How to Grocery Shop For Your First Apartment

empty pantryAfter unpacking, a trip to the grocery is usually the second step to getting settled in your new apartment. If this is your first time stocking a pantry, a refrigerator or cleaning supplies for where you are living, it can be daunting. It is important to go to the store with a game plan, especially if you are paying for your grocery bill or need to stay within a budget. No need to be intimidated, this guide will help you know where to get started.

Before you go to the grocery store it is a good idea to make a list of the meals and snacks that you would like to eat and to decide how frequent your grocery shopping visits will be. This will ensure that your shopping trips more efficient and reduce impulse purchases. For example, if you go once a week to the grocery store, then pick around seven meals for that week and include on your list all the ingredients needed to make each dish. Consider adding a variety of homecooked and ready-to-eat meal options to allow for the varying amounts of time you will likely have for making meals. If you’re stumped on meal ideas or simply new to cooking altogether, check out this list of 75 recipes for college students.

A few tips for your list are:

  • When you’re cooking for one, never underestimate the power of leftovers! When you’re backed up with schoolwork last night’s spaghetti is a lifesaver. 
  • Have quick lunch options and grab-and-go snacks available for in-between class eating. This could be a smoothie, protein bar, a classic PB&J or even a premade salad mix. 
  • Never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach! Your stomach will do the decision making.
  • Try overlapping ingredients in your meals to stay in budget and to reduce food waste. 

Below are a few lists of the essentials to help you stock your apartment and guide you on your first grocery haul. It may be a good idea to start small until you have a better idea of your schedule and what meals work for you. 


Pantry & Non-Perishable Items

Non-perishable items are definitely something to keep on hand. They can be a staple to many meals and will always be there when the fridge items are long gone. 

  • Pasta and pasta sauce 
  • Rice (minute microwavable rice is a must!)
  • Bread
  • Canned vegetables
  • Root vegetables (sweet potato, onion, garlic) 
  • Soup 
  • Peanut butter (or any kind of nutbutter)
  • Jelly
  • Chips/Crackers
  • On-the-go snacks (granola bars, nuts, fruit snacks) 
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Basic spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, onion powder)
  • Oil (vegetable, olive, or avocado oils are good options)
  • Condiments (ketchup, mayo, dressings, etc.)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Ziplock bags
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towels 
  • Tupperware
  • Storage containers/organizers


Refrigerated Items/Fresh Produce:

  • Fruit (some can even be stored in pantry, counter or bedroom)
  • Vegetables (carrots and cucumber are great for snacking)
  • Salad (salad kits are delicious and come with everything you need)
  • Meat of choice (just throw it in the freezer if you don’t cook it before the expiration date)
  • Deli meat
  • Yogurt
  • Milk of choice 
  • Eggs 
  • Cheeses
  • Butter
  • Dips (salsa, hummus, tzatziki)
  • Brita 

Freezer Items:

  • Veggies (try a stir fry mix for an easy meal)
  • Microwavable meals 
  • Smoothie fruit mixes 
  • Easy sides (tater tots, fries, roasted veggies)


Essential Cleaning Supplies:

Before buying everything to clean the house, check in with your roommates to see what they’re bringing!

  • Toilet brush, plunger, and toilet bowl cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaner (look for a multipurpose cleaner that can clean countertops and showers)
  • Laundry detergent and spot stain remover
  • Dish soap and dishwasher detergent 
  • Dish sponge
  • Broom
  • Trash bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal toiletry items


Grocery Stores Near Campus

GreenWise Market: 625 W Gaines St (0.2 miles from FSU)

Whether you’re looking for a hot buffet or a sushi bar, GreenWise has it all! GreenWise Market is the perfect place for you to do groceries if you value a variety of organic, natural, and specialty groceries. It is a bit pricier, so keep that in mind. 


Whole Foods Market: 1817 Thomasville Rd (2.5 miles from FSU)

Similar to GreenWise, Whole Foods Market is an amalgamation of all things healthy! Not only do they have organic foods but they also have a large variety of environmentally friendly products for everyday life. 


Publix: 1700 N Monroe St (1.9 miles from FSU) and 800 Ocala Rd (1.8 miles from FSU)

If you are a Southern native – you know the drill. Publix is Florida’s most popularly shopped grocery store. Here in Tallahassee, there are two Publix’s you should be aware of – Monroe St and Ocala Rd. Although Ocala Rd is closer to campus, the extra 5 minute drive to Monroe St may be worth it. The Publix on Ocala Rd is where most FSU students buy their groceries due to the proximity to campus, therefore it isn’t uncommon to have products out of stock at that site. 


Trader Joes: 3425 Thomasville Rd (5.7 miles from FSU)

Although it’s a bit farther away from campus, Trader Joes is a hot commodity here at Florida State. This grocery store is known for its healthy options that are extremely affordable. Their frozen meals are delicious and great to expand your taste palate! It gets super packed, especially on the weekends. I suggest picking a lot traffic day like Tuesday or Thursday to shop. 


Walmart: 4400 W Tennessee St (4.3 miles from FSU)

Walmart is a great place to find affordable and diverse selection of groceries. If you are looking to buy bulk groceries- like snacks- Walmart is the place for you! 

Target: 1861 W Tennessee St (1.3 miles from FSU) and 2120 Apalachee Pkwy (3.6 miles from FSU)

Wherever you are coming from, you have probably heard of Target! Similar to Walmart, Target is a great place to buy snacks in bulk. If you are thinking about buying groceries at Target, I recommend going to the Target at 2120 Apalachee Pky because the one closer to campus is significantly smaller and does not have many food options.  

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