The Ultimate Poor College Student Grocery List

College is one of the most exciting times of your life. It is important to enjoy this time as you’ll never have the chance again. With the exception of a few, most college students have a tight budget. It is also their first time living away from their parents.

They must make decisions like other adults. One of these decisions is what to include in their shopping grocery list. This is not an easy decision based on limited finances. However, it is something college students have done for ages, and I am here to help you maximize your budget to include as many things as possible, eating well-balanced meals and having a lot of fun while at it.

What is a Good Grocery List for College Students?

A good grocery shopping list should be well organized to forestall any shortages or emergencies before the scheduled time. It should also ensure that you eat a balanced diet throughout while also giving you the much-needed energy to carry on your reading and other activities.

Another critical attribute of a grocery list is that the meals should be quick to prepare and filling. Students generally don’t have a lot of time to spend on preparing elaborate meals. They would rather spend this time doing other fun activities.

How Much Does a College Student need for Groceries?

This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on many factors. One of the factors is the city your school is located in. Some cities are cheaper to live in than others. This means using lesser money on your college grocery list. Another factor is your particular dietary requirements.

An example here is someone who is gluten intolerant. They will spend more money on finding gluten-free alternatives. Preference will also play a considerable role in influencing your budget. For instance, vegetarian shopping is generally cheaper than that of a non-vegetarian.

It appears meat and animal products are expensive. Meal prep for vegetarians is also quicker. It is critical that your food is always balanced, whether vegetarian or not. This means they should include protein, carbs, veggies, vitamins, and fruit. Don’t forget to drink water.

Most colleges will provide new students with rough guidelines on how much money they should expect to spend on their grocery shopping list. Your budget should not deviate by much from these guidelines. Your fellow students may also assist you in determining a rough estimate of what you can expect to spend on your college grocery list. You’ll also get a good orientation of a nearby grocery store

What is a Basic College Grocery List?

A basic grocery list should contain all items needed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In some instances, you may be eating your lunch in the student cafeteria. I have prepared a comprehensive grocery list that you can use the next time you visit a grocery store. These food items are cheap, healthy, and suitable for a college student. They will also help in lessening your meal prep time.

They are widely available in all grocery stores. They can be used to prepare many tasty meals some of these items can be bought I bulk at the beginning of the semester while others will regularly need grocery shopping, say bi-weekly. A quick tip here is that you don’t have to do all your shopping from one store. You should always check where you are getting a good deal. Some stores will have a great deal on fresh produce while others might have a good deal on legumes. Shop around your local area to determine what works for you.

This is just a grocery list template and a list of the most common items. You can add or subtract to the list based on your dietary needs and preferences and meal ideas

Breakfast Items

  • Eggs
  • bread
  • milk
  • cereals
  • cookies
  • Cornflakes
  • oatmeal
  • Coffee/tea
  • Peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt
  • Granola


  • baked beans
  • dried beans
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Sweet potatoes
  • lentils
  • brown rice
  • whole chicken
  • chicken breast
  • cooking oil
  • tomatoes
  • hummus
  • ramen
  • tortilla
  • flour
  • dry pasta
  • sugar
  • salt
  • cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Tuna fish
  • beef meet
  • bacon
  • noodles
  • Whole grain bread

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Apples 
  • Bananas
  • Watermelons
  • Oranges              
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions 
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots 
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Corn          
  • Mushrooms
  • Olive oil  
  • Lemons
  • Lettuce Spinach
  • Asparagus          
  • Garlic
  • Eggplant              
  • Green Beans

Herbs & Spices

  • Salt
  • Italian dressing
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Chili powder
  • Basil
  • Black pepper
  • Oregano
  • baking soda
  • Vinegar

Nuts and seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Raisins
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashew nuts

Important Shopping List Grocery Tips

For most students, this will be the first time they are in charge fo the grocery budget. Here a few tips that will help you.

  • Don’t do grocery shopping while you are hungry

This is an important tip. Grocery shopping while hungry can mislead you into buying items that you don’t need. When you are hungry, everything looks delicious.

