When a college student hears “locally-sourced," "organic," or "food co-op on a budget," their credit cards seem to sprint the other way, preferring to delight in the comfort of Nutella jars and powdered donuts from the nearest supermarket. Or perhaps that’s just me. 

Then, I discovered the Friendly City Food Co-Op, an organic eco-friendly grocery store in downtown Harrisonburg. Even on a college budget, students have the potential to thrive, regardless of whether or not McDonald's McPick 2 for $2.50 is your ideal meal and you qualify bacon as a food group.

So here are some tips to help set the mood for living your best Co-Op grocery shopping life.

1. Plan, plan, plan 

beer, pizza, coffee, wine
Maddie Lanier

Ever buy eggs and milk only to find out you had the potential of multiple sunny-side-up eggs and fresh milk for acai bowls at home? Create an inventory of what you already have and their expiration date. Perhaps consider throwing out the General Tso's chicken that's been haunting your other foods since Halloween. Seriously. It's not peaking any time soon.

Also, make a meal plan for the week. Having an idea on what you'd want for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners each day can narrow down the ingredients you buy while shopping. If you need any inspiration, the Co-Op's also got you covered with yummy recipes. Maybe one night go for the maple roasted tofu with winter squash dish featured in their monthly magazine. Anyone else hear angels singing?

2. Be Flexible

outside, outdoors, Blonde, Tattoo, flexible, pose, Yoga, grass
Julia Gilman

Ok, I don't mean trying out the moves you learned in your KIN100 yoga class and channeling your inner downward dog. Look out for what's currently in season since fruits and vegetables thriving locally in November have lower transportation costs and thus, cheaper prices. Being open to substituting beef originally meant for Taco Thursday for the chicken on sale right now also provides major savings.

Not sure what's in season? Check out the availability calendar of Virginia fruits and vegetables or ask the sweet community of people who ensure the Friendly City Food Co-Op remains a friendly, neighborhood store.

3. Become a Coupon-ing Fiend

The Friendly City Co-Op offers both print and online versions of store-savings flyers for Shop $mart and Co-Op Deals, which offer competitive prices even when compared to major supermarkets. 

With both monthly and bi-weekly coupons, you're guaranteed to find deals on your grocery list. The best part about this? If there are two coupons for the same product on different flyers, you can double up on savings. And let's not forget that with the holidays coming up, the organic potatoes, cranberries, and local turkey deals are everywhere. 

4. Bulk up

Caty Schnack

Become the pilot to your grocery shopping needs. Sometimes we simply can't finish an entire jar of peanut butter, no matter how hard we try. The option to churn your own PB in the bulk section gives you not only have the satisfaction of eating your masterpiece but controlling the amount and price of it.

Bulking it up ranges from filling your mason jar with coffee beans, granola and pasta to herbs and spices. Bringing in your own container saves you from pre-packaging costs which means there's no where to go but up into local coffee bean heaven. 

5. Say Yes to the Chef

On top of offering great deals and top-of-the-line service, the Co-Op also provides classes and events to best put the food you purchase to use. With chefs from the local Harrisonburg area coming in and using the Co-Op's products to demonstrate possible recipes, there's no longer a worry of wasting that whole chicken or not knowing how to cook meals. Plus, prepping once a week can make it easy on hectic class days.

As you walk up to the register, coupons in hand, fresh apples in your basket, just remember: a simple swipe of your card limits environmental waste and helps support local farmers and producers. And almost equally as important? This week you'll be eatin' well, eatin' well dog.