An Awesome Grocery List for College Students on a Budget

Did you know the average cost of food for a month as a college student is $667? For a lot of college students that is how much their rent is! When you’re intentional about your college student budget for groceries, you can get that number much lower. Lucky for you, we have the perfect basic grocery list for college students on a budget. 

Student shopping for groceries.

When thinking about college costs, your grocery bill usually doesn’t come to mind until your stomach starts rumbling. Budgeting for your groceries, while you’re in college, can be difficult because you’re on your own for the first time and you have the freedom to get everything you want from the store. Chips? Add them to the cart! Chicken tenders? Add those too! Reality settles in quickly when you get to the checkout line and your grocery bill is double your weekly food budget. That’s okay, we’ve got you covered.

Healthy Grocery List for College Students on a Budget

Canned Goods

Canned goods are a great start to your essential grocery list as a college student on a budget. They have a long shelf life and there are a variety of canned goods you can choose from. Here are some of our favorites that are college student budget-friendly and are staple items for everyone! 

  • Green Beans
  • Corn
  • Kidney Beans
  • Canned Soup
  • Black Beans
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Tuna
  • Chili
  • Broth


You may be thinking that buying meat on a poor college student’s grocery budget isn’t the smartest, but there are many ways to get good cuts of meat without having to sacrifice it! Here are some of our favorite meats to use while in college.

  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Chicken Breast
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Turkey
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Tilapia 
  • Cod
  • Pork Loin
  • Pork Shoulder
  • Deli Meat
  • Frozen Meatballs


Buying produce can be tricky, especially if it always goes bad in your fridge or on the countertop. To ensure you get the best bang for your buck, use what is in season and try to find produce that is frozen and ready to cook! Here are some of our favorite produce items to add to your cheap grocery list for a broke college student.

  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Berries
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini 
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes

Other food products

To make a filling and healthy meal, you might need to buy other items. So add these favorites to your organized grocery list. 

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Pasta Sauce 
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Variety of Spices 
  • Bread
  • Bagels
  • Pizza Dough
  • Peanut butter
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Fruit Cups
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Instant Noodles
  • Rice Cakes

Stretch Your Budget By Reducing What You Waste

Once you have all your groceries, it’s important to actually use them. It is easier said than done but a lot of college students will buy groceries and end up eating out for the entire week. They lose money on groceries AND on the food they buy when they’re out. Buy ingredients that will go together in multiple meals and don’t buy ingredients to use for just a single meal, this will help you limit your food waste. For example, you can make chicken and mushroom pasta with a jar of pasta sauce. If you have leftover mushrooms, you can use them in an omelet for breakfast in the morning with other ingredients you have! At the end of the week, try to use your leftover groceries so you can get all your money’s worth of food. 

If you are all set on the grocery list but don’t know where to start on the cooking, don’t be nervous! Everyone learns how to cook somehow so give yourself some grace when you’re trying certain healthy recipes. You can always fail but make sure that you’re cooking your meats to a safe temperature to eat! You can find recipes in cookbooks specifically written for college students, and on Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube. Before you know it, you’ll have a regular set of recipes you go through during the week that you actually like to eat and are easy to make. 


Making a healthy grocery list for college students on a budget may seem impossible, but we’re here to show you that it is possible! Try local markets for produce, and budget grocery stores, and look at the weekly ads to see what’s on sale. Look for low-budget snacks that are on sale so you can have your favorite foods without going over the budget. When you’re intentional about what you’re buying at the grocery store, you can stick to your budget. Never go to the store hungry, otherwise, you’ll drift off of your list and go after what you want at the moment. Make a list at the beginning of each week and create a meal plan so you know exactly what to buy! Happy shopping!


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.