  • Choose ingredient you can use on multiple meals

Some ingredients can only be used on one meal; others are so versatile you can use them on many meals. Try to use these ingredients you can incorporate on several of your meals. Foods such as potatoes, asparagus, eggs, olive oil, are very versatile.

  • Invest in a small refrigerator

It’s very difficult and uneconomical to cook for one all the time. Most of the time, you’ll be cooking bigger meals that you can eat more than once. Make use of the fridge to store leftover meals, which you can eat later, as well as perishable groceries. Meat, milk, and veggies are highly perishable and need proper storage in the freezer. A little meal planning goes a long way in avoiding expensive wastages.

  • Check out for discount coupons

Discount coupons can save you a lot. Gather as many as you can, and make use of them. Anything that can lower the cost of your shopping is welcome. Some stores have discount cards and student cards, which you should be making use of.

  • Marketing

marketing can need you to buy unnecessary food items. Be wary of items on sale. They may be no savings to make on them, or you may not need them in the first instance. Also, note that bigger doesn’t always mean cheaper. You may end up with a giant package that you cannot finish up on your own.

  • Invest in the right equipment

even though your budget is restricted, having the right equipment saves you time in meal preparation, especially cooking breakfast and lunch. A microwave can quickly warm up your food. A bread machine not only makes bread but can be used for desserts, drinks, appetizers. If your budget allows, invest in kitchen appliances that can be used to prepare multiple types of food.

  • Learn more about cooking and nutrition

college is the best time to learn more about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals. These skills will come in handy later in life. You don’t have to eat noodles all the time. Prepare some wholesome, balanced meals for yourself.

  • Cleaning

You’ll have to clean everything you have used for your cooking. The best approach is to clean as you cook so that you don’t have a pile of dishes later. Don’t forget to buy cleaning supplies. Some ingredients, such as baking soda, can be used for cleaning.

  • Safety

Safety should always be your number 1 priority while cooking in college. You should always be careful and do not try anything you are not sure. You should have the right equipment. You don’t want what to deal with an unfortunate accident.

You should check with your hostel supervisor if cooking is allowed. Most hostels don’t have a problem with student s cooking but have guidelines on how you should go about it. One common mistake college students make to leave some food cooking to rush to do something else. This is dangerous and can easily lead to a fire. Always watch over your food as it cooks.

College Meal Ideas

To get the most out of your grocery list, you need to plan your cooking well in advance. This sounds like a complicated thing, but it’s not. Meal prep saves you a lot of time and effort when you eventually do the cooking


This is the most important meal of the day. You want to make sure you are well energized for the day’s activities. The dilemma here is that you don’t have a lot of time to do it. However, don’t skip breakfast as this can make you feel lethargic and demotivated throughout the day. Oatmeal, fruits, coffee are excellent options. Egg and toast and a side of peanut butter are a college student classic. Yogurt and milk and sweet potatoes are popular breakfast choices that don’t require much preparation time.


it is unlikely that you’ll get a chance to prepare a meal during the limited time you got for lunch. Most college schedules are tightly packed; there is not a lot of free time during the day. Luckily all colleges have a cafeteria where student enjoy their lunch. Even though it may be more expensive to eat at the cafeteria, it is sometimes the best option. Some college students are able to prepare their lunch. If your budget is too tight, or the meal plans in your college are way too expensive, preparing your lunch is the best option.


Dinner is the best time to cook a meal. You have more time and can play around with different recipes. You could also pool together with a few friends or roommates to prepare a meal together, thus having fun and saving costs. It takes less time and costs less to prepare a meal for several people than for one person. You are also more likely to make healthier food choices when you are with your friends when you are alone.

Nowadays, you can find a recipe to prepare any type of meal easily on the internet. You have no reason to eat bland foods. Do not be afraid to try out different recipes. Cooking is actually much easier than most new students tend to believe.


Snacks are favorite meals. Snacks are an excellent way to eat on the move. Your college groceries list should always contain different types of snacks.

Nuts, dried fruits, and fresh fruits are good snack choices. Eating an apple can get your energy levels back as you head to your next class. Peanut butter can go along with many snacks such as biscuits, crackers, and cookies. Olive oil is very good for salad dressing.

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