Ultimate Poor College Student Grocery List and Meal Plans

Looking for a poor college student grocery list? Here are 3 inexpensive vegan, gluten-free, and no dietary restriction options plus shopping tips!

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Are you a college student in need of easy, affordable grocery shopping options and meal planning ideas? If so, then you’ve come to the right place for making healthy meals in your dorm room on a tight budget.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through formulating the ultimate grocery list and meal plan for poor college students! Healthy food is best make at home instead of relying on fast food.

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The Cheapest Ingredients at The Grocery Store

If you’re looking to save some cash on your weekly groceries, there are certain items that tend to be the cheapest.

These include staples like rice, pasta, eggs, canned beans and tomatoes, sweet potatoes, frozen vegetables, oats, bread, peanut butter, apples and bananas.

These ingredients are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes, from omelettes and stir-fries to burgers and tacos.

Additionally, these budget-friendly foods are typically nutrient-dense and can easily be combined with other ingredients for a tasty meal.

The key to keeping your grocery bill low is to buy in bulk when possible.

For example, buying a five pound bag of rice instead of four smaller bags will save you money in the long run. Similarly, buying a large container of peanut butter instead of a few small jars is more cost effective.

In addition to the above staples, be sure to check your local grocery store for any deals or discounts on items such as cheese, yogurt, and meat.

You may also want to keep an eye out for weekly sale flyers to look for the best prices on your favorite items.

By sticking to a budget-friendly grocery list and taking advantage of deals, you can easily keep your grocery bill low. With a little bit of planning and creativity, you can make meals that are both nutritious and delicious without breaking the bank!

grocery shopping

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you dread going grocery shopping. But, what if I told you that there are ways to make it more fun AND save money at the same time?

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to make a huge difference in your grocery budget.

As a college student, we don’t have a lot of money to work with. But there are some tricks to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

1. Let’s start by ditching the name brands and opt for store brands or generic options instead.

Trust me, they taste just as good and cost a fraction of the price.

The most expensive items are typically at eye level in the grocery store. So look up or down to find less expensive options.

2. Next up, don’t be afraid to stock up on sale items.

Yes, I know those BOGO deals can be overwhelming but think of it as an investment in your future meals. Especially if they are essential items you use frequently like oats or rice.

It can also be a good idea to price out various options. For example, you can probably save money making your own daily oatmeal instead of buying instant oatmeal. But if you don’t have the time and instant oatmeal is on sale, that might be a better investment.

3. Shop by what’s on sale.

If you were planning to do apples and peanut butter for snacks but almond butter is on sale for a few bucks cheaper, go with that instead.

4. Also, freeze anything and everything!

Certain meat cuts, veggies, fresh fruit, and bread can all be stored for up to a few months in the freezer. Think about it as an insurance policy against food waste.

Freezing food items is a great way to reduce food waste and get the most out of your ingredients. Many fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and other items freeze easily and can be stored for up to six months.

For example, you can chop up herbs like parsley, cilantro, or basil before freezing them in an airtight container so they won’t go bad.

You can also freeze extra portions for easy dinners at a later date.

5. Watch out for those expiration dates!

I cannot stress this enough – knowing when something is going to expire could help you save a lot of money in the long run.

I’ve seen expired items on the shelves at grocery stores all over the place. Don’t blindly trust that what’s on the shelf is still before its best by date. Double check every time.

6. Never shop when you’re hungry!

It’s easy to get swayed by all the delicious treats around but stocking up on too much junk food will make your budget go haywire.

It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry and your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Go after you’ve had a comfortable meal so you can stick exactly to your list.

7. Sign up for your grocery store’s app.

You can typically get coupons and even freebies from many stores. Plus, you might be able to find out what’s on sale before you even leave your house.

I recently saw some app deals that offered several dollars off fresh produce as well as BOGO deals that were not available without the app.

Even if your store doesn’t have an app, there’s a chance they still offer extra discounts to members.

8. Shop off campus.

Many grocery stores have cheaper prices than on-campus ones. Do a bit of research and you could save yourself some money.

Most stores on campus are catering to convenience for students. They charge premium prices because they know that most college students don’t have a choice unless they want to eat in the dining hall.

If you don’t have a meal plan and need to cook for yourself, this cheap grocery list and meal plan will leave you in a better place financially if you’re able to stop at an off-campus grocery store.

9. Make a grocery list and STICK TO IT.

Avoid the temptation of wandering down aisles you don’t need to be in and saying “oh, that looks yummy” when it’s not on your list.

The best way to do this is to refer to tip number 6 🙂 This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items that will leave you eating ramen noodles and granola bars for days in a row.

10. Stick to your budget.

No matter if your budget is $25 per week or $50, you can do your best to stick within your spending.

To make sure you have enough money for groceries, be conscious of your budget throughout the month. That means being mindful of how much you’re spending on eating out, entertainment, and other non-necessities.

