You may or may not be a student but if your child is off to College or University don’t pass on the opportunity for them to spend 10 minutes reading this post about cooking and living independently away from the family home.
I’ve been a student in University twice in my life and both times I made sure to have a stocked food pantry to stop me from eating out which is a HUGE waste of money for any student. It’s one thing to be social and another to be lazy in the kitchen if you are able to cook at home.
I had many friends who considered themselves the starving student only because most of their student budget went to booze, partying and eating fast food. That’s a sure-fire way to starve your budget and your tummy of nutritious food.
What I’ve learned throughout my frugal student years in the kitchen may serve as a handy reminder that you CAN eat decent meals at home and kick the fast-food habits many students take on when they move away for school.
First off you need a student budget and trust me when I say this will be the one financial tool that will save you from a life-time of unwanted debt.
If you find that your food budget is extremely tight don’t be shy to visit your local food bank or check to see if your school has an on campus food bank to get you through tough times.
Food Pantry 101- Stack it, Store it, Eat it
What do I consider a food pantry?
A food pantry is exactly what it sounds like an area where you stock food. Many may consider this to be non-perishables and others like myself will consider non-perishable refrigerated and frozen foods.
A typical food pantry may be a spare cupboard in the kitchen which is free-standing or a walk-in food pantry (our dream), a built in food pantry cupboard. If you’re like us you may have a cold-room where you can stock food and other products as well. Your refrigerator and freezer may also be included in your food pantry stock up list.
Your food pantry will be different from your parents who likely will have double or triple the amount of products. Feeding more mouths and living in a permanent residence will add significantly more to your food pantry.
Related: Help Stock My Pantry
For the single student keep your food pantry simple and stock foods that you can mix and match with your favourite meals or that are staples to most recipes. Think of your food pantry like your wardrobe.
For the student who doesn’t have a spare cupboard, refrigerator space, freezer space then you can do what we did when we were renting and used a box that was high off the ground to prevent any pests from getting inside the food. You can also use a large cooler which you can pick up at most second-hand shops or for around $20 at most retail stores.
Back in the UK when my refrigerator broke down I remember using a cooler and sat it on the back deck in the winter. The snow kept it cold but with this you may attract outdoor friends so keep that in mind.
I’m sorry let me get my nose out from inside your cart
I’m a grocery cart geek in the sense that I’m nosey and check out what other people are buying. If you see some goofball checking out what’s in your cart who happens to have a British accent, don’t be shy and say hello Mr.CBB.
We live in a large University and College city and the grocery stores are flooded with students, every day when semester is in full-swing.
The first two tips I will share with you both of which I learned fairly quick by making mistakes.
- Don’t get a shopping cart
- Don’t buy more food than you can eat that is perishable
If you’re cooking for one you won’t need a massive shopping cart which only encourages shoppers to fill it up. Stick with the shopping basket and you’re guaranteed to keep costs low and only buy the food you will eat. Food waste is a huge problem across the globe so being mindful of what you buy is imperative.
How do you do this? You plan your meals. If you’re moving away to school for the first time grocery shopping and meal planning may be a new concept for you or you’ve had some training from your parents.
Related: Meal Planning 101
With school only a month away I encourage parents out there who haven’t taught their adult children how to grocery shop to make plans to do so. This is such a valuable parenting lesson that you can pass on to your children because you want them to eat healthy meals and encourage home cooking.
Not every student when attending college or university stays in residence where a full or partial meal plan is part of the housing package. That means if you don’t have a meal plan because you can’t afford one as they are costly or have moved off campus you need to buckle down and get organized.
Live by the list
I’m writing this post before the start of the school year to motivate parents and students to cross this chore off the list.
Grocery shopping is a task that most people don’t care to take on which only leads to eating out often or spending more money than needed.
No more forgetting anything!!
Using a list will help you not only at the grocery store but for everything in daily life. Life only gets hectic from this point moving forward. Between studying, part-time work and for those who have a family writing a list keeps things organized.
Once you figure how much your grocery budget should be you will be armed with the task of creating a simple student meal plan with delicious meals that you can make with limited time. Studying and student life is a big deal and the last thing you want is to be stuck in a kitchen cooking and cleaning.
