Teens Turning Green Blog

Conscious Grocery Shopping on a College Budget

Yes. It’s Possible.

IMG_6348We live in a society where cost drives consumer decisions. But the true cost of food is its massive impact on human health and the environment. College students tend to live on a tight budget. Most of the money we earn is saved up to pay tuition, leaving very little for food, books, gas, entertainment and life in general! But a tight budget doesn’t have to mean compromising your personal health and well-being, or that of our planet. I shop at my local Whole Foods Market Upper Arlington store right near my campus in Columbus and here’s why: Whole Foods ensures safe ingredients and supports local farms and animal welfare. Plus, I know I can purchase fresh, local, organic, sustainable, non-GMO products there that live up to their stringent quality standards. (visit your local WFM or green grocer)

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
Anna Lappé

Grocery shopping as a student is an art, especially after a long winter break. You have a lot to buy for the limited amount of money you have to spend after the holidays. So you better hit up Walmart, right? WRONG! When students make purchasing decisions that are just based on cost, they forget the power that their dollar holds. As a consumer demographic that food purveyors want to win over, it’s up to us to shift their purchasing power to make sustainable food the norm.

With a little strategizing, your shopping list can make both your body and wallet happy. Here’s how:

1. Make a list. Students often walk into a grocery store, peruse the aisles and pick out what looks good to them at that moment. With “the list” you are much less likely to make impulse purchases and just stick with what you need.

2. Break your list into categories. This will help you stay organized in the grocery store, and cut back on time!

3. Buy seasonal. Learn what  fruits and vegetables fruits and veggies are in season where you live.  Those items are likely to be less expensive and sustainably grown. They will also have a lighter carbon footprint since they didn’t have to travel far to reach you!

4. Cut down on meat. Another way to spend less is to limit yourself to just one red and one white meat choice per trip. Try to stay away from pre-packaged, pre sliced, or processed meat

5. Make one meal that keeps on giving. Buy ingredients for one dish that you can prepare a large quantity of and store leftovers in the fridge for additional meals or snacks. Whole Food’s “Meals for Four Under $15” pamphlet, which is available in their stores (or check out their recipes online!) This pamphlet features five complete meals with ingredients and directions. Whole Foods puts out a new pamphlet with all new meals each week! As a single student, a meal for four can last almost an entire week.  so these pamphlets allow me to eat several meals for less than $15 each week!, You can also pick up their “Whole Deal” coupon booklet for savings on many items. You can adapt your shopping list based on coupons that are available that week. Where ever you shop, look for specials, coupons, and best deals to make your money go as far as it can.

IMG_6350 IMG_6351 (2)

One other really impactful change you can make on your grocery trips is to consider going zero waste. Instead of recycling your empty glass salsa or pasta sauce jars, rinse them out and reuse them to fill with nuts, trail mix, quinoa, sugar or whatever bulk items you may need. This is the perfect way to get as little or much as you want, with absolutely no excess packaging and you save resources and money! Here’s a tip for bulk shopping: when you bring any type of empty jar to the cash register, they weigh it and write the tare (weight) on the lid so that you are charged only for the bulk contents inside the jar.

“The most important way to save money while buying organic is buying in bulk.”

“The most important way to save money while buying organic is buying in bulk,” says Tiffany Dixon, the marketing team leader at Whole Foods Upper Arlington.  Dixon says to “Be careful about shopping for food that is already prepared. Here, we hire the best chefs to prepare the highest quality food, but that means we need to sell that food at a price that will provide enough profit for our chefs. So buying individual ingredients and cooking at home will save you lots.” Tiffany also suggests looking for the Whole Foods 365 brand, an organic product line with prices that are competitive with conventional alternatives.

It takes time, planning, and commitment, but in the long run your body, farmers and the environment will thank you.


This blog post was written by a guest blogger-

Megan Fuerst

Fuerst is a Sophomore at The Ohio State University and President of the TTG Student Advisory Board.

This entry was published on January 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm and is filed under Eat, Inspiration, People + Places. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Conscious Grocery Shopping on a College Budget

  1. Pingback: 2 Living On A Budget |

  2. Great idea for online shopping grocery food… Thanks for sharing this blog.

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