You can only eat so many times at the dining hall and at the other food places on campus (which at Saint Mary’s College, there are really only two options). When you're on a tight college budget, like me, you have to limit where you go out to eat and the frequency of eating out. Since becoming financially independent, with everything besides college tuition, grocery stores have been one of my go-to places to spend my money. Not only are there more food options, but the cost of the food is a lot cheaper than what I’d pay for it on campus. Locally, some stores where students can do their grocery shopping in the Lamorinda area are: Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Whole Foods. 

apple, grape, vegetable
Cara Waterman


If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a Safeway that has an adjacent Safeway gas station, this is the place for you. My first year, I did a lot of grocery shopping at Safeway. Every time I bought anything from Safeway and entered my card number during checkout, my mom would get gas reward points that would in turn save her up to $1/gallon of gas when she gets gas at Safeway gas stations. Unfortunately, in the Lamorinda area there are not any Safeway gas stations (there are two in Alameda) but you can also earn up to 20 cents/gallon at any participating Chevron station (there's one on Moraga Way!). Not only are you buying groceries, but you're also working your way to saving money on gas. I love buying groceries at Safeway because it carries my favorite childhood snack, Nutty Buddy. One of the great things about Safeway is that it has a ton of known brands that aren't solely exclusive to Safeway, like Clover Sonoma, Halo Top, and Evol (which is also found at Whole Foods!).

Trader Joe's

Maybe you prefer Speculoos over Nutty Buddy bars. Or maybe you're a Cookie Butter enthusiast. Or maybe you're like my best friend and are a vegan looking to find affordable vegan meals for the week. If this is you, Trader Joe's is the place for you. Doing your grocery shopping at Trader Joe's is great for many reasons. Trader Joe's has a vast variety of foods from fresh foods to frozen foods that appeal to anyone that's trying to get a fix at good food at a reasonable price. One of my favorite things about Trader Joe's is that, as a POC, I have a place where I can buy different types of ethnic foods. Trader Joe's has Mexican food, Indian food, Mediterranean food, and more. Other grocery stores don't have as wide of a variety of cultural food as Trader Joe's does. Another great thing about Trader Joe's is that if you're wondering if you'll like a food, you can try it! Simply ask an employee if you can try whatever it is you would like to sample, and they'll let you try it. Just remember to say please and thank you.

chocolate, coffee, cookie, tea
Jasmine Lim

Whole Foods

Are you the type of person that is all about organic produce and healthy foods? If so, Whole Foods is the way to go. Whole Foods prides itself in providing the best organic food you can get. They actually set pretty high standards for themselves. Even if the food you are buying at Whole Foods isn't their organic produce, you don't need to worry about the other foods available there. Their alternative brand, 365, is one of the best generic brands you can buy because of their high standard quality. Don't think that because Whole Foods is deemed to be high quality foods that it is automatically expensive in comparison to other grocery stores. For some products that is true, but for others it is not. If you need a "How-To" guide to shopping at Whole Foods, I recommend peeping this article about products you should try during one of your grocery shopping trips. aRecently, I had an experience where it was actually cheaper for me to buy Gala apples from Whole Foods ($1.49/lb at the time) than from Safeway ($1.99/lb). You never really know what you can get at a cheaper price.

Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

So, where should you shop?

If money and budget is a deterrent for you, fear not! You just have to be smart about your choices and your purchases. I suggest making a list of what you're planning to buy before arriving to whichever store you choose. Sometimes you can check online to see if any of the grocery stores mentioned above are having specials foods or non-food items, like soap or laundry detergent. Wherever you feel is the best place for you to buy groceries is actually the best place for you to buy groceries. You know yourself best, but be open to cool advantages of shopping at certain grocery stores and take advantage of them.