A College Girl’s Guide to Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

We’ve all been told to beware the freshman 15, but how the heck do we do that?! Staying healthy in college can be an extremely difficult task. I remember my freshman year I literally ate a cheeseburger and fries every day for lunch one semester. BAD mistake! What’s worse, is that I even knew that it wasn’t a good idea, especially because I wasn’t working out and staying active.

The hardest part was that I was required to have a meal plan when I lived in on-campus dorms and with that, I didn’t have a kitchen that was readily available. So, if you don’t have a meal plan and you do have a kitchen to work in – this post is for you! I will also try to make this as dorm-friendly as possible. 🙂

Plan Your Meals.

Planning your meals will help you to stay healthy and stay within your budget. When you don’t have a meal planned you’ll probably be wandering around saying you don’t have anything to eat. Then you’ll end up eating a bag of popcorn and some Twizzlers for dinner.

Here’s a day’s worth of meals that I would suggest:

Breakfast: Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Kale or Spinach
Snack: Apple with Peanut or Almond Butter 
Lunch: Hummus Veggie Wrap
Snack: Mixed Nuts
Dinner: Black Bean & Rice Burrito

You may have noticed that these meals contain no meat or dairy products. I myself am a vegetarian and frequently eat vegan meals. You can easily add in meat or dairy products if you’d like!

Make a List.

Don’t ever go grocery shopping without a list. If you don’t have a list you’ll over buy and possibly spend more than you had planned and you’ll start to pick up unhealthy snacks that you don’t need. Making a list is super simple and easy once you’ve planned out your meals.

Here is what you’d need for the above meals:

  • Non-Dairy Milk** $2.75
  • Frozen Strawberries*** $10.00-$15.00
  • 1-2 Bunches of Bananas** $2.00
  • Kale or Spinach** $2.00
  • 3 Apples** $2.22
  • Peanut or Almond Butter*** $5.00-$12.00
  • Hummus**
  • 1 Red Pepper* $1.59
  • 1 Red Onion* $0.34
  • Mushrooms $2.30
  • 1 Zucchini* $0.53
  • Lettuce** $1.29
  • Tortillas** $2.50
  • Cashews, Walnuts, and Almonds (all with no salt)** $8.00
  • 1 Can of Black Beans* $0.75
  • White or Brown Rice*** $2.59
  • Salsa** $2.58

Approximate prices are listed to help you budget your money. These prices may be different for you.

* These items should last you one to three days depending on the size of the product/item.
** These items should last you about a week depending on the size of the product/item.
*** These items should last you three weeks or more depending on the size of the product/item.

Consider some of the above items as “investments” as you won’t need to purchase them every week. Maybe one week a month you’ll have a higher grocery bill because you’ll need to re-stock on these items.

Recommended Items.

There are a few items that I would highly recommend having if you’re trying to stay healthy in college. The most important being a good blender. The NutriBullet is a high-quality and compact blender perfect for smoothies! They’re easy to clean up and are super simple to use. Here are three different versions at different price points depending on your budget!

Here are my favorite reusable containers for bringing food to class or work. Also, here are my favorite reusable produce bags to use while grocery shopping!

Lastly, make sure to check out my favorite cookbook, which happens to be vegan.


Coupons & Discounts.

Use coupons and find discounts. Thankfully coupons are still a thing which means you have the opportunity to save money!

Newspaper & Apps

Grab your local paper and start searching for coupons! Many stores now also have apps and a reward card that allow you to have electronic coupons. These are life savers. Plus, you can rack up on point to save money on gas!


Many times there won’t be coupons for produce, that’s where Ibotta comes in handy. Ibotta is an app that gives you a rebate for buying certain items. All you have to do is go through the app, ‘unlock’ the items you’re going to buy and then scan your receipt. 

Student ID

Many places will offer a discount if you show your student ID. Although this may not be applicable to grocery stores, make sure to double check for discounts if you ever order take away or visit a local coffee shop. 

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in more ways than one. Stay healthy and eating on a budget can be a lot easier if you put your mind to it. Stay focused and stay healthy! 

Do you have any secret tips about healthy grocery shopping on a budget? Leave them in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links.
  • One thing I suggest is the Walmart app if you shop there. They have a part of the app called Savings Catcher that allows you to scan your receipt, then they check the prices of competitors in the area, and if they see a lower price they will give you the difference on a gift card. I think the most I ever got back in a shipping trip was about a $1.00, but you never know. The Cartwheel app by Target is amazing as well! Lastly, Kroger cards are amazing because they have great deals in their store with those deals.

    • Completely agree – you’ve got some amazing insights on this! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Wow great little shopping list! There are seriously so many student discounts out there, I get 10% off Safeway every saturday!
    kirsten – thewanderingbrunette.com

    • That’s a great discount – sometimes it’s hard to find discounts for grocery stores!

  • Gigi

    This is perfect since I am always on the lookout for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas. I will be trying out this meal plan. The prices where I live are nowhere near as cheap but most of those things are still cheaper compared to other things in the grocery store. Although it’s not specifically grocery shopping, two things I’ve been doing lately are eating the actual serving size/smaller portion and only eating when I am actually hungry and not out of boredom or habit. Just by doing these two things I found my food lasting longer, I lost a few pounds and I realize how much I was eating even though I wasn’t really hungry.

    Gigi | theislandgurl.com