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The Best Grocery List for College Students – The 2024 Guide

Are you having trouble forming your grocery list for this school year? We’ve got you covered! Check out this best grocery list for college students.

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Are you having trouble forming your grocery list for this school year? We’ve got you covered!

Check out this best grocery list for college students.

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Why is it important to have a College Grocery List?

While it is nice and convenient to eat out when you’re in college, in the long term, it’s not ideal. Unless you have an unlimited budget to finance $15 to $20 per meal every day, in which case, this would be a good option.

But eventually, food from the same restaurants will taste and feel the same, and you’ll ask yourself, is it really worth your $15?

Another option is to buy your own groceries and make food that you’ll love.

I know grocery shopping can take up a lot of your time – as a college student, I used to think it did, too, but setting aside one day in your week for your shopping is life-changing.

Let me make it convenient for you by providing you with the best grocery list for college students. That way, you will know the basic things to get so you can make meals in your apartment or dorms with ease, as if you’re eating out from a restaurant!

One thing to keep in mind while grocery shopping is to always have a list. Sometimes, I would go to grocery stores blindly and just take what I felt like I needed.

While this can be fun, after getting back to my apartment, I realized that I did not need some of the things I got, and worse, I did not have the right ingredients and tools to help me prepare my meals.

This would prompt another trip to the grocer, and as a college student, that’s one thing I want to avoid.

If you really value convenience and ease, follow along to see the best grocery list for college students so you don’t have to carve out precious time for an extra grocery trip.

A woman in a grocery store

Source

Meal Ideas

Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, and no, just coffee (even your fancy cold brew) doesn’t count as a meal. Start your day right with these easy breakfast meal ideas for college students, and maybe you’ll get some easy grocery ideas along the way, too.

Breakfast

  • Avocado Toast
    • Best and easiest breakfast ever? I think so too! Avocados are a staple on my college grocery list. You can make so much from them, from avocado salad bowls to my favorite breakfast, avocado toast!
    • Literally, just slice or mash your avocados and add them on top of your favorite toast. I sprinkle mine with Himalayan pink salt and some pepper for added flavor.
  • Scrambled Eggs
    • Scrambled eggs, in my opinion, are a canvas for almost any breakfast you can think of. Eating them plainly would be just as good as eating them with tomatoes or spinach. That’s why I always make sure to add eggs to my grocery list, because they are a must-have. If you have a microwave, you can scramble your eggs in a microwave-safe bowl and cook them, or if you have access to a stove, cook them the regular way!
  • Cereal
    • A truly no-sweat breakfast is a bowl of cereal. What you buy at the grocery store is up to you, but whether your favorite is Cap’n Crunch or Fruit Loops, cereals are the easiest breakfast foods you can get.
  • Breakfast Burrito
    • If you want a breakfast that’s more on the savory side, then a breakfast burrito is a perfect choice. When I only had access to a microwave, I would do this by cutting my bacon into small pieces and putting them in the microwave. Then I’d scramble some eggs in a bowl and add the cooked bacon bits, and put it in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes until the egg was cooked. I’d then grab my tortilla and put the egg and bacon inside and roll it as you would a burrito.
  • Easy Sandwiches
    • Cold cuts are a staple on my grocery list! Sandwiches are so easy to make. Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, you can add cold cuts to your favorite bread with some sliced cheese. If you have spinach or arugula, or maybe lettuce lying around, you can stick that in there too and have a nice, filling sandwich. Or, if you have lots of eggs and mayo, you can make an egg salad sandwich by boiling the eggs and mashing them together with the mayonnaise.
  • Fresh Fruit
    • If you want something light but filling as a breakfast meal, then fresh fruits can get you through the day! If a banana is your choice of fruit, or if you have time to slice some apples and mix it with some sliced strawberries, then go for it! Fruits are always nice to have for breakfast.
  • Granola Bars
    • One thing your grocery list should include is granola or protein bars! A box of it can last you a week! The bars can be both breakfast or snacks, and if you are too busy studying to have lunch, this can act as a substitute (although hearty meals are preferred, especially for on-the-go college students!). I find granola bars very filling and easy to eat. No preparations are needed!
  • Easy Fried Rice
    • I love to have fried rice in the morning! It gets me full and will last me until my next meal. It’s very convenient when I have back-to-back classes and I really don’t have time to go out for a meal. What I do is I cook rice, or use leftover rice, mix it with cooked scrambled eggs, and then I add some green peas and carrots. I top it off with some soy sauce for flavor!

