A Student’s Guide to Grocery Shopping

Rainbow Market-
Thai jasmine rice- $1.45/lb
Pinto beans- $1.43/lb
Oats- .78/lb
Walnuts- $8.65/lb
Almonds- $7.95/lb
Farfalle pasta- $2.09/ lb
Peanut Butter- $4.15/lb
Olive oil- $3.40/lb

Trader Joe’s-
Natural Chicken Breast $4.99/lb
Eggs- $1.79/ dozen
Joe’s O’s- $1.99
½ gallon milk- $3.69
Grain bread- $2.99
Baby carrots- $1.99
Bananas- $.19/each

Richmond New May Wah (Clement St.)-
Apples $1.19/ lb
Spinach $.99/ bunch
Avocado- $1.29
Lettuce 2/ $1.00
Sweet potatoes- $.79/lb

I practically live in grocery stores for a good majority of the week. I was never really taught how to shop for food and it’s in my nature to want to buy everything that I see on the shelves. When I actually get home and look through the things I purchased, I find that most of the things are good for a snack or baking experiment but won’t actually carry me out through the week. Shopping on a college budget seemed impossible for me to do at first, but finally, with the help of coupons, sales and planning, I have finally gotten the hang of it.

Staples and Pantry Items
The best thing I can recommend for students shopping on a budget, is to stock up on staples and buy in bulk. Not only is this the most economically friendly section of the grocery store, buying in bulk also allows you access to exactly how much of each item you need. Since there’s no packaging, the product is usually cheaper too!

A few things to stock up on:
– Beans- one of the most economically friendly sources of protein, pair it with rice for an easy meal
– Rice- rice is super easy to make in a pinch and is very versatile
– Oats- oats are a great source of whole grains and can be prepared for breakfast or baked in cookies!
– Nuts- great source of healthy fat and protein- also great for on the go snacking! Put them in the freezer to make them last longer.
– Dried pasta- one of the most inexpensive complete dinners to make and, like rice, is versatile.
– Olive oil- another source of healthy fat and a necessity for cooking.
– Spices- add flavor to any meal instantly.
– Bread- this makes great on the go sandwiches and toast for breakfast.

Stores that have a good bulk section:
– Whole Foods (Haight and Stanyan)
– Haight Street Market (Haight and Ashbury)
– Rainbow Market (13th Street and Folsom)- this is my favorite store for bulk!

Have you ever bought a huge head of lettuce thinking that you were going to make a salad but when you (finally) get around to making it, you discover that the entire thing has gone rotten? The best tip I’ve gotten about produce is to buy it either the day you’re going to eat it or just a few days before (like for apples and oranges). This prevents you from wasting spoiled produce and money.

Tips for good produce:
– Shop locally at Farmer’s Markets- a lot of vendors have extremely low prices compared to super markets and the produce is fresh and in season. Often times, they are also extremely nice and load me up with extra produce after finding out I’m a broke student
– Volunteer on Fridays in USF’s community garden between 12PM-4PM- volunteer for an hour during these times and you can have a chance to pick your own seasonal produce at the end of work!
– Shop for produce on Clement St. and in the Mission- prices for produce are the least expensive in these two areas and you can find a variety of fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.

Protein and Dairy
It seems that most college kids live off of carbs and snack foods. The biggest challenge on a budget is getting adequate protein. Not only is meat and dairy expensive but also there is only so much tofu and peanut butter a person can eat before they start to go crazy.
– If you or a friend has a Costco card, buy in bulk and split the costs. and products- not only is it almost half the cost of a regular store, meat can be frozen to make it last longer
– If you like tofu, it is a great source of protein and is under two dollars per container. Since it really doesn’t have flavor in it’s own, it’s also very versatile and can be dressed up or down.
– Don’t forget about legumes- beans and lentils are a great source of protein and cost almost nothing
– Shop based what’s on sale. Check the weekly fliers for what’s on sale and base meals off of what you find.
– Eggs are also one of the best sources of protein. Not only are they inexpensive, but you can also make them tons of different ways!
Snacks and Treats
Of course you need more than just the basics. I’ve found that the best place to go for snacks is Trader Joe’s. They have all the chips, crackers and treats you could want at very reasonable prices.

Other Useful Tips
– Never shop hungry- you’re more prone to buying things you don’t need.
– Plan what you’re going to buy in advance- as tiring as this advice is.
– Check your local junk mail fliers for coupons and store sales- often times, the grocery store also posts weekly deals on their websites
– Buy items that are useful in more than one meal- for example, if you’re buying tortillas for quesadillas or tacos, use them the next morning with scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito.

Shopping and eating well on a college budget sometimes feels overwhelming and impossible. With planning and shopping around, though, it is easy to eat decent food that stays within budget!


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