From late-night Walmart runs to scrolling through Publix's weekly coupons, I've learned a few things about grocery shopping for my college dorm. Like most students without a car, I often have to walk or take the bus to get to the store. That means I have to be super intentional about what I get, otherwise I end up living off of red grapes, oat milk, and tortilla chips (true story). After months of lugging all of my groceries back to my room and squeezing them into one food drawer, I had to figure out a better way to shop. Now, I try to get my grocery shopping into four bags and my trips down to once every two weeks. Here are five easy tips to help you shop smarter. You don't need a lot to get by, but you can make the most of what you get.

Caia Reese

1. Less is More.

When it comes to fresh produce, do not buy in bulk

Produce tends to have a short shelf life and will go bad if you leave it sitting in your fridge. In general, buying in bulk can be tedious and space-consuming. With your own space, you can prioritize quality over quantity and get the food you like over what you had to get with your family. I like to get two kinds of veggies; something light or leafy like spinach that I would use in the first week and another that's denser, like cabbage, that will last a little longer.

That said, if you see a great deal for your favorite cereal or non-perishable food, grab two because you never know when the next sale will come along!

Caia Reese

2. Spice Things Up!

Add more variety to your shopping list 

It’s easy to stick to the same flavor of chips, pasta shape, and brand of instant noodles. I do it too. No one can convince me to buy anything other than the Good and Gather corn tortilla chips from Target. I love what is tried and true but every now and then you need to switch it up - especially when it comes to snacks! Plus, introducing new ingredients to your roster will improve your cooking skills, expand your palette, and allow you to explore new recipes. When you find the staples you like, explore different variations that will keep cooking exciting.

Caia Reese

3. Don’t Be Afraid of the Freezer.

Myth: Frozen food is bad for you

Most frozen fruits and vegetables are picked just when they ripen. They are just as good for you as the fresh stuff and perfect for the unpredictable college schedule because of their longevity. I know some of you don’t know what's in your freezer right now - this is your chance to check. Alternatively, you can buy fresh produce and freeze it for later. I love to blend my favorite seasonal fruits, freeze them, and use them for smoothies. You can also freeze breads, soups, and curries when you have too much for yourself.

Caia Reese

4. Treat Yo’ self!

Add a mystery item

Experts say you shouldn’t go to the supermarket hungry, and as true as that is, I always leave the store with something I didn’t intend on getting. I’ve done it so much that I decided to add a surprise to my list and budget. Whether it’s chocolate-covered almonds or tzatziki dip, add something small and exciting to your basket at the end of your trip.

Jennifer Kim

5. Go to the Local Grocers and Farmers Markets.

There’s so much more beyond the mega marts 

Find out about the grocers local to your area and take advantage of their unique selections. It’s a great way to support small and family-owned businesses. In Gainesville, Ward's Supermarket is a great choice. They offer a wide range of products made by and sourced from the community.

On campus, there’s the Field and Fork Pantry which offers free pantry items and is available to students four times a week. There are also bi-monthly farmers markets and Asian supermarkets that will have sales, local treats, and something you’ve never heard of before. Give them a try, take a friend, and make a trip out of your weekly grocery shopping!