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The college-friendly guide to grocery shopping on a budget

Where to eat, what to cook, and what to buy from the grocery store can be among the many questions you'll ask yourself at college. Thankfully, there's plenty of healthy, cost-efficient options to eat well when away from home.

Make a List

Grocery shopping can be overwhelming if you walk into a store without a game plan. Creating a list of foods that you would like to eat over the next week can save you money and reduce your food waste. More often than not, we buy more food than we need and end up throwing away the foods that expired. The best way to avoid this is to create a plan of what food you know you will be able to consume throughout the week. You can get creative by looking up new recipes and new snack ideas before grocery shopping!

Shop the Sales

A great way to save money is to shop the local grocery store deals. This can also help introduce a variety of foods into your diet. If you’re hesitant to purchase a fruit or vegetable you're not familiar with, wait for it to go on sale! Is there any better way to justify a purchase than to say it was on sale? In Brookings, both Hy-Vee and Walmart have weekly ads that can help you come up with your dorm-friendly grocery list.

Buy Fruits and Vegetables that are in Season

Did you know different fruits and vegetables grow best at different times of year? This means that when they are in their prime growing season, they will be the most readily available and often at the lowest price! We know that college students must stay on a tight budget, so the best way to get some fruits and veggies in the fridge is to buy them while they are at their cheapest. The USDA has an excellent resource that lists all fruits and vegetables available by season.

Frozen Foods for the Win

Fruits and vegetables have the power to satisfy cravings and nourish our bodies. When fresh fruits and vegetables are not in season, the best way to squeeze them into your diet without breaking the bank is to head over to the freezer aisle. Frozen produce has the same nutritional contents of fresh produce for a lower cost. There are all kinds of frozen fruits available, from mangos to bananas, to all types of berries. On the other hand, there is also a large variety of frozen vegetables ranging from corn, broccoli, spinach and more. There is even frozen avocado. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a convenient and great way to save money.

Saving Flex

Purchase breakfast foods, snacks and coffee at the grocery store and make them yourself in the comfort of your own dorm room. This will allow you to save your flex for that rushed lunch in between classes or a night out with your friends at Weary Wil’s. Purchasing rolled oats, eggs, plain Greek yogurt, granola and more allows for greater creativity when cooking in your dorm. Making your own coffee can also save lots of money by paying $0.15-0.80 per cup as opposed to $3-6 per cup.

Too Much Flex

Some people may find that they are unable to use all the money they paid for in their meal plan. Does this mean that all the money goes to waste? It doesn’t have to. An excellent way to use up flex and make your family happy is to buy ice cream and cheeses from the dairy bar to bring home. Flex left at the end of the year can also be used to buy meat from the Meat Lab, just remember to fill out the form on MyState. Also, if you are friends with upperclassmen who don’t live on campus, you can invite them to lunch to use up your flex.


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