The key thing to keep in mind while shopping as a college kid is cost, cooking requirements, and lastly nutrition. Obviously its more ideal to keep nutrition as your first priority and we all want to eat the healthiest foods available. However, many find that often times for college kids optimum nutrition does not always line up perfectly well with budget. So what are some ways you can improve the way in which your budget coincides with your nutritional needs? There are many tricks to achieving a healthy college diet. And in this article we talk about the number one way to optimize your health within the reasonable realm of your budget.
You may have heard this advice before, but I will re-iterate “It all starts with making a list,” before you step into the grocery store. Here’s an additional hint, Beer is not included on that list. Beer is a want, not a necessity. Wants and necessities are key things to keep in mind when putting together a grocery list.
So, how do you prepare a list that is going to meet your dietary needs? Well, besides the obvious need of starting with a pen and paper look at what it is you have available to cook with. Do you have a hot plate? Are you lucky enough to have a stove? What about a coffee maker, is there a microwave? For my first year of college I was stuck in the minimalist club. Of course just about anyone who was living it dorm style at my university found this to be the case as hot plates were absolutely forbidden and to be caught with one was a hefty fine that no one wanted to pay. So it is for the minimalists that I write for here today. However, I will note that there are many more ways for those in possession of hot plates and stoves to follow the example I set forward here, especially when I know that college kids outside of the dorms often have less grocery money to work with.
I know it sounds daunting the idea of being able to eat healthy on a college kids budget, but trust me it can be done. Remember you only have to eat like this seven or eight months out of the year and then if you choose you can return home to mom and dads house and pig out at there place of course if Mom and Dad are not in a position to be hospitable then well yeah you have at least four years of this to look forward too.
First I have Six simple rules to remember for healthy college eating:
#1 Grocery shop at least once or twice a week for your perishables and only once a month for non-perishables (this is a rule everyone should follow)
#2 Never underestimate the versatility of ramen noodles and canned vegetables.
#3 Beans are the cheapest protein on the market.
#4 Microwaves can cook anything from an egg to a pork chop (though just to be safe I recommend sticking to chicken and fish for the duration of your college stay, especially if your only heat source is a microwave)
#5 Coffee makers are not just for coffee, they can also boil water, and are great for making soups (not the ramen kind) I mean the less sodium infused homemade vegetable and meat kind.
#6 Raw vegetables require no cook time or heat source
Ramen on its own will do nothing but make you dehydrated. So what should every college kids grocery list look like? Try this on for size:
Monthly Grocery List: 30 days
Ramen (20 pkg.’s max you really shouldn’t eat this much ramen)
Meat (if you have a stove or hot plate and you already know what your planning to make, if your planning to cook chicken or fish in the microwave make sure you actually use it and that you follow proper cooking times.)
Lunch meat (not recommended as it can get expensive, if you must buy lunch meat pick it up from the deli as you can more often get more bang for your buck this way)
Toilet Paper (I know its not a food product, but the money to pay for it has to come from somewhere make sure to keep this in your monthly budgeting otherwise you may find yourself stealing rolls from the school bathroom.)
For greater detail on what some of the vague descriptions above mean for you take a look at my deconstructed shopping list after all remember suggestion #1 to grocery shop at least once or twice a week for perishables and once a month for non well here’s the breakdown.
Milk (160z container/ small container holding no more than a pints worth)
Veggies: Best buys include carrots, celery, sweet pepper/bell peppers, salad mix (small bag), radishes, avocados, individual potatoes, and mushrooms
Fruit: Best buys include Apples, oranges, pears, mangoes, bananas, and grapes
Any meats you plan to use for a specific meal that week
Bi-weekly Buys: (You may find that some perishables you only need to purchase twice a month)
Lunch Meat (again highly non-recommended food source as it is expensive)
Bread (depending on how often you eat bread if your even a bread person at all you may find it a necessity to purchase this item twice a month vs. once.)
Monthly: In order to make sure that there is always something to eat be sure to stock up on these items in abundance
Canned Goods: Beans (unflavored/unsalted varieties) Black, kidney, and Garbanzo (Chick Peas) are some of my favorites, Diced Tomatoes with Jalapeno, corn, peas, green beans, and tuna.
Eggs( purchase one dozen once a month especially if you eat these on the regular
Crackers, Cereal, Granola Bars, Oatmeal (these are great snack food and breakfast items and necessities to keep around)
Semester/yearly Purchases to keep in mind:
Jelly (Again depends on how quickly you go through it and how big the jar is I imagine having to replace this at least once a year especially since keeping it longer is just gross.)
Peanut Butter (depends on how quickly you go through it and how big the jar is I wouldn’t be surprised if you went through one or two in a semester)
Butter (depending on how much you use, I imagine the need to replace a small tubs worth one for each semester)
Water filter (replace the water filter in your water jug at least once for every semester Spring, Summer, and Fall (twice in the summer if you can)
So with all this how much should you be spending on Groceries every month? When you are feeding yourself and I mean only yourself, no roommates or friends dipping into your well stocked fridge/pantry and also with the consideration that you made the decision not to dish out cash for a meal plan to feed yourself. I expect the cost of feeding yourself 3 meals a day and possibly taking in two snacks between meals that you can get away with spending in between 100 and 130 dollars a month on food (that’s also begging that you don’t do fast food, and you don’t eat at the school cafeteria…like ever.) Of course this pricing might change depending on your location, its my understanding that states with a higher cost of living also have higher food costs. The price point noted above is an estimation based on Texas standards.