Moving off campus as a sophomore has been a great decision for me and my needs. I have my own space, limitless decor, and a dining schedule that suits my nocturnal tendencies perfectly. But there’s an addendum that comes with caring for yourself outside of school or a dining hall, something that never occurred to me when I made the choice of cooking my own meals, and that’s making a shopping list. Here are some tips that aided me in putting food on the table, and that I’m sure will help you too!
Prepare one meal budget accounting for take-out, snacks, and home cooked meals. If your parents are helping out with your education, this is a conversation you should have with them as well, but as a fruit-and-veggie heavy omnivore I find $30-40 is an acceptable weekly budget for groceries accompanied by $20 for takeout meals out of pocket. This number will change as you become familiar with your preference, but you have to start somewhere!
2. Plan your meals
If there’s one tip I can give you today my friends, it’s don’t go in blind! Shopping at the grocery store can be overwhelmingly persuasive, and too much time spent in the Mexican section can convince you you’ll definitely be able to spend time cooking fajitas with all the fixin’s every day of the week. (Here’s a side tip: you won’t.)
Before you make your journey out to the market, write down meals you know you can cook and their ingredients. Give them a pleasure rating of 1-10 and a difficulty margin of 1-10, and when you’re done compare every meal against each other. As a full-time college student, your ideal list should have meals that contain overlapping ingredients, low difficulty, and high rewards. My three main overlapping meals are strawberry salad, omelets, and smoothies because they can all contain some variations of spinach, feta cheese, and strawberries that I can work with and take under 10 minutes to make. My carnivorous California friend does the same with cheese, steak, and beans that he can incorporate into simple tacos, burritos, and quesadillas within 30 minutes.
And don’t forget, snacks can also be incorporated into this budget! Granola bars are an invaluable resource to a college student on the move, and things like peanut butter or Nutella can spice up any item already on your list for fast, easy consumption. (Apples especially!)
3. Make a list of your ingredients
Once you’ve confidently selected meals you can prepare, make a cumulative list of all their ingredients and organize them by section. Traditionally, a Boston supermarket will be organized into fruits and veggies in the front of the store, meat in the back, and dairy to the far right. If you organize your list in this way, you can make a full lap of the store without being distracted by junk food and clearance items you may be tempted to hoard.
As you get more experienced with buying food, your list will evolve and change to suit your needs. If you feel hungry or unsatisfied, play up the proteins with some meats or nuts! If you’re gaining weight or feel sluggish and unsettled, maybe ease off the junk food. Grocery shopping can be a new, exciting part of adult life if you make it, and as long as you pay attention and stay open to learn you’ll do just fine :)
About the author
Sam is a life blogger from Franklin, Massachusetts with a big heart and a bigger appetite for sweets. She loves Korean bakeries, Japanese animation, and providing you insight into her college experience. Sam is a second-year communication studies major at Emerson College with a minor in gender studies, and she’s over the moon about sharing tips on how to have a fully-custom college experience. “Standardization is a rejection of creativity. Do you and do it big!”
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