Follow these tips and watch as your bank account balance stays healthy while your fridge and pantry stay stocked. Happy shopping!

food

Ultimate Poor College Student Grocery List and Meal Plan – No Dietary Restrictions

Here is a basic grocery list and 7-day meal plan for those with no dietary restrictions.

Exact pricing will depend on your grocery store but you’re most likely to get the best deals at places like Aldi and Trader Joes.

Grocery List:

  1. Rice
  2. Pasta
  3. Eggs
  4. Chicken (whole or boneless, skinless breasts)
  5. Ground beef or turkey
  6. Canned beans (such as black beans or chickpeas)
  7. Canned tomatoes (diced or crushed)
  8. Onion
  9. Garlic
  10. Carrots
  11. Potatoes
  12. Frozen vegetables (such as peas, corn, or mixed vegetables)
  13. Oats
  14. Milk (or plant-based alternative)
  15. Bread
  16. Peanut butter
  17. Apples
  18. Bananas
  19. Yogurt
  20. Cheese (block or shredded)

7-Day Meal Plan:

Here’s an inexpensive grocery list and a 7-day meal plan based on the items from the list above.

The list includes versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes throughout the week.

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey.
  • Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with a side of tomato soup (made using canned tomatoes).
  • Dinner: Baked chicken breast with roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with toast and a side of sliced apples.
  • Lunch: Pasta with tomato sauce (made using canned tomatoes) and a side salad.
  • Dinner: Ground beef (or turkey) tacos with black beans and sautéed onions.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana sandwich.
  • Lunch: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry served over rice.
  • Dinner: Baked potato topped with chili (made with ground beef or turkey) and cheese.

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt with sliced apples and a sprinkle of granola.
  • Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich with carrot sticks on the side.
  • Dinner: Spaghetti with meatballs (made with ground beef or turkey) and a side salad.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Omelette with diced onions, peppers, and cheese.
  • Lunch: Chickpea salad (canned chickpeas, diced onion, and diced carrots) served over a bed of lettuce.
  • Dinner: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry served over rice.

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes with sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey.
  • Lunch: Baked chicken breast with steamed vegetables and a side of rice.
  • Dinner: Pasta with tomato sauce (made using canned tomatoes) and a side salad.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: Toast with scrambled eggs and a side of sliced apples.
  • Lunch: Turkey (or beef) burger with a side of sweet potato fries.
  • Dinner: Bean and vegetable soup (made with canned beans, diced onions, and frozen vegetables) served with bread.

Feel free to adjust the meal plan based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Additionally, you can use the remaining ingredients to create additional meals or snacks throughout the week.

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Ultimate Poor College Student Grocery List and Meal Plan: Gluten-Free

Here’s an inexpensive gluten-free grocery list and a 7-day meal plan based on those items.

Gluten-free products can sometimes be more expensive, so I focused on budget-friendly options.

Remember to always check labels for gluten-free certifications and cross-contamination risks.

Gluten-Free Grocery List:

  1. Brown Rice or White Rice
  2. Quinoa
  3. Lentils
  4. Eggs
  5. Chicken (whole or boneless, skinless breasts)
  6. Ground turkey or lean ground beef
  7. Canned beans (such as black beans or chickpeas)
  8. Canned tomatoes (diced or crushed)
  9. Onion
  10. Garlic
  11. Carrots
  12. Potatoes
  13. Frozen vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, or mixed vegetables)
  14. Oats (labeled gluten-free)
  15. Almond milk (or plant-based alternative)
  16. Gluten-free bread or wraps
  17. Peanut butter (check for gluten-free certification)
  18. Apples
  19. Bananas
  20. Greek yogurt (check for gluten-free certification)
  21. Cheese (block or shredded, check for gluten-free certification)

7-Day Gluten-Free Meal Plan:

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Quinoa porridge with sliced apples and cinnamon.
  • Lunch: Chicken salad lettuce wraps with a side of carrot sticks.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and gluten-free toast.
  • Lunch: Lentil soup with a side salad.
  • Dinner: Turkey or beef tacos in gluten-free corn tortillas, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with sliced bananas and gluten-free granola.
  • Lunch: Quinoa salad with mixed vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette.
  • Dinner: Baked chicken breast with quinoa and roasted carrots.

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Gluten-free oatmeal with berries and almond milk.
  • Lunch: Lentil and vegetable stir-fry served over rice.
  • Dinner: Baked sweet potato topped with black beans, salsa, and shredded cheese.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Almond butter and banana smoothie (made with almond milk and a frozen banana).
  • Lunch: Greek salad with grilled chicken.
  • Dinner: Gluten-free spaghetti with homemade meatballs (using ground turkey or beef) and marinara sauce.

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Gluten-free pancakes with a side of sliced apples.
  • Lunch: Chicken and vegetable stir-fry served over gluten-free rice noodles.
  • Dinner: Lentil curry with rice and steamed broccoli.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: Vegetable omelette with gluten-free toast.
  • Lunch: Turkey or beef burger on a gluten-free bun, served with sweet potato fries.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables.