Lunch

We all tend to forget about lunch! It’s a weird hour (depending on when you eat) that’s usually around noon, or right before dinner. Usually, I’m in the middle of class during these hours and I tend to ignore the fact that a mealtime exists!

I end up having to force myself to remember to eat, so I’m here to remind you, one college student to another, that: Lunch! Exists! And here are some amazing lunch ideas you can follow.

  • Pasta
    • Pastas are easy lunches to make. Grab and cook your favorite noodle (or add it to your grocery list so you don’t forget) and your favorite bottled sauce, grab some cheese and other things you’d like in your pasta (I love adding sausage!), and mix it all for a nice lunch.
  • Salad Bowl
    • Salad bowls are so easy to make! Both healthy and filling, this is the perfect lunch for college students. When you’re at the grocery, grab your favorite leafy greens (mine? Arugula, of course!) and your go-to salad toppings like croutons, cheeses, nuts, etc. If you want, you can add grains to your salad bowls like quinoa or couscous or add something like peas or beans. Then, top it off with your favorite dressing!
  • Pizza
    • Pizza can be paired with a salad (see salad bowl above!) or can be eaten by itself. Either way, it’ll be a filling lunch. There are microwavable pizzas if you don’t have access to an oven, and there are oven pizzas for the vice-versa scenario!
  • Grilled Cheese
    • Another easy lunch option is grilled cheese. Add a loaf of bread and sliced cheese to your grocery list and you can make grilled cheese! This is perfect because it’s easy and fast to do.
  • Chicken Wrap
    • One thing I highly recommend putting on your grocery list is a rotisserie chicken because it can be added to so many meals! Salads? Yes! Sandwiches? Yes! Wraps? Yes! You can make a chicken wrap by adding veggies, chicken, and dressing to a soft tortilla, and voila!
  • Quesadillas
    • Using the tortillas and sliced cheeses from the previous meal ideas (grilled cheese and chicken wrap), you can make your quesadilla!
  • Meatball Sub
    • Grab your favorite bread and add some microwaved meatballs to make a meatball sub. Top it off with your choice of marinara sauce and enjoy!

Dinner

It’s hard to decide what to eat for dinner! But have no fear; below, you can find some dinner ideas that, hopefully, you’ll love!

  • Mac and Cheese
    • The $1 microwavable mac and cheese cups are not only cheap but easy to have for dinner! Just pop your favorite brand’s cup in the microwave and you have dinner in front of you. Pair it with your salad and chicken and now you have a complete meal.
  • Salmon
    • Salmon is uber delicious! If you only have a microwave, it’s microwavable, too. Season your salmon in a microwavable plate (with cover is preferred) and then cook it for around 3 minutes and check if the center is cooked, then pop it in for another 2 minutes. If you have access to a stove, searing your salmon is the best way to cook it. You can add your salmon over instant mashed potatoes or your green salad.
  • Green Salad
    • Green salads don’t have to be complicated. At the grocery store, don’t forget to grab your favorite dressing and leafy greens. It’s easy to put together, just mix! If you want, you can add more mixins, but I usually pair my green salad with poultry or fish!
  • Eggplant/Chicken Parm
    • One of the best dinners I’d recommend is eggplant or chicken parm! It’s very easy to make, and it makes me feel luxurious whenever I cook it in my apartment.
  • Meatballs Over Noodles
    • Take frozen meatballs to the next level by putting them over noodles and sauce. It doesn’t have to be marinara sauce; what I do is I melt butter, add some salt, pepper, and parsley, and mix it all up.
  • Sheet Pan Potatoes/Loaded Baked Potato
    • You can either cut potatoes and bake them in the oven or wrap a whole potato with a wet paper towel and pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes or so until it’s tender. If you’re making sheet pan potatoes, make sure you season them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. For the loaded potatoes, add cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits!
  • Pesto Pasta
    • Pesto pasta is probably the easiest pasta to make. I buy a jar of pesto from the grocery store, boil a regular spaghetti, and mix it all up when I need a satiating dinner.

