Grocery Shopping on a Student Budget

One of the best parts of the college experience is gaining more independence from your parents and family. I have always loved independence, but I’ve come to realize that basic tasks like cooking, cleaning, and money management can often seem quite daunting to college students. I constructed this post on Grocery Shopping on a Budget in the Lehigh Valley in hopes of helping students feel more comfortable with these adult like tasks!

Now for Muhlenberg students it’s often really easy to get used to eating in the dining hall every day. However, if you’re a foodie like me and enjoy cooking and have access to a kitchen, visit one of the nearby grocery stores. Start by incorporating one or two home-cooked meals into your weekly diet. Believe me when I say that the change in cuisine will be like a fresh of breath air after eating Sodexo meals about 20 times a week.

But now comes the daunting task of choosing where to go shopping and where to find the best deals. I used to have a lot of brand loyalty to the Wegmans franchise. Wegmans is located on Tilghman St. and is worth stepping into just for the sheer spectacle that is that store. As my parents’ friend Wes once said “Wegmans is like Disneyland.” Wegmans is also conveniently open 24/7, which is very useful when figuring shopping time into a busy college schedule. Wegmans has a prepared foods aisle (which I believe closes at around 8 pm most nights), a new full lined restaurant called The Pub at Wegmans, and a new beer section. All of these factors seem enticing and if you’re someone who likes getting lost and wandering through a grocery store, than Wegmans is the place for you. However, within the past six months I’ve noticed that my produce items do not stay as fresh at Wegmans as they do at other stores. This is especially true when it comes to fruit. During the summer, I would purchase strawberries that would go bad within a day of purchasing them, or were already somewhat bad on the day I bought them. If you’re looking for specialty Wegmans ingredients or frozen foods, I would suggest picking those up there, but things such as produce, meat, cereal, and bread can be found at a cheaper price at other stores in the area.

I started doing most of my shopping at Giant over the summer and during the fall semester. Like Wegmans, Giant is also open 24/7 and actually I recommend going and doing your shopping at Giant later at night. This will avoid lines and you’ll have way more space in the store to move as slowly or as quickly as you want. Giant’s produce seems to stay a bit more fresh than Wegmans and is a bit cheaper. I’ve also tried meat from their deli and frozen meat and it is just as good as any butcher shop. Like most stores you can get a Giant bonus card, which saves you a ton of money and rewards you with coupons for shopping at Giant. (You can also get one of these at Wegmans, but I still believe Giant is a bit cheaper).

There’s also Weis and the Super Target on Cedar Crest. I normally only buy dry foods at the Target on Cedar Crest and sometimes household items, if I’m running low. Weis’ prices are pretty similar to Giant, but I do feel that the aisles are a bit narrow in Weis and if you’re looking for a more spacious shopping experience maybe try Giant or Wegmans instead.

There’s also the Allentown Farmer’s Market which is open Thursday-Saturday. Here’s a trick I learned this summer. At about 4 pm on Saturday’s vendors will start lowering their prices on produce and other items that they would have to throw out anyway. This markdown goes on until they close at 6 and you can get some great deals during this time. My advice: Go to the Clover Farms butchery station and see if they’ll lower the price on a few patties. They have amazing stuffed burgers at this station! You can actually freeze them, thaw them, and cook at a later date. I have done this multiple times and grilled a burger on my George Foreman Grill. It cuts out a lot of the oil and you can feel like you’re having a barbeque way after summer has ended. Also be on the lookout for produce that looks fresh because the vendors are very generous with their prices at this point in the day.

Here are a few links to some recipes I’ve found on Pinterest that I think pertain to the college student’s budget and possible lack of cooking experience. Don’t worry if you’ve never cooked before! College is the time to get your feet wet and get as comfortable with these things before becoming an adult!

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