When you live at home and have your parents cooking for you, you don’t really understand how expensive food can be. Coming to college and having to do your own cooking and grocery shopping can be a huge wake-up call. On my first shopping trip, I spent $125 and didn’t even buy that much. In this post, I’ll dish out some tips on how to make your meals last longer, and how to shop smart. IMG_3720

As always, paying attention to what’s on sale and things you have coupons for is the best way to plan what you’re going to buy for the week. I always stock up on chicken breast when they’re on sale. The best tactic for this is to grab some freezer bags and divide the meat into one meal portions, that way you get it at a lower price and don’t have to use it all at once. I also look at what I can pair it with. Baked chicken five nights in a row will get boring. If pasta sauce is on sale I’ll make chicken parmesan, if barbecue sauce is on sale I’ll do some baked barbecue chicken. It’s best to plan before you go to the store to avoid over or under-buying.

Another great thing is to use one ingredient for multiple meals. Buying a whole rotisserie chicken can stretch out to make meals for a few days. On the first day you can just have some straight off the bone, then take the rest of the meat off and make chicken salad, or use it for shredded chicken quesadillas. This is one purchase that could feed you for a week. If you buy something like a pork tenderloin or big cut of steak, you can do the same thing. Shredded pork tacos, or chop up the steak and make a good stir fry. Since proteins are the most expensive thing on your shopping list, it’s best to make sure they last a long time.

One of the biggest money savers is making sure your food doesn’t go bad. Did you know zucchinis only last a few days? I didn’t and ended up having to buy more because mine went to waste. Storing your food properly will help you save so much money. Learning how to properly store fruits and veggies so they don’t go bad is super helpful. Also, you can freeze almost anything. So if there’s a sale on bagels and you want to stock up, you can put the other packs in the freezer so they don’t go bad, and still have enough to last you a while. Investing in something in good plastic containers and Ziploc bags that are freezer friendly will help you in the long run.

Don’t be afraid of big box stores like Costco and Sam’s club.  They just opened a Sam’s in the new Butler Plaza on Archer, which also has a gas station. While you do have to have a membership for stores like these, it basically pays for itself in the long run.

Food is expensive, there’s no way around that, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Designate a journal or note in your phone to have your shopping list, and read those weekly flyers religiously. Good luck and shop smart!