Student's guide to grocery shopping: pandemic edition

Many college students are finding themselves caught between the thrill of living on their own for the first time and the pressure of being in a grocery store during a pandemic. To help alleviate the stress and, hopefully, curve some takeout habits, here are 5 easy tips for shopping for yourself. 

1. Lazy meal prep

One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve seen is the concept of lazy meal prep. TikTok user and college student, Jeremy Scheck, describes it as“preparing the building blocks to your meal”. The forethought in preparing a large batch of rice, for example, on Monday cuts 30 minutes out of rice and beans on Tuesday, fried rice on Wednesday, or risotto on Thursday. Other great staples to have on deck are beans and roasted vegetables. Make sure to check out Jeremy’s website, College Town Kitchen.

2. Frozen necessities

The freezer is your closest ally! From frozen fruits and vegetables to bulk buying chicken, frozen options are cost-efficient. A lot of foods that aren’t explicitly marketed as frozen can also be preserved in the freezer (hence the name). Try freezing half loaves of bread, vegetable scraps and chicken bones for broths, butter, nuts, even fresh herbs. 

3. Spices are forgiving

College life is a juggling act, and there’s no shame in reaching for a mac and cheese cup or Top Ramen. However, there is shame in leaving it bland. Invest in a handful of spices that can make your meals feel a little more purposeful: salt, fresh pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and cinnamon are a solid jumping off point according to Lively Table

4. Do NOT sleep on dollar stores

You can get all of your bowls, plates, and glasses from the Dollar Store. All of them! Plus, the cohesive color scheme will make you look like a functioning adult in front of visiting parents. The Dollar Store also has a ton of basic containers that make storage a lot easier. The same sentiment goes for getting gently used pots and pans from thrift stores. You can also get microfiber cloths at the Dollar Store, which saves cash on paper towels, and keeps you environmentally conscious. 

5. Be prepared

Shopping with a list is a bit of a no brainer, but now there’s the added stress of being hyper-conscious of people in your space. If you’re more comfortable, use a service like Instacart to deliver groceries to you. If that’s not in the budget, take the time to reverse engineer a few meals that you’d like to make for your list. Don’t know what your budget is? Be sure to check out the Kora app so you can tell on average what students spend on groceries. Maybe consider cooking a side or two that you could have a few times, or find a one-pot meal recipe that excites you and promises leftovers. Some people shop for two weeks at a time. You, on the other hand, should consider your spending habits and your arm strength versus the distance between home and the grocery store.

Good company makes any food taste that much better, so try cooking for your roommates or scheduling a FaceTime dinner date with someone you miss. Happy spending and bon appètit!