How to Shop on a Budget

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Students can save money at the grocery store by following these simple steps.Photo courtesy of

Students can save money at the grocery store by following these simple steps.Photo courtesy of

As college students, many of us face the challenge of shopping for weekly groceries on a budget. Now is the time to start budgeting. With summer fast-approaching, who doesn’t want a few extra dollars you can save now on food to spend on vacations later?

Myself, as a freshman in college, set myself a weekly budget for groceries. However, as my sophomore year came, “adult” expenses came up in my life like car insurance, cell phone bills, etc. To compensate, I simply looked for areas in my life that I could use to make up the difference. Since school and housing expenses were not negotiable, I looked to my last category of expense: food.

Grocery shopping as a young adult can be stressful. Here are a few tips to reduce the amount of money that you hand over at the counter.

Tip #1: Do not go to the store hungry.

I know we hear this a lot, but it has made all of the difference for me. When I go hungry, I am caught by the side aisle displays of goldfish, pretzels, and yes, ice cream. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in this trap because it will drive the price of your bill up quickly.

Tip #2: Set a time to visit the store once a week.

This can be helpful in two different ways. First, a routine allows you to plan out what you’re going to buy ahead of time. Second, a study by Cornell University showed that more high-calorie foods are purchased leading up to dinnertime compared to earlier in the day. If you plan ahead to eat beforehand, you will most likely grab fewer impulse-buys.

Tip #3: Plan out your meals before going to the store.

As college students, many of us don’t plan out meals until we are starving between the twenty minutes before our next class. However, taking a Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning to plan out the week’s meals allows you to think through purchases, look for sales, and build alternate choices if time doesn’t allow for cooking time.

Tip #4: Come prepared with a list.

Again, this is a way to reduce impulse buys. Often, before walking into the store, I make my roommates promise that they won’t let me get anything that is not on my list.

Overall, these tips have helped me decrease the amount of money I have spent on food by thirty-five percent. Although it may sound small, thirty-five percent of my budget over several weeks ends up with a lot of extra spending cash.

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