Between classes, clubs, research, part-time jobs, and a social life, saying a college student is busy would be a gross understatement. Finding time to not only go grocery shopping between classes, but to also use up produce before it goes bad is an overwhelming task. If you are a college student trying to cook more but are struggling with this, here is a list of grocery shopping tips and tricks that successful students swear by. 


Tip 1: Buy Frozen Food

strawberry, sweet, berry, candy, frozen strawberries, smoothie, chia seeds, ice, blender
Caroline Ingalls

Frozen produce has all the same nutritional benefits of fresh produce but lasts a lot longer and comes in conveniently-sized pieces. It also means you have access to certain produce that is incredibly difficult to find out of season (stone fruit, I'm looking at you).

Frozen fruit is perfect nibbled on as a study snack, stirred into a bowl of yogurt, or blended with a little bit of milk to make a delicious smoothie. In terms of vegetables, Trader Joe’s has a fantastic frozen stir-fry mix that you can add to curry or fried rice. In addition to frozen produce, I also have a bag of precooked frozen cocktail shrimp in my freezer that can easily be thawed and added to pasta.

Tip 2: Get foods that don’t require a lot of prep

Susanna Mostaghim

I always have single serving containers of greek yogurt that I can grab before I leave the house in the morning. They’re filling, taste great, and are practical to eat on the go. In terms of an actual meal, an effortless, delicious sandwich can be put together from thinly sliced ham, turkey, or chicken, your favorite sliced cheese, and hummus. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, Trader Joe's has baked Sriracha and Teriyaki tofu that can be sliced and used similarly to deli meats. 

#SpoonTip: Make your sandwich even more satisfying by grilling it on a pan till the cheese melts.

Likewise, you can find pre-cooked shredded chicken which is ideal for simple yet satisfying quesadillas and tacos. The bagged meat is fairly salty, however, so if you feel comfortable cooking your own meat, here is a recipe to make your own shredded chicken in less than twenty minutes!

Ann arbor, lunch, brunch, egg, avocado, avocado toast
Gabi Mechaber

I also love eggs. All eggs. They’re perfect for every meal of the day and there are a plethora of methods with which you can cook them. If you’re feeling uninspired, here are 83 recipes that you can refer to when deciding what to make for your next egg centric meal.

Tip 3: Grocery delivery services

apple, Trader Joe's, egg, orange, reusable bags, egg carton, grocery story, Grocery Shopping
Jocelyn Hsu

There are two main types of delivery services for food: meal prep services that send you the ingredients required to make pre-selected meals and more general grocery services like Imperfect Foods or Amazon Fresh that send you the grocery items you request.

Meal prep delivery services are becoming increasingly popular. Companies like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and FreshDirect, just to name a few, are great resources if you want a more hand-held cooking experience that requires little to no thinking. I personally don't have too much experience with these sort of resources, so here is Grocery Shopping Tips: Meal Delivery Edition.

If you know your way around the kitchen but just don’t have time to get out and buy groceries, companies such as Imperfect Foods deliver groceries you select online to your front door. This is a great way for you to help the food waste crisis in the US, by using “ugly” produce that might otherwise end up in the landfill. 


Tip 4: Moisture is public enemy #1

open bag, Bag, vegetable, Cut cauliflower, florets, cauliflower
Jocelyn Hsu

Make sure produce is either stored in bags that are well ventilated or with some paper towels to absorb moisture. One example of this is onions; a staple for most food, this root is frequently used in my kitchen but rarely used all at once. A great way to store cut onions is in the fridge, cut side down on a paper towel, and tightly sealed in a Ziploc bag. 

Tip 5: Organization is key

My apartment originally tried to organize our fridge by giving everyone a section to utilize as they wished. After a year and a half of consistently finding moldy food in the back of our fridge, we scrapped that and began to section our fridge based on type of food. 

Currently we have a shelf for dairy, eggs and protein, another for meal prepped food and/or leftovers, and a drawer each for fruits and vegetables. Although this sometimes means we have to label items with painter's tape and a sharpie, it’s a great way to see which produce is going bad, as well as to visualize what you can prepare with the groceries in your fridge.

Meal Prepping:

Tip 6: A little bit of prep goes a long way

vegetable, pepper, zucchini, meat
Christin Urso

As with any “tips & tricks” that you read, take what’s said with a grain of salt. Obviously something that works for someone else may not work for you. Meal prepping is one of those things that many people, including my roommate, swear by, but it just doesn’t work for me. I will admit it’s invaluable to make certain things in advance; I love having overnight oats ready to walk out the door with, and it's extremely convenient to have some cooked rice in the fridge for fried rice. Generally speaking, I’d rather put a meal together in the moment based on what I’m craving.

That being said, it is super helpful to try to plan out what you want to eat in a week to streamline your grocery shopping experience. This is something that will become second nature as you shop more for yourself, so for the first few times feel free to experiment. Got some mushrooms last week that you ate every day? Great, get some more this week. Realize that you hate the texture of cooked spinach? Try some kale or Swiss chard next time. 

cook, Kitchen, stirfry, stove, Fire, Restaurant, Cooking, skillet
Alex Frank

The only way to figure out what you like to eat—and more importantly cook—is to play around a little bit. For example, I spent the summer sampling various deli meats and my new favorite avocado toast topping is lightly fried, thinly sliced mortadella. If you need some inspiration on how to begin, my shopping list regularly includes mushrooms, brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, yogurt, and whatever fruit is in season.

Now that you’ve been armed with some tried and true grocery shopping tips, it's your turn to get out there and experiment. Make a short list of your favorite things to eat, go down to your local grocery store, and set aside a couple hours this week to spend in your kitchen. If it doesn't go well, that's okay! It's all part of the experience. Just don't give up, keep trying, and most importantly have fun!