Ultimate Grocery List for College Apartments

Moving to an apartment during college is very exciting. It gives you a lot of freedom and privacy. But, when you just move in, it can be challenging to get started preparing meals. As a college student, I first struggled to stay on a budget with my living expenses because I was not used to cooking. But once I got organized and started meal prepping, I was able to stay on budget. Now that I am a recent college grad, I would like to share some grocery shopping tips and the full grocery list below.

Build a smart grocery list for your college apartment

Grocery List Tips

  • Plan and make a list: Every week, you could go to the supermarket and just go through each aisle and randomly select items that you need. However, that unplanned approach is inefficient. You will take a long time to go through the whole store. Also, you will most likely buy too much as an impulse and end up wasting food. Instead, plan ahead and make a list with a broad idea of a meal plan for the week.
  • Set goals: When you buy groceries, you can set up lifestyle goals. Maybe you can attempt to eat healthier this semester. Or perhaps you want to avoid the daily sugary drinks you get on-campus and instead brew your own coffee or tea. If you have any resolution in regards to your health or culinary abilities, adapt your grocery list to fit your goals. It will help you stay motivated!
  • Make a budget: Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Many grocery list items can be replaced for cheaper options. Then, you should adapt your shopping to your budget.
  • Survey your kitchen: Do a quick run through your kitchen before you finalize your list. It will help you make sure you are not missing anything and avoid duplicates.
  • Try pick-up (or delivery) options: Pick-up grocery options have helped me reduce costs and never miss an item. I open my grocery pick-up app and add to my list as I run out of groceries. Then I drive in and pick up the right amount of groceries. If you have a car, consider scheduling a free grocery pick-up order. With this approach, you can save time, money, and leave anything behind.

The Grocery List for College Apartment


  • Bread/bagels (add a smear if you buy bagels)
  • Sandwich meat
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cereal
  • Granola
  • Frozen fruit for smoothies
  • Orange/cranberry juice
  • Bacon


  • Sides
    • Rice
    • Potatoes
    • Frozen veggies bags (easy prep in the microwave)
    • Quinoa
    • Tortillas or wraps
  • Main course
    • Frozen pizza
    • Salad mix: add tuna or chicken for protein
    • Pasta and pasta sauce
    • Rotisserie chicken
    • Your choice of meat: chicken, beef, fish, etc


  • Dry fruits
  • Chips and salsa
  • Seasonal fruits: try to pick fruits that will last a long time to prevent spoilage
  • Hummus and pita
  • Pudding
  • Jello
  • Easy sandwiches: Bread + PB&J, canned tuna or canned chicken
  • Celery and Carrots + Ranch (or other dressing)
  • An assortment of tea and coffee
  • Popcorn


Do not forget to buy the cooking basics below to stock up a mini pantry. An inexpensive store to purchase the basics below is the dollar store. There, you can find seasoning and spices for just a dollar.

  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices
  • Condiments
  • Oil
  • Salad dressing
  • Sugar
  • Baking Soda
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Non-stick spray

Why Grocery Shop?

College is costly. And the expenses do not only come from tuition but also your daily living costs. As a college student, I was always trying to keep my costs low. I found an affordable apartment to rent and took advantage of all the university perks: gym, career fairs, conference travel funding, free food events, etc.

Within my living costs, the largest expense was always rent. Then, the second-largest item was food: groceries and eating out. Buying groceries and making my own meals helped me a lot during college. As a college student, you should consider buying groceries and cooking for a few reasons

  • It is economical: You can reduce your food expenses substantially when you prepare your meals. Any snack or meal on-campus is overpriced.
  • It is healthy: If you pay close attention to the nutritional facts or calorie count in restaurant meals, you will notice most of the time they are not healthy at all. Even if your grocery list is not all fresh products, you still have better chances to have a balanced diet.
  • It will improve your focus: Hunting for food every day when you are on campus is time-consuming. I remember during college group projects, sometimes we will be in the library for hours, skip meals, and lose focus. Bringing a few snacks can save your day and keep you concentrated.

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