Most of us eat in the dining hall. It's convenient. Grab and go. No dishes. No mess. No cooking. However, this can also mean minimal variety and a lot of pizza and pasta if you are in the midst of midterms and an athletic season. Sometimes being busy doesn't fuel culinary creativity. This particular weekend at Saint Michael's College is a 4 day weekend and therefore, dining hall hours are minimal. This was the perfect weekend to be more domestic and grocery shop and cook. In the suites, we have access to kitchens on each floor so it was time to make use of the facilities. I have compiled a few ideas for shopping on a budget and getting only whats on your list (hopefully).
1) Make a list.
Make a list of the essentials and buy items that can be multi-purpose. For example, on my list was cheddar cheese, bacon, and tomatoes. For dinner last night, I made a grilled bacon, tomato, and cheese sandwich. This morning, I made an omlette with pesto (left over from a pasta night), tomato, bacon, and cheddar cheese. The list also keeps you focused in the store. You know exactly what you are getting and then for each item you can take the time to find the lowest priced item.
2) Find the lowest price.
Now that you have your list, you can take the time for each item to find the lowest priced brand. Generally, I'd say it's the store brand. You don't need to buy the Ritz crackers, you can buy the Shaw's brand and save the 30 cents. As you go down the list, that 30 cents will add up. I saved $11 on my shopping trip. Doesn't seem like much? Think of it in terms of a movie ticket or a dinner with friends. It's worth the extra effort to find the lowest prices. Also, adapt. You put frozen dinners on your grocery list and you see that Lean Cuisine pizzas are 4 for $10 while the Hungry Man dinners are 4 dollars a piece. You can save $6 right there by purchasing the Lean Cuisines. (Also, Lean Cuisines are probably better for you.)
3) Get the discount card for your store of choice.
Whether you are Shaw's guy or a Hannaford's girl, get the discount card for that store. I have my Shaw's card and as you walk through the store you'll notice that having the Shaw's card provides additional discounts. I'd also get a Rite-Aid Wellness Card. There is a Rite-Aid down the road from the school and one right off of Church St. With the Wellness Card, you build up points and build up to getting things like 20% off your purchase. It's useful for buying things like shampoo and cleaning supplies. The bottom line is save when you can and where you can.
My final tip is to try to find items that with a long shelf life and don't need to be refrigeration. One of my recently found items was V8 soup. High in vegetable servings (yay healthy!) and doesn't need to be refrigerated. It comes in a box (no need for a can opener!) and it can sit on my counter instead of taking up room in my fridge for butter, milk, and juice.
That's my advice for grocery shopping in college! Have questions? Ask here.