If you live in the residence halls, you likely have a small refrigerator that you can use to store a couple of things. And if you live off campus, you likely have a larger refrigerator -- but not much time to cook. So how can you craft a grocery list that will help curb late-night munchies while also providing value for your money and food for your tummy?
With a little pre-planning, making a college grocery list is much easier than it seems. Just make sure to include each of the following:
Things for breakfast that can be taken to go. Of course, it would be dreamy to have the time, energy, money, and ability to make a delicious breakfast every morning made of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and some fruit. But breakfast in college -- when and if it happens -- often looks much different, even though nearly everyone knows how important breakfast is. When grocery shopping, look for things that you like that can easily be taken to go. Consider buying granola bars, breakfast bars, yogurt, instant breakfasts, cereal that you can put in a bag, and other items that don't expire right away. Having breakfast may be a pain sometimes, but it can make all the difference in your energy level for the day. Having things that are tasty and easy to grab on your way out the door (and eat as you walk/bike/drive/ride the bus to class) will make it more likely that you'll at least get something in your stomach before the day begins.
Quick things that are easy to make for small meals or a snack. Things don't have to be fancy to fill you up, provide nutrition, and taste good. Think about what you like to eat for comfort food -- i.e., what makes you feel good emotionally -- as well as what you like to eat when it comes to taste. Items like macaroni and cheese (either made on the stove top or in the microwave), ramen noodles, and soup are college staples for a reason. They're cheap, easy to make, and fill you up. But there are lots of options within these seemingly-boring categories to help prevent you from getting bored with your options. For ramen, for example, remember that you don't always have to use the little seasoning pack that comes with them; you can sprinkle raw ramen noodles on a salad for some extra pep, cook them up with some butter and paremsan cheese, or add them to your favorite soup.
Healthy snacks that won't expire for a while. Wouldn't it be awesome to have fresh strawberries and cookies always available for snacks? Of course. Unfortunately, however, these kinds of products go bad pretty quickly -- meaning that you'll lose your afternoon munch while also losing the money you spent on it. When buying snacks, go for items that pack a punch nutritionally without expiring too soon. Consider things like whole-wheat crackers, cheese, nuts, trail mix, healthy chips, and natural popcorn. After all, eating a non-nutritious snack that leaves you hungry 20 minutes later is just a waste of time, money, and calories.
Perishable items that will last for at least a week. Even if you have a teeny tiny fridge in your residence hall, it's still a fridge, right? Treat yourself and your body to some healthy snacks that, although perishable, will last longer than just a few days. Baby carrots, apples, milk, yogurt, salsa (which should be refrigerated after being opened), and other fruits and vegetables are not only tasty but also a great option. You can use milk for your macaroni and cheese recipe or for cereal; baby carrots can be a snack on their own or even a nice side to your soup or sandwich. Buying perishable things can be smart if you know how to use each item in more than one way.
Tiny amounts of seasoning. Buying a very small salt and pepper set can be a lifesaver for sprucing things up. A bottle of Italian dressing will last a long time in your fridge and can be used as a dip for veggies or even, when used lightly, as a tasty topping on a sandwich. Other spicy sauces (sriracha, anyone?) and condiments (wasabi mayonnaise sound tasty?) can be added to various items to switch up the taste on a usually boring meal. After all, you don't need a full-fledged kitchen to experiment with new flavors, right? Having a few items on hand that can change the taste of a snack or dish can be an easy -- and inexpensive -- way to mix your menu up when things start to get boring.