Grocery stores can be overwhelming. Between fad diets, TikTok influencers and their food diaries and people throwing around fancy diet terms, it can be hard to know what you should actually get while you’re food shopping.
I started doing the grocery shopping for my family as a teenager; I wanted to help my mom out and lessen her load. Almost five years later, I like to think of myself as an established grocer. OK, not really, but I do know what every college student should have inside their dorms or in their personally labeled snack cabinet at home.
If you know me, you know I love oats. Oats are the most versatile food in my pantry. They can be used for breakfast, lunch and even dessert.
Buying a container of old-fashioned oats should be at the top of your list when you go to the store. My favorite way to use them is in overnight oats. Grab your favorite milk, sweetener and fruit of choice. Throw these in a mason jar with the oats, stir it up and then refrigerate overnight and they’re good to go.
Eggs are a great way to add protein to meals, especially if you’re vegetarian. I have eggs almost every morning, but I also like to add eggs in fried rice, ramen and I even eat them hard-boiled as a quick snack. The best way to enjoy them is with Everything But The Bagel Seasoning and nutritional yeast.
3. Nut Butter
One of the most underused things in most pantries is nut butter. Typically, people use it once for a recipe or to satisfy a random PB&J craving and then they shove it to the back of the cabinet until it goes bad.
Nut butters are a great way to get in healthy fats to keep you sustained for long days of work and classes. I use nut butter in my smoothies, toast, oatmeal and even salad dressing. I make pesto noodles with cashew butter and use peanut butter to make a spring roll dipping sauce.
The possibilities for these butters are endless, which is why you must find a great one to throw in your shopping cart. The best nut butters have few ingredients, so look for ones that don’t have any preservatives. If you want a flavored one, look to the brand RX for delicious, protein-packed varieties.
4. Frozen fruits and vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables often get a bad reputation, as if they’re not as healthy as their fresh counterparts. That’s just factually wrong. Frozen produce is just as healthy. In fact, they freeze the produce at peak freshness, so you are getting the very best of that product.
Buying fruits and vegetables already frozen not only saves you time and money but also limits waste because they last for so long. My favorite frozen fruits and vegetables are from Trader Joe’s. They make great varieties: some plain and some with seasoning or sauces. They even make different packs that are for specific dishes like a stir fry or fajitas. The one I use the most is the cauliflower stir fry. It’s a simple, easy dinner that I top with protein and is ready in 10 minutes.
5. Pre-cooked rice
Rice is one of the more complicated grains to nail when cooking it. It’s either too soupy or bone dry and sticks to the bottom of your pot. To stop these mishaps before they happen, buy precooked rice from your grocery store.
At Costco, Seeds of Change makes a great garlic, rice and quinoa blend. It comes in a large box and it’s great to split as an expense with your roommates. Trader Joe’s also has easily prepared and portioned bags of white rice. These packs are great for the days you have no inspiration, or for when you just want to pour a bag of rice in a bowl and eat it while watching “Grey’s Anatomy” all day.
Now that you have a basis for your grocery list, it’s time to start meal planning. With the basics listed here, the possibilities are endless. I know it can be overwhelming but take it one week at a time. Until the next bite.