Posted by: Kelsey Avers | February 7, 2010

Grocery Shopping Tips and Tricks for College Students

You might read the title of this blog and think, “What’s the big deal? It’s not that difficult to make a grocery list.” Well, it’s not as easy as you would think. When you’re a student trying to save money but still eat well, there are some things you should think about before making a shopping list, whether it’s on paper or in your head. There are many tips you should also consider before heading to the grocery store.

  1. NEVER go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. My roommate and I break this rule all of the time. Going shopping with a growling tummy can increase your chances of wanting to buy things you see that “sound yummy at the time,” resulting in a full grocery cart, which equals a higher checkout price. A helpful hint: try chewing gum while you’re at the grocery store. According to the American Diabetic Association, chewing gum can help you maintain focus and stay alert. This will prevent you from making random purchases that you hadn’t originally planned on.
  2. Devise a budget. The goal is to learn how to figure out what you can afford while making a list of the things you will need to buy. Many stores such as Safeway and Lucky (both popular chain grocery stores in San Francisco) have features on their web sites where you can print out coupons. You might not be able to buy everything you want or need, but making a budget will help you learn how to prioritize how often you buy certain groceries.
  3. Always have a master list to add onto. Your “master list” is a list of food and other items that are “must-have’s” for you every week, and they should be made a permanent part of your list.
  4. Categorize your grocery list. Make sure your list includes mainly things you NEED, versus what you WANT. A list will help you see the differences or similarities in the amount of different kinds of foods you’re buying. (For example, to still maintain healthy eating, make sure your “fruit and vegetable” list is longer than your “random snacks and goodies” list.
  5. Stick with easy to prepare foods and non-perishable items. Easy to prepare foods such as yogurt and sandwich condiments are affordable, versatile and easy to prepare. Canned items can also be used in various recipes and last a long time so they won’t go to waste.
  6. Buy store brand items. The same companies that make brand name foods, which cost more, also manufacture most generic brand items.
  7. Shop with cash only. This is a great strategy. If you have a credit card, you’re likely to spend more since more money is available to you. With cash, you’re limited, and if you don’t have the money, you can’t spend it.

Some great sites to go to for some more grocery shopping and frugal living tips are:

EZine Articles

Gourmet Food Express


Share your experiences of shopping on a budget. What did you do that worked or didn’t? How did you learn from and change anything that didn’t work out for your budget? What advice do you have for those trying to save money, but still want to eat the food they love?



  1. Hey Kelsey! It was really good to hear from you. This is a great post. I just subscribed to your blog, so hopefully we can keep in touch and give each other some encouragement.

    • Thanks so much Laura-Jane!

  2. Aways a good tip – Never go food shopping on a empty stomach!!!

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