Adulting 101: How to Make a College Student Grocery List

Many students struggle to figure out what food to buy and how to budget. Learn how to make a college student grocery list for your next shopping trip.

portrait of Dr. Samantha Fecich
by Dr. Samantha Fecich

Published on March 12, 2022 · Updated on March 14, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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Adulting 101: How to Make a College Student Grocery List


Headed to the grocery store? Don't go without a plan.

According to EducationData.org, college students spend an average of $260 per month on groceries. As such, students on a budget should avoid letting the aisles guide them into putting unnecessary items in their carts.

Whether you opted for a meal plan or not, you'll still need snacks and food to keep at home. For example, what will you do if the dining hall is closed? Or what if you have to pull an all-nighter and want some extra sustenance to keep you going?

Learning how to put together an effective college student grocery list each week can help you save money, promote healthy eating, and reduce stress around meals.

Why Is a College Grocery List Important?

Let's begin with the basics of creating a college student grocery list. Throughout the week, you can develop this list, adding to it or tweaking it as needed. You can also note on this list when you are running low on something or have run out of it completely, like milk or ketchup.

Having a paper grocery list attached to your fridge with a magnet makes it easy to update your list throughout the week between classes. You could also create a grocery list on your phone.

A college student grocery list ultimately helps you get what you need at the grocery store, stay within your budget, make healthy choices, and meal prep more effectively.

Sample College Student Grocery List

Part of building out a college student grocery list is to organize it effectively. For example, you could arrange your list by day of the week and the meal you plan to eat that day, or by the various aisles at the grocery store.

You might also want to see what staple items you have on hand each week and add those to your list as you run out. Be sure to cross off items from your list when you shop so you don't forget anything. The worst thing is realizing that you forgot a key ingredient after you return home from the store.

Below is a sample student grocery list of staples organized by food type.

Sample College Grocery List
Produce
  • Fresh fruits (e.g., apples, pears, oranges, bananas, grapes, etc.)
  • Fresh vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli, cucumber, onions, potatoes, etc.)
Dairy
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
Grains and Breads
  • Bread
  • Bagels
  • Muffins
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
Meat and Protein
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork, sausage, bacon
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Deli meat
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
Canned Goods
  • Soups and broths
  • Beans
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Tuna
  • Pasta sauce
Baking
  • Flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Vanilla extract
Snacks
  • Peanut butter
  • Jam or jelly
  • Hummus
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit cups
  • Pudding
  • Crackers and chips
  • Nuts
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • Raisins
  • Seeds
  • Pretzels
  • Applesauce
Spices
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chili powder
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cumin
Condiments
  • Salsa
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Honey
  • Salad dressing
  • Sriracha
  • BBQ sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Maple syrup
Frozen Food
  • Vegetable mixes
  • Fruit mixes
  • Tater tots
  • Chicken nuggets
  • French fries
  • Frozen meals
  • Pizzas
  • Burritos
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Waffles
  • Ice cream
  • Popsicles
Drinks
  • Carbonated water
  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Hot chocolate
Household
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste
  • Cleaning agents
  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Dish soap
  • Sponges
  • Detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Dryer sheets
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap

How to Grocery Shop on a Budget: 5 Tips

Your college student grocery budget may not be particularly big, but you can still buy the food you want and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are five budgeting tips when it comes to buying groceries in college.

Tip 1: Make Budget-Friendly Choices

You can save money and avoid going over your budget simply by making smart shopping choices. For example, you could use recipes that require the same ingredients, like chicken or beans, so you don't have to buy a ton of one-use products.

Additionally, you could buy generic store brands instead of name-brand items — these usually taste the same and are much less expensive.

Other money-saving strategies include identifying items on sale, signing up for your grocery store's free rewards membership, buying some items in bulk, and clipping coupons.

Tip 2: Use Cashback Apps

When you go grocery shopping, you can use apps like Ibotta to get money back. After you make a purchase, just scan your receipt to get cash back on certain items. Top grocery retailers you can use with Ibotta include Walmart and Target.

Tip 3: Split the Cost With Roommates

You may want to split the grocery cost if you have roommates. You can include foods you use together, such as spices, condiments, bread, eggs, cereal, and snacks. If you buy any food with your own money, however, your roommates should understand that it is your food and yours alone (unless you tell them otherwise).

Understand that some roommates may not want to split the cost of groceries and would prefer to buy food on their own. In that case, you may want to designate a shelf for each roommate in the fridge or put your name or initials on food you bought.

Tip 4: Don't Shop When You're Hungry

This one is easy: Don't shop when you're hungry or, worse, hangry. When you do this, everything in the store looks good and you can easily go over your budget. So eat a meal or a snack before you shop!

Tip 5: Opt for Reusable Grocery Bags

In addition to your college grocery list (don't forget it!), consider bringing a few reusable shopping bags to the store. By reusing shopping bags, you're not only helping the environment but eliminating any nominal fees charged for paper and plastic bags.

You can also bring a cooler bag with ice for your frozen or cold items to help keep them cool until you get home. This is especially helpful if you have to walk back in hot weather.


Feature Image: LordHenriVoton / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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