I’ve been talking a lot lately on advice for incoming students and living successfully in the residence halls. Therefore, this week I thought I’d switch things up and give some advice to those of you who are living off of campus this year. As a student who lives off campus myself, one of the biggest struggles I find myself having is managing groceries. I’ve thought of some tips to keep in mind to set yourself up for grocery success!
- Set a budget for yourself. In my opinion, groceries should be treated just as any other monthly bill you anticipate. If you have a set amount of money that you know you can spend on your groceries, it makes it easier to plan out what you’ll buy.
- Have a list. Once you’ve figured out how much you can spend, come up with a set list of items that you’re going to buy. Going in without a list makes it much more tempting to buy things you don’t need. If you have a list, and you still see an item that you want to buy, factor it in to your list for the next trip and buy it then.
- Plan your meals. One of the smarter things to do before heading to the grocery store is to plan your meals for the week. For example, if you decide to buy chicken, plan out what meals you’ll make with that for the week. It’s a lot better to think about things and plan them than to go in and buy a bunch of random items that you’re not sure how you are going to use them. Also, you might find that you don’t buy enough and have to make another trip to the store, causing you to go over your budget for that week.
- Shop sales & research coupons. Most grocery stores typically have items that they are featuring on special that week. These are usually cheaper than their normal price. If you have meat on your grocery list, plan to buy meats that are on sale and organize your meals around them. It doesn’t make sense to pass up a sale on chicken only to buy it next week at the “regular” price. Also, it’s a good idea to check the newspaper weekly for coupons as well.
- Buy things that are going to last you a while. If you’re trying to find a budget, one of the best ways to help you follow it is to buy food items that don’t expire very quickly. I do enjoy keeping some fresh fruits and vegetables around the house; however, I also buy things like soups and frozen foods that I know I can keep around for a while before they go bad. Be sure to have a few “quick” meals on hand for those occasions when you don’t have a lot of time to cook. Things like soup, mac and cheese, tuna fish, etc are good to have on hand. Being able to make a quick meal will help you to avoid spending more money by calling for takeout.