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Grocery shopping in college can be tricky. I grew up in a family of five, where Costco runs were frequent and there was hardly an occasion where I reached for the small shopping basket instead of the full-size cart. So when I lived off-campus during college and was faced with shopping and cooking for myself, I was completely lost.

I would always overdo it at the grocery store, loading up on huge amounts of produce that I was not only too broke to afford, but that I couldn’t possibly eat by myself before it would spoil. Plus, I never had a clue what to do with all of my groceries once I took them home (my recipe repertoire was entirely limited to pasta and frozen meals), so my food got used to sitting on my shelf, uneaten and neglected.

Dealing with grocery shopping and cooking in college doesn’t have to be so difficult, though. There are easy ways to get a lot out of your groceries without stretching your budget, or your waistline. Try out the following tips for how to shop and cook smart in college:

Keep your eyes smaller than your stomach

You may be used to shopping for your entire family, but shopping for one requires far fewer groceries. Think about what you realistically eat in a given week and don’t buy more than you need. Buying too many perishable foods means you’ll most likely end up wasting them—and wasting money.

Make big portions

One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to buy budget-friendly ingredients that can go a long way. Canned vegetables and frozen meats last a long time and can be added to all kinds of recipes, from chili to casseroles, which are meant to feed a crowd. Making dishes that lead to leftovers keeps you fed for a while and reduces the amount of money you’ll spend on groceries.

Choose ingredients intelligently

Eating healthy in college can seem impossible, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Simply be conscious of what exactly you’re putting into your cart. Instead of heading straight for the frozen pizza aisle when you grocery shop, choose whole wheat pizza dough and reduced-fat mozzarella. Or if you’re craving something meaty like tacos or chili, choose turkey over beef or pork for a lower fat option.

Stock up on basics

At the beginning of the school year, stock your pantry with basic items like canned tomatoes, spices, olive oil and sauces that are non-perishable and can be used in dozens of different recipes. Having a stocked pantry makes cooking quick weeknight meals incredibly easy, whether you’re in the mood for chicken, soup or pasta, and will help prevent last minute grocery runs.

This recipe for No Alarm Turkey Chili is a great one to have on hand for the chilly winter months when you just can’t bring yourself to leave your apartment or dorm. Make it on a lazy Sunday night for easy lunches or dinners for much of the following week!

No Alarm Turkey Chili from Manwich®

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 20 min
Serves: 4
Calories per Serving: 286

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 15-oz can Manwich® Original Sloppy Joe Sauce
1 8-oz can Hunt’s® Tomato Sauce-No Salt Added
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Cook your turkey in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 7 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink; stirring occasionally. Drain.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Top with sour cream, cheese, chopped green onions or sliced jalapeños, if desired.

Do you have any helpful tips for cooking or grocery shopping in college? Have a great apartment-friendly recipe you want to share? Let us know!

Meredith writes on behalf of Manwich®, whose budget-friendly sauces are perfect for easy college cooking. For Sloppy Joe recipes and other chili recipes, visit

Featured photo credit: Great Beyond via photopin cc