Related: 30 College Meal Prep Ideas Every Student Should Try

Snacks

  • Hummus
    • Hummus is my favorite dip! It’s perfect with pretzels or any chips, and sometimes with toasts. This is truly a perfect snack for a college student.
  • Popcorn
    • Make sure to add popcorn to your college grocery list, because it is a must-have! Very low calorie, but also indulgent enough. Perfect for movie watching or curing late-night hunger. My recommendation? SkinnyPop with salt or Popcornopolis’ Naked Popcorn.
  • Yogurt
    • If you are looking for a cold treat, then yogurt is the best snack! I recommend the Chobani Nonfat in blueberry! It’s truly a delicious snack.
  • Baby Carrots
    • I love snacking on baby carrots! With or without a ranch dip, it doesn’t matter. Baby carrots are so satisfying to chew, and it is the perfect snack for college students.
  • Trail Mix
    • If you love variety, then trail mix is the best snack for you. You can have it all, from nuts to chocolate, because a trail mix jar provides it all for you.
  • Cheese and Crackers
    • Another easy snack is cheese and crackers! It can be real cheese or the spreadable kind. When your next meal is not anytime soon, having this as a snack is amazing!
  • Grapes
    • Grapes are the best snack! They’re so easy to pack and don’t require any peeling.
  • Chips
    • The classic snack. I love a good chips moment, especially when it’s on the spicy side.

College Grocery List (for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks)

Now onto the best grocery list for college students:

Breakfast

  • Eggs
  • Loaf of Bread
  • Fruits (Bananas, Apples, Oranges, Blueberries, etc.)
  • Avocados
  • Protein Bars
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Instant Coffee + Creamer
  • Tortillas
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Spinach and Tomatoes
  • Yogurt
  • Frozen Pancakes/Waffles
  • Pancake Syrup
  • Sliced or Shredded Cheese
  • Instant Brown/White/Cauliflower Rice

Lunch

  • Leafy Greens
  • Salad Dressing
  • Croutons
  • Baguette/Sourdough Bread
  • Cold Cuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Relish
  • Pasta Noodles
  • Bottled Pasta Sauce
  • Frozen Pizza
  • Pre-made Salads
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Carrots
  • Quinoa or Couscous
  • Chickpeas
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken

Dinner

  • Frozen Salmon Fillets
  • Frozen Meatballs
  • Pesto
  • Microwavable Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Salad Bags
  • Canned Mushrooms
  • Hamburger Patties
  • Ground Pork, Beef, Turkey or Chicken
  • Canned Corn
  • Hot Dogs
  • Canned Onion Soup
  • Canned Cream of Mushroom Soup

Snacks

  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Hummus
  • Cubed/Slice Cheese
  • Trail Mix
  • Baby Carrots
  • Instant Ranch Dressing
  • Chips
  • Grapes
  • Crackers
  • Instant Ramen
  • Fruit Cups
  • Cookies

Check out this list so you can download, print, and cross off groceries as you shop!

Related: How to Live a Vegan Lifestyle as a Broke College Student

Essentials for Cooking

In order for your college meals to be a success, you’ll need more than just the best grocery list for college students! You will also need these essentials for cooking and making the best meals in your apartments or dorms.

Microwave

BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave Oven with Turntable Push-Button Door, Child Safety Lock, Stainless Steel, 0.9 Cu.ft

A good microwave is essential for a good college meal. If you are in a rush and can’t use or don’t have access to a stove, then a microwave is a perfect way to cook your meals.

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Mini Rice Cooker

Dash DRCM200BK Mini Rice Cooker Steamer with Removable Nonstick Pot, Keep Warm Function & Recipe Guide, Black

I use a rice cooker not only to cook my rice, but for the countless rice cooker fried rice and pasta recipes that the Internet has provided me with.


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Meal Prep Containers

EZ Prepa [20 Pack] 32oz 3 Compartment Meal Prep Containers with Lids - Bento Box

An important part of planning your college meals is meal prepping!

The grocery list for college students is just one step to convenience if you really don’t want to spend your time making food.

Save one day for grocery shopping and meal prepping. These containers will help with that!

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Knife Set with Blade Guards

Cuisinart C55-12PCKSAM 12 Piece Color Knife Set with Blade Guards (6 knives and 6 knife covers), Jewel - Amazon Exclusive

Good knives are important for slicing your ingredients! Make sure to get them with blade guards so they don’t rust, and for safety purposes, too!


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Multifunction Egg Boiler

Elite Gourmet EGC-007 Easy Electric 7 Egg Capacity Cooker, Poacher, Omelet Maker, Scrambled, Soft, Medium, Hard Boiled with Auto Shut-Off and Buzzer, BPA Free, White

This multifunction electric egg boiler is a godsend. It doesn’t only boil eggs for you; it can poach them, scramble them, and even make omelettes for you!

