You’re in college — It seems more sensible to spend that precious dollar on the value menu at McDonald’s. We can all agree that healthy living can get a bit expensive at times. A cheeseburger is $ .99 and a side salad is $5.99. What gives?!
Stretching your dollar is easy. There are many ways to save money without sacrificing nutrition. Here are a few recommendations:
- Consider your health an investment.
As you wander the grocery store aisles, pay close attention. We’re often weary of the prices of health food when junk food can be (and often is) JUST as expensive. That bag of chips you’re reaching for? $4. The large box of Lucky Charms? $5. For $5, you can buy two full heads of broccoli, or two bags of spinach/salad mix, or a large bag of apples. The list goes on and on. You shouldn’t sacrifice your health for what tastes good at the time.
- Buy in bulk.
Buying large amounts of food (that won’t go bad) may be more expensive at the time, but it is cheaper in the long run. Just like you, I cringe at the thought of spending $8 on a huge tub of oatmeal when the small baby tub is sitting at a comfortable $3.99 right next door. However, the large container will last you much longer and will eventually pay for itself. Remember to only do this with nonperishable food items like oatmeal, almonds, healthy cereals and popcorn.
- Make a list before you shop.
Going into the grocery store empty-handed screams danger. You’ll most likely end up wandering the aisles aimlessly and grabbing whatever sparks your interest. Have a plan. Start on the outskirts of the store where the fresh fruits and veggies are and only make trips to the center for items you absolutely need. Making a list will prevent you from randomly grabbing junk food — your pocket and waist line will thank you.
- Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.
When you’re lusting after everything you see (even food you don’t usually like) because your stomach is growling, you’re more likely to grab anything and everything. Your grocery cart will fill up much faster and your wallet will shrink just as quickly.
- Take advantage of sales.
Our local supermarket always has “buy one, get one free” specials (they get ya, don’t they?) Be careful with sales, however, and only purchase food you’ll actually eat. And make sure it’s healthy! I’ve walked out with two jars of pasta sauce before, just because it was on sale, and never touched it once. If you know you’ll use it, buy it! If not, quickly walk away while you still can.
- Be weary of marketing terms, like “gluten free,” “whole grain,” or “whole wheat.”
Many brands will charge you more simply because they wrote “whole grain” on the package. Just because crackers contain whole grains does NOT mean they are healthy. Sure, they are healthier than their greasy friends down the aisle (chips, cookies, etc.) but don’t fall victim! The fewer ingredients something has, the healthier it is. Multigrain may be made of multiple grains, but you know nothing about the refinement process. Click here for more info on this topic.
- Make your own coffee
But, but, but! Starbucks is SO good! Trust me, I know. I’m a Gold Member. However, those cute little frappucinnos can really put a dent in your wallet. Let’s say you spend $5 on a grande frappuccino. If you go twice a week, that’s $10 per week — $40 per month — $480 per year! Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on
vacation textbooks? 😉
- Buy a reusable water bottle
Spending $1.99 on an individual may not seem like a lot at the time, but it adds up. Sure, they’re convenient. But in the long run, just as in the Starbucks example, you’ll find your money dwindling. If you buy the large pack of 24 at the grocery store for $5, you face the same situation. They run out. Instead, spend $10 now and buy a quality water bottle that you can refill at your convenience. Less plastic = saving the environment, too! (Double bonus! Extra credit for you!) Don’t have a water fountain in your dorm? Buying gallons are only $1, which saves a lot more than buying individual sized water bottles.
- Plan grocery store visits
Try to go to the grocery store on the same day every week. This will avoid any “runs” to the grocery store. I know whenever I do a mid-week grocery store run, I end up leaving with 4x more than I actually intended to pick up. Save your money and time by shopping once a week!
For a sample college grocery list, click here.