Key Items for a College Grocery List

Shopping smart can save you time and money

Young man reading a shopping list

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Whether it's a lack of space, appliances, or time to cook, eating well as a college student can be tricky. With the help of a smart grocery list, spending and eating wisely in college can be much easier.

Breakfast on the Go

It would be dreamy to have the time, energy, money, and ability to make a delicious breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and fruit every morning. But breakfast in college—when and if it happens—often looks completely different, even though nearly everyone agrees on the importance of breakfast. When grocery shopping, look for items you enjoy that can easily be taken to go and require little to no prep time:

  • Granola or breakfast bars
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal (put in a bag or container to eat dry)
  • Bagels (and peanut butter, cream cheese, jam, etc.)
  • Fruit

Having breakfast may be a challenge sometimes, but it can make all the difference in your energy level and ability to focus. Keeping things on hand that are tasty and easy to enjoy on your way to class will make it more likely that you'll get something in your stomach before the day begins.

Easy-to-Make Small Meals or Snacks

Food doesn't have to be fancy to fill you up, provide nutrition, and taste good. You can make lots of tasty and filling meals with inexpensive ingredients and a microwave:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Ramen
  • Oatmeal
  • Soup
  • Eggs (can be scrambled in the microwave)
  • Bread
  • Sandwich items (peanut butter, jelly, cold cuts, cheese)

There are several ways to prepare these items to help prevent you from getting bored with your options. Ramen noodles, for example, can be sprinkled raw on a salad for some extra pep, cooked with butter and cheese, or added to your favorite soup. Add fruit, nuts, or peanut butter to your oatmeal for a different flavor and texture.

Nutritious Snacks That Won't Expire for a While

When buying snacks, go for items that pack a punch nutritionally without expiring too soon. You can also opt for frozen foods that are ready-to-eat when thawed.

  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Mixed nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Frozen edamame

Perishable Items That Will Last for at Least a Week

Even if you have a tiny fridge in your residence hall, it's still a fridge, right? Treat yourself and your body to some healthy snacks that, although perishable, will last longer than just a few days:

  • Baby carrots
  • Apples
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Milk
  • Salsa (don't forget the chips)
  • Hummus
  • Cheese (bonus: string cheese is a great grab-and-go snack)

You can use milk for your macaroni and cheese recipe or for cereal. (Pro tip: keep chocolate syrup in the fridge so you can prepare chocolate milk when you want a treat.) Baby carrots can be a snack on their own or a nice side to your main meal. Slice cherry tomatoes for your sandwich or dip them in hummus. Buying perishable things can be smart if you know how to use each item in more than one way.

Flavor Enhancers

You don't need a full-fledged kitchen to experiment with new flavors. Having a few items on hand that can change the taste of a snack or dish can be an easy—and inexpensive—way to mix up your menu and give it a boost.

  • Salt and pepper
  • Italian dressing
  • Sriracha
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Barbecue sauce

A bottle of Italian dressing will last a long time in your fridge and can be used as a dip for veggies or as a tasty topping on a sandwich. Other spicy sauces and condiments (wasabi mayo, anyone?) can be added to various items to switch up the flavor on an otherwise simple meal.

Of course, you don't need to buy all these items at once. (Where would you put them, anyway?) Be realistic when making your grocery list and make an effort to use what you have before heading back out to the store to prevent wasting both food and money.

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Your Citation
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "Key Items for a College Grocery List." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2021, February 16). Key Items for a College Grocery List. Retrieved from Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "Key Items for a College Grocery List." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 7, 2023).