It’s really important for meals with eggs in them.


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Microwave Bowls

Cereal Bowls - 26 OZ Unbreakable Wheat straw Bowls For Kitchen-Eco Friendly Durable Pack Of 4 Lightweight Bowl Set-Microwavable and Dishwasher Safe-For Cereal, Rice, Noodle, Soup Bowls

If you’re going to be using the microwave, make sure that you have access to bowls that are microwave safe!

You don’t want a burning incident. Make sure all the bowls you use are microwave safe.


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Microwave Cover

Microwave Plate Cover,Microwave cover for food 11.5 Inch BPA Free Dishwasher Safe

To prevent splatter, make sure to get some microwave covers, too. This is perfect for cooking salmon because you don’t want the fish exposed to too much radiation.


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Electric Kettle

Cutting Board

Toaster

Resources

Phew! Grocery shopping and preparing meals in college is a lot of work, but it is a small price to pay for a good, cheap, and easy meal.

I also know that there are a lot of other factors to consider when making grocery lists as a college student like budgeting or organizing the products that you want to buy.

Plus, if it’s a really hard week like finals or midterms, there is simply no time to go to the grocery store, and even less time to prepare your meals.

While these extra things to consider might seem stressful, have no fear! You don’t have to do it all on your own.

  • Digit (Savings App)
    • One application that can help you save and monitor your spending habits is the Digit app. Digit lets you link your bank account to the app and analyzes your spending habits while helping you save money by putting whatever’s left (post-expenses) into a Digits savings account. I love that the application has a low balance protection option, because this gives me the power to control how low my checking account goes. This app is perfect for knowing how much to spend in the grocery store, as the app keeps track of the expenses and how much it subtracts from your checking account balance. Plus, if you want to save for your upcoming grocery trips and not go overboard with your personalized college-student grocery list, then you can inform Digit that you want to save for groceries! PS: If you sign up with our unique link, you’ll get $5 for FREE. 
  • Ibotta (Grocery Shopping App)
    • If you want to save while doing your grocery shopping, then the free Ibotta app is your friend! Ibotta has partnered with a lot of stores, from Walmart to Safeway, that can help you earn money for every purchase you make. One thing I love about this app is that it’s very simple to use; you pick the store where you want to do your shopping and find products on the Ibotta app with cashback options. Don’t lose the receipt, because you have to show the Ibotta app your proof of purchase before you get your money back! This is the perfect way to save money when grocery shopping.
  • $5 Meal Plan (Weekly Meal Planning Service)
    • Sometimes I find it hard to know what meals I am going to have for the week because I get too busy to even plan that out. If you are experiencing this, let the $5 Meal Plan, a weekly meal planning service, help. This meal planning service provides you with low-cost, easy-to-make meals for the whole week. The best part? You can try it for free for up to two weeks and then you pay $5/month to continue the service, which is not bad, especially if you think of the ease it will provide. This plan offers five dinner entrees with sides plus lunch and breakfast! What I absolutely love about the $5 Meal Plan is…drum roll please…it provides you with a grocery list and lists what meals are going to use the ingredients! No more taking minutes off your day writing down ingredients, just take a picture of the grocery list the plan provides and you are good to go. Check it out here.
  • Hello Fresh (Delivers Fresh Ingredients and Healthy Recipes to Customers)
    • If you really don’t have time to plan your meals and shop for the ingredients, which is totally me whenever it’s finals or midterms week, then HelloFresh can guarantee that you’re eating a hearty and delicious meal. What I love about HelloFresh is that I can pick what kind of food I prefer, from quick and easy meals to calorie smart! HelloFresh doesn’t only give you meal recipes, but they send the actual ingredients to you! Meaning? No more time-consuming grocery shopping, perfect for when you are grinding out a paper or cramming for an exam.

Related: How Diet Culture Can Harm College Students’ Relationship With Food

Main Takeaways

I hope this helps you when you next go to the grocery store! Remember, the key to having the best grocery list for college students is planning.

Know what meals you love to eat and tailor your shopping list to that. I’ve included some meal ideas above to get you started, but your options are limitless!

I simply think you’ll save a lot of time and money when you make meals at home.

As college students, going to the grocery store can be hard, especially if we are prioritizing other things, but meal planning and only going once a week can change our spending and eating habits.

If you really cannot make time for it, then the meal programs and apps above should help you. Happy grocery shopping!

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