By: Joely Zeng, Nutrition Peer Counselor, UC Davis Fitness and Wellness Center
As college students, finding the motivation and time to cook everyday can be a nightmare. Meal prep as you may know is a great option to solve this dilemma but do you ever think, how do I start? Or do you have an idea of what you want to cook for the week but are unsure of how to maximize your grocery shopping? Here are some tips on how to get started and to get the best bang for your buck.
- Plan Beforehand
Arrive at the grocery store with a plan in mind of what your menu is going to be. I always like to think that I can make up a menu on the spot if I see ingredients like on an episode of Chopped. But it ends up being a task that is unrealistic, time consuming, and can make you spend more, so stick to at least having an idea of what you would like to meal prep. Another method to save money is to think of or pick recipes where ingredients can overlap with other recipes. This means that you can either meal prep more than recipe or you can reuse the ingredients for a future recipe. Using seasonal produce in your menu for the week can also help cut down on costs as those ingredients are sold at cheaper prices because of large abundance.
- Make a List and Eat a Snack
Make a list of all the ingredients you need to purchase. I’ve definitely been a victim of going back to the same grocery store to grab an ingredient I forgot. Lists are not only satisfying to either check off or scratch off, but they’ll help prevent you from forgetting anything. Before you head out the door with your list also try to eat a snack. This will help you avoid buying extra snacks or foods you thought looked super appealing at the store. What’s even more dangerous is that when you’re hungry, the snacks or foods that are so attractive tend to also not be the healthiest like pizza or chips.
- Location Location Location!
Location is also something you should be thinking about when buying the ingredients on your list. Unfortunately not all grocery stores have the same pricing for ingredients. So let’s breakdown the available major supermarkets that you could possibly shop at in Davis and you can decide which one is the right one for you.
From my experience..
- Cheapest produce
- Great selection of prewashed and precut fruits/vegetables
- Raw meats & cheese are a bit pricier
- Missing name brand products
- Cheaper dairy products (i.e. cheese)
- Good selection of cheap sliced bread
- Cheap raw meats
- Produce is relatively cheap
- Expensive produce
- Has the most coupons/sales
- Convenience of being open 24/7
- Cheap produce, meats, snacks (basically everything)
- Best-by/ Expiration dates very near on most products
- Lack of variety
For the best results, mix and match to save the most money.
To be efficient and get the most bang for your buck, plan accordingly and go to the grocery that best fits the specific ingredients. In addition, show up at the grocery store not hungry with a prepared menu in mind and list in hand.