Over 40% of UMass undergraduate students live off-campus. For many of these students, the decision to move from a dorm to an apartment comes down to finances. Living off-campus saves students money by subtracting housing, and possibly a meal plan, from their University bill.
At first, the off-campus lifestyle seems ideal: no dorm rules, no RA to answer to, being able to take a shower with bare feet and having a kitchen with all the amenities. Much to students’ dismay, reality sets in when it comes to eating.
If your motivation was to save money by moving off-campus, y0u probably reduced or completely did away with your meal plan. This means you need to plan, shop, cook and clean in order to feed yourself. Each of these tasks takes time, something that is very valuable to college students.
If you are trying to maintain a diet and eat healthy, there is one thing you should keep in mind while planning and shopping for meals: shop outside the grocery aisles.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid the aisles and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store:
- That’s where all the fresh foods are. In most grocery stores, the produce, deli, meat, dairy, organic and fresh bread sections are on the outskirts of the store. The less you find yourself in the central aisles of the grocery store, the healthier your shopping trip will be.
- The outside aisles have (almost) everything you need. The only times you should dip into the center aisles is when you are looking for nut butters, dried fruits, dried beans, rice, whole-wheat pasta or canned vegetables. Other center aisle staples include baking products, cooking oils or fiberous breads and cereals. Many of these products can also be found in the organic section (for a higher price), or in the self-serve section where you pay by the pound.
- Discover new foods. By focusing your attention on shopping just the perimeter of the grocery store, you will be more likely to try new, healthy foods. My favorite grocery store find is the Stop & Shop self-serve section I mentioned above (other stores have this as well). First, I discovered the amazing, low-fat, low-sugar granola in this section–but soon began to experiment by buying the other foods offered there (i.e. rice, quinoa, whole nuts, etc.).
- Avoid tempting snacks. Sticking to the outskirts of the store will help you avoid any impulse snack buys. Another tip to avoid purchasing salty or sugary snacks, is to never go shopping on an empty stomach.
Shopping the outskirts of the grocery store will keep your diet in check, but could increase your total at check-out. Remember that produce can get expensive, so buy fruits and veggies when they are in season. Another way to save money, and in turn support the local economy is by shopping at the local farmers markets. Check what is in season an meal plan around that list.
Moving off-campus can be a hassle when it comes to planning meals, shopping, cooking and cleaning. However, once you master shopping outside the aisles your wallet and waistline will thank you.