Many parents ask me, "LaVonda, how do you shop for groceries when you have such a large number of people in your family?" My answer is always a giggle. I take quite a bit of pride in my 21 years of shopping for groceries for my family. In those 21 years, I've couponed, compared prices, used price-match at Wal-Mart, and scoured sale ads looking for the "best" deal. But what I really learned through those 21 years is this...
Shopping for groceries is just like shopping for anything else. You have to prepare and budget. You wouldn't just walk into the nearest department store and buy a flat screen TV or new pair of kicks just for the sake of buying them. So why would you do the same with the meals you eat?
The store has one goal: get your money. They'll use every marketing tactic known to man on ways of persuading you to buy, buy, buy. When you do, you feel good for a minute, and then the new is worn off and you are left there looking like a sucker! I've been there - 21 years worth of times. It's a horrible feeling and you feel remorse (for me, nearly immediately), and you swear to everything holy you'll never do it again, only to turn around in a week or two and guess what... you've done it again.
But then I had an epiphany! I thought about my kids and their super ninja skills (they are my heros afterall!). What if I looked at everything, including food, as not a chore or task, but as a way of protecting my health and my wallet - a money managing ninja! What if I could shop specifically for "just what I needed to make a meal" and nothing more? What if I could set a budget AND stick to it.
So far, my grocery bill for a family of five has dropped from almost $680 a month to $412. Well, it could go lower if I had a garden, but that is another post entirely!
What does this have to do with college? Well, everything! As new college students, their level of responsibility has increased significantly. Not only are they responsible for their classes and homework, grades and GPAs, but they are also becoming more finanically responsible. One way to tame the spending beast is to utilize a level of organization that isn't really *knew*, but is certainly applicable to this post!
For example, by making a meal plan for the week, you are already setting yourself up for success! With a well-planned weekly menu, you are aware of what you going to need for each meal. From there, you shop at local grocery stores (NOT WALMART) for your groceries.
Now, let me say that I'm not against Wal-Mart in general. They are an excellent location for buying household goods, and yes, they do sometimes have good sales, but in general, you can save so much more by shopping at locations such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and farmer's markets.
Here is a sample of what our families weekly meal plan looks like. Keep in mind, I'm feeding 5 people. Your college student would only be feeding one, and if done properly, can get healthy meals without splurging on take-out every night of the week.
While some of these items might be a little difficult to prepare in a dorm room, there are options for making a meal plan that would allow your college student to eat healthy on a tight budget. Consider the following meal plan, when purchased at Aldi (for example) and the relative costs associated with it:
Now, that might seem like a lot for just three days... but its more than three days!
One box of protein bars is 6 bars! That's SIX breakfasts.
One box of breakfast sandwiches typically has 4 sandwiches - there's 4 more breakfasts!
One bag of granola ceral usually has 6 servings - there's six more breakfasts.
Now that you can see the savings, you may be asking, how do I make sure I only get what I'll need and not end up the victim of those darn marketing tactics grocery stores and supermarkets use to entice me?
My answer is simple.
After a few trips, you'll begin to familiarize yourself with the cost of other items and can begin to change up your meal plan.
But every now and then, you are going to want to splurge and carb up on some unhealthy food! And that is perfectly ok. My suggestion for making this happen is exactly this:
Each time you finish grocery shopping and are under your grocery budget for the week, put the leftover budget money in a jar. Add to it each time you are under your budget and before long, you'll have saved enough money to splurge on that double pepperoni, extra cheese pizza WITHOUT affecting your weekly grocery budget!
Mom's and Dad's, talk to your college student about being a responsible shopper and curb those random spending habits. Become a Ninja at protecting your wallet and your grocery budget. Encourage them to take their grocery budget and make the most of it by stretching that dollar as far as it can possibly go!
Welcome! My name is LaVonda. I am the wife of Rodney, the mom of 5 remarkable kids (well, 2 are adults now), an avid homeschooler, blogger, and sociologist. I am blessed with the ability to spend my time sharing our homeschool and life experiences with you. It is my hope to provide you with motivation, ideas, and some candid stress-relief through my blog - Mom's Scribe! Grab a cup of coffee, sit on down, and make yourself at home!