Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
There’s no need to be a starving student while getting an education if you stock your food pantry with budget-friendly staples
I’ve been a student at University, and both times I had a stocked food pantry to stop me from eating out, which is a huge waste of money for any student.
You may or may not be a student or have a child off to College or University.
If yes, spend 10 minutes reading this post about cooking and living independently away from the family home.
It’s one thing to be social and another to be lazy in the kitchen if you can cook at home.
Begin With A Grocery Budget
I had many friends who considered themselves starving students only because most of their student budget went to booze, partying, and eating fast food.
That’s a surefire way to starve your budget and your tummy of nutritious food.
I’ve learned throughout my student years that you can eat decent meals at home and kick the fast-food habits many students take on when they leave school.
First, you need a student budget; this will be the one financial tool that will save you from a lifetime of unwanted debt.
If your food budget is tight, visit your local food bank or check 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.
A typical food pantry may be a free-standing spare cupboard in the kitchen or a walk-in food pantry (our dream), or a built-in food pantry cupboard.
You may have a cold room to stock food and other products like ours.
Your refrigerator and freezer may also be included in your food pantry stock-up list.
Your food pantry will differ 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 you can mix and match with your favourite meals or staples to most recipes.
Think of your food pantry as your wardrobe.
Make-Shift Cupboard Space
For the student who doesn’t have a spare cupboard, refrigerator space, or freezer space, you can do what we did when renting.
Use a box high off the ground to prevent 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.
When my refrigerator broke down in the UK, I remember using a cooler and sitting it on the back deck in the winter.
The snow kept it cold, but you may attract outdoor friends with this, so keep that in mind.
I’m sorry, let me get my nose out from inside your cart
I’m a grocery cart geek because I’m nosey and check out what other people buy.
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 the semester is full.
Mistakes I Wish I Never Made
I will share The first two tips with you, which I learned quickly 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 that 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 global problem, so being mindful of what you buy is imperative.
How do you do this? You plan your meals.
Meal Planning Tips
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.
Pass this valuable parenting lesson to your children because you want them to eat healthy and encourage home cooking.
Not every college or university student stays in residence where a full or partial meal plan is part of the housing package.
That means you need to buckle down and get organized if you can’t afford a meal plan because they are costly or have moved off campus.
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 at the grocery store and for everything in daily life.
Life only gets hectic from this point, moving forward.
Writing a list keeps things organized between studying, part-time work, and those with a family.
Once you figure out how much your grocery budget should be, you will be tasked with creating a simple student meal plan.
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 better understand what you want.
You must 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)
Save Using Flyers, Coupons, and Apps
Working with weekly sale flyers and coupon apps to create a standard grocery list will give you the frugal edge to find deals and keep costs low.
The cool thing about using apps like Flipp is that you can also create a shopping list on your phone.
If you’re anything like my wife, she always loses our grocery list, 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.
Source Foods That Work For You
Forget about all the impulsive food-crazed diets in the celebrity world and keep things fresh, healthy, and simple for the win.
You’ll spend more money if you are chasing food for the perfect body than if you invest in a way of eating that suits your body.
I often get emails from students who ask me what products they should 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 double the price of crisps.
Splurge, you deserve it.
You can still eat healthily and enjoy your favourite snacks in moderation; however, 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 start 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 the school has you tied to your desk, try to take a break and go grocery shopping.
Use click-and-collect orders, then pick up the groceries from select Loblaws stores.
Do online grocery shopping with delivery, or visit any 24-hour grocery stores.
Keep in mind these convenience services come with small fees.
Top 30 Products to Stock Your Food Pantry
I’m giving options, allowing you to decide your needs based on diet, lifestyle, and budget.
These are just foods that I would stock in my food pantry as a student to 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.
Pantry Food Product Must-Have (Non-Refrigerated)
- 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 easily make homemade hummus.
- Spices *Buy all your favourites to flavour your meals *including sugars, garlic, and chicken broth. Check out my free printable spice list.
- 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
- Yogurt, Kiefer
- Pickles, Olives, Hot pepper rings, marinated vegetables.
Freezer Pantry Food Must-Have (Frozen)
- Frozen Fruits
- Frozen Vegetables
- Wraps/Pita/Tortillas/Bread/English muffins/Flat Bread
- 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.
Watch For Sales
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 you can spend more on must-have products that rarely go on sale.
Must-Have Flashfood App For All Students
The Flashfood app allows users to save up to 75% off the retail price of products near expiry.
We save loads of money yearly on almost everything at Loblaws stores, including No Frills and Zehrs.
Use my referral code, MOCD28ZN4, to get the $3 credit, and your first purchase must be over $15.
From the start, I will tell you that if you buy reduced products, sign up for the Flashfood app now.
A user can only be a referee once; the $15 minimum must be made in a single transaction
You can read my full review of the Flashfood app here.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post, where I will talk about what appliances and kitchenware are essentials for the student kitchen and where you can find them cheap!!
Discussion: What other must-have food pantry items would you suggest to cook healthy basic meals for students?
Please leave me your comments below.
Thanks for reading,
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.
August Grocery Game Posts
- What every grocery store clerk wants customers to know (Last post for July)
Free Money-Saving Tools
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 paper and pen will do the trick.
Click, Save, and Print. It’s that easy!
This budget brought us to debt freedom in 2013, and now I’m offering it to all of you for FREE.
We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.
Don’t pay someone for these services; I’ve done the work for you, along with some help from other amazing bloggers.
You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel.
Grab it while you can, as 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 created to get us on track to reach 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 our family budget spreadsheet.
So many free resources at your fingertips.
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
Everything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE guide that has taken over 4 years to create.
The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing, with new informative money-saving posts added every month.
Even if you don’t live in Canada, some excellent budget-saving tips 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 struggle 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 Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
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)
- 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
Below is the breakdown of the groceries we purchased this week.
- 1 x Sealtest Milk $4.27
- 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 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 staples we found on sale.
We have to pick up a giant bag of Swiss chard this week that was given to us, which 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
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons!
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 and is the most popular hang-out spot for Canadians who want to save money on groceries.
If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016, prepare to look at your grocery budget by learning…
- How much money are you saving every month?
- Where are you spending money?
- How much money are you spending?
If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada, check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide!
You’ve decided to take control of your grocery budget.
Now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!