready to claim any rebates you may have found! Follow the instructions given to you on the app and claim back your money! The only catch is you have to save up $20 in rebates before you can cash out. It is still very worth it to me in the long run!
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any other tips or questions let me know in the comments!