Once you decide what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. You have to make cooking fun so switching up your favourite recipes is key to meal planning. If you need recipe ideas Pinterest is loaded with them and the perfect place to PIN your favourite recipes for later.
Related: Canadian Budget Binder Recipe Index (Awesome frugal recipes you should check out)
Working with weekly sale flyers and coupon apps to create a standard grocery list will also give you the frugal edge to find deals and keep costs low. The cool thing about using apps such as Flipp is that you can also create a shopping list on your phone. If you’re anything like my wife she loses our grocery list all the time but she’s old-fashioned and likes her paper list.
Related: Where to find Coupons in Canada
You will probably surprise your peers with your vast amount of grocery store knowledge and how to keep things simple, fresh and cheap in the kitchen. Most of all, delicious.
Find foods that work for you
Forget about all the crazy food craze diets out in the world of celebrity and keep things fresh, healthy and simple for the win. You’ll end up spending more money if you are chasing food for the perfect body than you will if you invest in a way of eating that suits your body.
I often get emails from students who ask me what products should they stock in their food pantry to create meals apart from the obvious.
Foods such as granola bars, fruit roll-ups, protein bars and other snack-related/meal replacement items aren’t part of the pantry stock up idea.
Those foods are called Student-Survival-Foods or emergency food when you’re on the run or late for class. I used to stock up on my favourite snacks so I wasn’t running to the corner shop buying a bag of crisps that were double the price.
Splurge you deserve it
You can still eat healthy and enjoy your favourite snacks in moderation BUT they are not considered a full meal.
Today I want to focus on specific food pantry products that worked for my diet. They may not work for your way of eating however the idea of this post is to get you started on building a food pantry that will work for you.
Once you have key recipe basics in stock you can then create any of your favourite meals as long as you have your vegetables and proteins ready to go.
If school has you tied to your desk try to take a break and go grocery shopping. If you just can’t get away there are other options. If you drive you can click and collect order and pick up your groceries from select Loblaws stores, online grocery shopping with delivery or hit up the 24-hour grocery store.
Top 30 Products to Stock Your Food Pantry
Must-Have Pantry Food Products (Non-Refrigerated)
Note that I’m giving options and you don’t need to have each one of them depending on your diet and way of eating. These are just foods that I would stock in my food pantry as a student so I could cook meals that I loved at home. Remember to keep your food pantry simple and consistent so you are rotating stock and keeping meals interesting.
- Whole-grain Cereal/Instant-Oatmeal (sugar-reduced), Steel cut oats, Large Flake Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat etc.
- Raisins and Nuts- Cashew, Peanuts, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Hemp hearts, Sunflower Seeds, Dried Fruits etc.
- Beans (all kinds- Dry is cheaper (use crock-pot to hydrate fast) Chickpeas, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Tahini Paste *You can make an awesome hummus very easy
- Spices *Buy all your favourites to flavour your meals *including sugars, garlic, chicken broth
- Flours- All-purpose, Whole Wheat, Flax Meal/Flour, Almond Flour etc.
- Oils- Extra Virgin, Coconut Oil, Walnut oil, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil, Vegetable Oil, Cooking spray etc.
- Honey/Peanut Butter/Almond Butter/ Sunflower seed butter etc.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder and other baking basics, Vanilla extract, chocolate chips, marshmallows, jello, cooked instant pudding/custards, Baking powder, Baking soda, Corn Starch
- Whole Wheat Pasta, Cous-Cous, Brown Rice, White Rice, Wild Rice, Quinoa etc.
- Canned foods- Tomatoes, Pizza Sauce, vegetables and fruit, olives, mushrooms, tomato paste etc.
- Vinegar- White, Apple Cider, Wine Vinegar, Rice Wine Vinegar, lemon juice, Lime Juice etc.
Must-Have Refrigerated Pantry Food (Refrigerated)
- Milk/Coconut Milk/Almond Milk (Your favourites)
- Eggs/Egg Substitutes
- Cheese (any) Cheddar, Ricotta, Feta, Brie etc.