Feel free to customize the meal plan based on your preferences and dietary needs.

You can also use the remaining ingredients to create additional meals and snacks throughout the week.

Always double-check food labels to ensure they are gluten-free.

poor college student grocery list

Ultimate Poor College Student Grocery List and Meal Plan: Vegan/Vegetarian

Here’s an inexpensive vegan grocery shopping list and a 7-day meal plan based on those items.

This list includes affordable plant-based ingredients that can be used to create a variety of delicious vegan meals.

Vegan Grocery Shopping List:

  1. Rice (white or brown)
  2. Pasta (check for egg-free varieties)
  3. Lentils (green, red, or brown)
  4. Canned beans (such as black beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans)
  5. Canned tomatoes (diced or crushed)
  6. Onion
  7. Peppers
  8. Carrots
  9. Potatoes
  10. Frozen vegetables (such as peas, corn, or mixed vegetables)
  11. Oats
  12. Plant-based milk (such as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk)
  13. Bread (check for vegan certification)
  14. Peanut butter or almond butter
  15. Apples
  16. Bananas
  17. Spinach or kale
  18. Tofu or tempeh
  19. Nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor)
  20. Vegan sour cream
  21. Chia seeds

7-Day Vegan Meal Plan:

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with sliced bananas and a drizzle of peanut butter.
  • Lunch: Lentil and vegetable soup with a side of bread.
  • Dinner: Stir-fried tofu with rice and steamed vegetables.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Vegan banana pancakes with a side of fresh berries.
  • Lunch: Chickpea salad sandwich with a side of carrot sticks.
  • Dinner: Spaghetti with marinara sauce (made with canned tomatoes) and sautéed vegetables.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie (spinach or kale, banana, plant-based milk, and a spoonful of peanut butter).
  • Lunch: Tofu or tempeh stir-fry with mixed vegetables and served over rice.
  • Dinner: Baked sweet potato topped with black beans, salsa, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Vegan scrambled tofu with diced onions, peppers, and spinach.
  • Lunch: Lentil curry with rice and naan bread.
  • Dinner: Pasta with tomato sauce (made with canned tomatoes) and a side salad.

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Toast with avocado slices and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
  • Lunch: Quinoa salad with mixed vegetables and a lemon-tahini dressing.
  • Dinner: Vegan chili with beans and diced vegetables, served with a side of cornbread.

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Overnight chia pudding with almond milk and topped with sliced fruit.
  • Lunch: Baked falafel in a whole wheat pita pocket, with lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini sauce.
  • Dinner: Rice and vegetable stir-fry with tofu or tempeh.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: Vegan yogurt with granola and fresh berries.
  • Lunch: Vegan sushi rolls filled with avocado, cucumber, and tofu.
  • Dinner: Baked potatoes topped with sautéed vegetables and a dollop of vegan sour cream.

Feel free to modify the meal plan according to your preferences and dietary needs. Use the remaining ingredients to create snacks or additional easy meals throughout the week.

smoothie bowl

20 Easy Snack Ideas for College Students

These snack ideas are simple to prepare, budget-friendly, and provide a mix of nutrients to keep you energized throughout the day.

Feel free to customize them based on your preferences and dietary restrictions.

  1. Popcorn (air-popped or microwave)
  2. Veggie sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers) with hummus
  3. Rice cakes with peanut butter or almond butter
  4. Trail mix (nuts, dried fruits, and seeds)
  5. Greek yogurt with granola or fresh fruits
  6. Apple slices with peanut butter
  7. Homemade energy balls (made with oats, nut butter, and sweeteners like honey or maple syrup)
  8. Toasted whole wheat pita bread with guacamole or salsa
  9. Homemade smoothies (blend frozen fruits, plant-based milk, and a sweetener like honey or dates)
  10. Roasted chickpeas
  11. Sliced cucumbers with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice
  12. Hard-boiled eggs
  13. Mini quesadillas (tortillas with melted cheese and optional fillings like beans or veggies)
  14. Homemade granola bars (made with oats, nuts, seeds, and sweeteners)
  15. Cottage cheese with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey
  16. Baked sweet potato fries
  17. Greek yogurt parfaits with layers of granola and fresh berries
  18. Mini bagels with cream cheese or avocado spread
  19. Frozen grapes or berries
  20. Mini sandwiches with whole wheat bread, sliced deli meat or tofu, and veggies.
  21. Cheese sticks

These different options are all great picks that are filling a healthier option than greasy dining hall food. And they should still fit within your food budget!

Final Thoughts on a Poor College Student Grocery List

Having a well-stocked pantry and meal plan is key for college students on a student budget. With the right ingredients, you can create healthy and delicious meals without breaking the bank.

This list includes affordable items that can be used to make a variety of meals throughout the week. Whether you’re following a gluten-free or vegan diet, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Always double-check food labels and check for certifications when buying gluten-free and vegan products. This will ensure that your meals are safe to eat and free of any unwanted allergens.

Happy shopping!

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.

Website: genthirty.com