As college students, we’re in the constant struggle of continuing our childish ways that we know and love and learning to be an adult in the real world. You strive to be that mature, put-together, young adult who goes to work, comes home and cooks elaborate, healthy meals for yourself. But instead, you find yourself eating a frozen pizza out of a bowl because you're too lazy to do the dishes or run to the grocery store. Learning the ropes of adulthood can be difficult to achieve when you’re starting from square one. You might not know what or how to cook, and if you do, then you might not know how to go about it. And, the most daunting task of all; taking on the grocery store.
The grocery store can be a scary place. Learning to navigate the aisles, avoiding impulse purchases and finding the best deals; it’s all very confusing. Even more confusing, figuring what the necessities are when you are shopping for food. It can be tempting to grab cookie dough or frozen waffles as you walk past, but do you really need them? On a college student's budget, it is important to learn restraint in the grocery store and to think about what items you will actually need throughout the week.
Try to only make a trip to the grocery store once a month. Buy the basics on your first trip, things you can make a lot of different meals with like chicken, cheese, spices, pasta and sauce. Try and make this last as for a month. Obviously, there will be times you’ll run out of something. In that case, it's okay to take 1 or 2 more trips to the store to restock. But, the goal is to only buy what you need. Then if your budget allows, you can go ahead and buy that cookie dough.
To help get an idea of what "the basics" are and how to go about tackling the grocery store, I have compiled a list of food items that I have found are great to keep in the house, are relatively inexpensive and can be used in a variety of ways.
The Ultimate Grocery List:
Milk, Eggs and Bread - Always have these times in stock. They can be used for breakfast, dinner, baking, you name it.
Chicken Breast - Cook it on the stove, in the oven or on the grill. Make multiple breasts at one time and refrigerate the rest for salads. If you don't want to use all of them at once, wrap each breast individually in a sealed, plastic freezer bag and freeze for later use.
Shredded cheese/ sliced cheese - Good for sandwiches, quesadillas, or cheesy vegetables.
Tortillas - These are good for quesadillas, tacos or wraps
Assorted Veggies (fresh or frozen) - Eat them raw as a healthy snack. Sautee or steam them for a quick and easy side with dinner, or use them as a main entree and stir-fry them.
Lettuce - Useful for salads or sandwiches
Stir-fry Sauce - Produce reaching it's expiration date? Chop them up and throw them all in a skillet with some stir-fry sauce. This is seriously one of the easiest meals to whip up.
Frozen Pizza/ Pizza Rolls: Good for drunk food, so you can avoid that 3 a.m. McDonald's purchase. They are also great for those days when you really aren't up for cooking.
Granola Bars - Grab them on the go for breakfast in the morning or take them with you for classes.
Pasta and Sauce - Pasta is super easy to make and fills you up.
Inexpensive Fruit (bananas grapes or apples) - They are healthy and great for snacking.
Coffee - Having your own coffee will prevent you from spending ridiculous amounts of money at Starbuck's or Caribou on your way to work or class.
Cereal - Quick breakfast and a good mid-day or late-night snack.
Yogurt - Good for breakfasts and to regulate your digestive system.
Ice Cream - Because we all have a sweet-tooth every once in awhile.
Items to Avoid:
Soda – Soda is full of sugar and cutting back on it can make a huge difference in your health and weight. If you don’t keep it around, you won't be tempted to drink it.
Chips - You can eat an entire bag in one sitting without realizing. Needless to say, chips are dangerous.
Never buy groceries when you are hungry. You will end up with obscure items that you were craving at the time. Shopping while hungry will result in your cabinets and fridge filled with an absurd amount of Little Debbie desserts and an array of frozen breakfast items you will probably never eat. But, things like chicken breasts and pasta are your best friend. These are times that are typically inexpensive and very versatile. They are easy to make and can be used for all types of meals.
Hopefully, this list helps you gain an idea of what to buy and not buy when you take on the grocery store and instills a sense of confidence and reassurance when you do so.