- Fresh fruits/vegetables
- Condiments (pick your favourite most-used only) Mayo, Ketchup, Mustard, BBQ Sauce etc.
- Deli Meats/Bacon/Rotisserie Chickens Pre-cooked or buy your own
- Pickles, Olives, Hot pepper rings, marinated vegetables.
Must-Have Freezer Pantry Food (Frozen)
- Frozen Fruits
- Frozen Vegetables
- Wraps/Pita/Tortillas/Bread/English muffins/Flat Breads
- Hotdogs or Veggie Dogs
- Sausages or Vegetarian option
- Minced Beef/Pork/Lamb/Chicken/Turkey or Vegetarian Mince
- Frozen egg cartons (these are great because you can defrost them and use them as needed)
- Other cuts of meat- Pork Chops, Chicken Breast, Turkey Breast, Ribs, Chicken Wings
- You can freeze fresh ginger
Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for blow-out prices, reduced prices and in-store specials. These will help stretch your grocery budget so that you can spend a bit more on must-have products that rarely go on sale.
Stay tuned for next weeks blog post where I’m going to talk about what appliances and kitchen ware are essentials for the student kitchen PLUS.. where you can find them cheap!!
What other must-have food pantry items would you suggest to cook healthy basic meals for students?
August Grocery Game Challenge
Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy.
New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10 Canadian. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.
Congratulations to Ballot #8 belonging to Angela M for winning the July Grocery Game Challenge! Please email me your address so I can send you your PC Financial Gift Card. Well done!
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.
August Grocery Game Posts
- What every grocery store clerk wants customers to know (Last post for July)
Free Money Saving Tools 2016
I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.
You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.
CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016
The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.
Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.
Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.
The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
2016 Grocery Shop Results
Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00-$40.93=$194.07
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $194.07
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $60
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 248,000
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
- Shoppers Optimum: Just under 850,000 Optimum points (I will update this twice a year)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00-$40.93=$194.07
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Zweet to cash out : $18.25
- Checkout51 to cash out : $22.00
Our Grocery Shop This Week
- 1 x Sealtest Milk $4.27
- 4 x Philadelphia Cream Cheese $2.49 ea
- Kale $1.99
- Broccoli $1.99
Total Out-of-pocket $18.12
- 6 x Selection Mozzarella and Old Cheddar $3.88 450g (Stockpile)
- Avocado Bag of 5 $2.88
- Bananas $1.80
- Green Zucchini $1.90
- Bottle of Aurora Strained tomatoes $0.99
- Hothouse Tomatoes $1.76
- 4 x Astro coconut Yogurt $1.99 ea
- Cinnamon $1.29
- Apple Cider Vinegar $2.99
Total Out-of-pocket $21.57
- Total to spend this month : $194.07 $235.00-$40.93 overage from July
- Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00
- Stockpile budget used this month: $23.88
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $15.36
- Total in-store discounts this week:$
- Total in-store discounts to date: $402.65
- Total spent this week: $39.69
- Total spent so far this month: $39.69
- Total over/Under spend this shop: under
- Total over/Under spend for the month: under
- Total left to spend for the month: $154.38
- Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95 + Feb $249.46 + March $211.11 + April $248.11 + May $279.07 + June $231.96 + July $244.40 + Aug $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
This week was mostly about stocking up our food pantry with some staples we found on sale. We have to pick up a giant bag of Swiss chard this week that was given to us so that will add to the vegetables once we get that. I might even freeze it if there’s too much. Any good Swiss Chard recipes out there? How was your shopping week?
Coupons and Coupon Apps 2016
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!
Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!
- Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
- Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
- Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
- MySavings.com Printable Smart Source Coupons
- Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
- Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
- Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from Save.ca, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.
Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
- Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
- Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site Save.ca that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do. This is why the grocery game challenge was created back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.
If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to look at your grocery budget by learning…
- Where you are spending money
- How much money you are spending
- How much money you are saving every month
If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!
Please Note: Some of the links in the body of the blog post are affiliate links which means I may get paid if you buy something from Amazon. The items I’ve chosen are products we use at home or similar to.
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