If there’s one thing that’s almost consistently on my mind, it’s food. I love it. Eating it, cooking it, buying it, reading about it… the whole shebang. Something I learned quickly and quite brutally upon moving out from my family, however, is that a constant supply of good food is a luxury. It turns out that a) being a student, and b) cooking for one doesn’t come at a cheap price. No longer are the days when I could simply toss smoked salmon and various containers of berries and quinoa into the grocery cart while at Costco with my mom. Food no longer restocks itself, and stir-fries don’t magically appear. I’m now on my own; I’m an independent woman who can do my own damn grocery shopping! Here’s what I’ve learned in my various penny-pinching market trips:

  • Buy dried goods in bulk. Three boxes of whole-wheat pasta for $4? Yes, please! With seven servings per box, that gives me twenty-one servings for less than 20 cents a pop.
  • Something you love is on sale? Bulk it up. Yes that means you, you beautiful single servings of Greek yogurt. As long as you know you can eat through it all before the expiration date, you’re golden.
  • Eating healthily doesn’t mean eating expensively. While I will admit to splurging on avocados and cheese every once in a while, the majority of my food is dirt-cheap. Sweet potatoes, seasonal produce, canned chickpeas, and brown rice are all packed with nutrients and cost much less than $1 per serving.
  • Become a regular at your local grocery store. Making weekly visits means a continuous supply of fresh produce. Also be sure to sign up for the rewards program and scour the weekly circular for deals.
  • BYOB: Bring your own bag. Not only is this beneficial to the environment (which should be your primary objective), but in some states there’s a fee for brown or plastic bags.

Want some inspiration? Here are some dishes I’ve made that all cost me less than $3 per serving.

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Sweet Potato Sandwich (serves 1)


  • 2 slices wheat bread
  • 1/3 sliced sweet potato
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 oz feta cheese
  • Leaf of kale
  • 2 tbsp hummus

Coat the sweet potato slices in the oil and roast them for 15 minutes at 400-degree heat. Then top the (toasted) bread with hummus, kale, feta, and sweet potato.

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Grilled peaches with yogurt (serves 1)


  • 1 large, ripe peach
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 single serving container plain greek yogurt
  • Optional: a sprinkle of powdered sugar and 1 tbsp sliced almonds

Cut the peach into circular slices, coat with olive oil, and grill until there are visible char marks. Serve them atop the yogurt with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and almonds for added texture and sweetness.

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