The basics
Study abroad : Student Finances

Grocery shopping on a student’s budget

Living in an apartment? Or sick of the regular student meal plan? No idea how to shop for groceries? Read our guide here.

Studying abroad in a foreign country and learning how to be independent can be incredibly exciting and occasionally daunting. One of them is mastering the art of money management. Grocery shopping would take up a chunk of your monthly budget especially if you live in an apartment or are no longer on the university’s meal plan. Cooking your own meals also allows you to eat healthily and avoid the dreaded university weight gain! Done correctly, grocery shopping will help you save money and enjoy the food that you make.


However, as a university student, tackling your never-ending assignments, projects, the deluge of tests and exams, extracurricular activities and part-time job AND cook can be a tough balancing act. We’ve got some handy tips for you to get started on your grocery shopping and how to make it as cheap and brief as possible.


Set a budget before heading to the grocery store

This is really important. Decide how much you should spend before you leave. This is essential and prevents you from overspending. How much can you afford to spend on groceries each month? $100? $200? Be honest with yourself and know your limits. One of the ways to make sure that you stick to your budget is to only bring cash for your trip. Leave the debit or credit card safe at home.


Come up with a list and stick to it

One of the ways that a grocery store encourages consumers to spend more is by having creative, bright, attractive display stands with the latest offers of stuff that you don’t really need. To avoid being a victim to these gimmicks, make a list and don’t deviate from it. If you don’t like the traditional pen and paper, you can use your smartphone. Some useful apps you can check out are Out of Milk and Wunderlist.


Don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list

Stores love to have special items on discounted prices that you can’t resist. If you spend $10 more you can get this free, or they have snacks right at the counter. Don’t buy them if they are not on your list to begin with. The same thing goes for things on sale. 80%, 50% off certain items, doesn’t mean you have to get them just because it’s cheap.


Buy store brands where possible

All grocery stores will have their own brands that are a lot cheaper than popular name brands. Unless you happen across a coupon in the newspaper for a name brand, opt for the store brand. The quality is the same and you save money!


Buy in bulk

Buy essential items in bulk, especially so if you’re sharing an apartment with a fellow student. You can defray your costs by dividing these items amongst yourselves. Things that have a longer shelf life like oatmeal, sugar, olive oil, rice etc, should be bought in bulk. Never stockpile fresh ingredients like vegetables and fruits, unless you’re having a cookout in a few days for a party.


Shop by season

This actually makes a lot of sense since items will become more affordable once they are in season, there will be more supply than demand. For instance, buy cranberries or squashes during fall or succulent strawberries, apricots and nectarines during the summer. Unsure which items would be in season? Go to Eat the Seasons to see what’s in season now.


Avoid snack-size packages and ready-to-cook items

The whole point of grocery shopping is to help you save money and hopefully get a more well-balanced diet. Snack-sized bags of chips, cookies, ready-to-cook meals, pre-chopped vegetables, seasoned meats, these are very expensive. You can always season meats yourself, cut the vegetables yourself and you ensure that the vitamins and minerals in these foods are not lost and are preservative free.

We hope these 7 tips prove useful in your quest to make grocery shopping easy, manageable and not break your bank in the process.


Happy shopping!


Photo credit: and

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.