School Resources

The Ultimate College Student Grocery List



Last Updated: Feb 25, 2022

Whether you live in dorms on campus, share a house with many friends, or live in your childhood bedroom and commute to campus, having food on hand is a must. To help you out, we’ve rounded up some essential grocery items for college students.

Having a mini-fridge is a lifesaver. You can fill it with the foods you love without having to worry about fellow students taking your personal stash of Ben & Jerry’s. Plastic bins with lids are another must-have. They keep everything clean and organized.

College student grocery list: drinks

Stay hydrated and energized! Keep a variety of these beverages on hand all year long:

1. Premade Smoothies

Set of various fresh fruit smoothies isolated on white background.

Grab-and-go smoothies are perfect when you’re on the go and don’t have room for a blender and fresh fruit.

2. Water

Pure water is a must-have, hands down. Mix things up with some flavored water or pick up some water enhancers for bottled water.

3. Energy drinks

Give your body an instant boost with energy drinks. Pick up some bottles of energy drinks along with some powder packets that you can keep in your bag and add to water when you’re out and about.

4. Instant coffee

A staple for night owls, instant coffee is not only a hot drink; it’s fuel. In dorms without a coffee machine, the powdered variety is the next best thing.

5. Soda

For those late nights writing papers or prepping for exams, carbonated caffeine is a must. Stretch your student budget by purchasing bulk packs of soda to get the same great taste with a lower price tag.

6. Protein shakes

Protein powder and measuring scoop on a white background. Usually mixed with water or milk as a nutritional supplement.

Protein shakes are a delicious way to get the energy you need to get through the day. These come in many delicious flavors and are convenient to make it through even the longest days.

Pro tip: Use part of a protein shake as creamer in your coffee. Not only ups the nutrition but adds the creamy flavor of your choice.

7. Hot chocolate

This nostalgic winter drink is available in convenient packages and tastes good year-round. And if you do have a blender, use it to make frozen hot chocolate! Not a fan of instant mixes? Buy ingredients for a DIY cocoa mix and store them in an airtight container.

College student grocery list: snacks and side dishes

Keeping a selection of these dorm food staples on hand will help you save time and money. Need to stay in the library researching until midnight? A granola bar and squeeze packet of almond butter will get you through:

1. Snack crackers

These days there are a lot of different varieties of snack crackers. Not only are there many different flavors, but there are also different brands. Buy in larger quantities and bag them up into portions yourself. You’ll save more money.

2. Nut butter

Almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter: these are staples in every dorm room. Along with a long shelf life, nut butter is great for making delicious snacks. Get a burst of protein by putting it on rice cakes, making a traditional PB&J, or just eating it by the spoonful.

3. Single-serve chips and cookies

You can get cookies, chips, snack mixes, and many other foods in single-serve packages.

4. Instant noodles

instant noodles in cup, japanese fast food.

When people think of dorm room food, they usually think of Ramen noodles. And it is for a good reason: they are inexpensive and easy to make. Make them “extra” by adding veggies and meat if you’ve got access to a kitchen.

5. Instant mashed potatoes

When you miss your parent’s cooking but don’t have your own kitchen, instant mashed potatoes are the next best thing. They come in a variety of flavors and usually only need hot water to make.

6. Pasta noodles

With a simple hot plate and pot, making pasta is easy to serve up a hearty meal. Pasta noodles also have a long shelf life, so buy various flavors, so you always have an option on hand.

7. Soups

Soups, either from a can or in instant form, are convenient and delicious.

8. Canned fruits

Fruits in jars and cans make nutritious snacks or desserts. Put canned fruit in smoothies, in your instant oatmeal, on ice cream, or eat as-is.

9. Granola bars

set of granola bars (muesli or cereal bar) isolated on white

These are great energy boosters and can be taken anywhere. Buy large variety packs of granola bars and toss some in your backpack and keep some in your car for those times when hunger unexpectedly strikes.

10. Instant rice

For a quick and easy meal sidekick, instant rice has got your back. Make some up and stir fry it with eggs, or eat it by itself.

11. Popcorn

Perfect for movie and board game nights, popcorn cooks up in just minutes and is the perfect late-night snack for when you have the munchies.

12. Trail mix

A completely customizable snack that gives an energy boost, trail mix is great to have in the fridge. Mix your favorite nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and sweet treats and bag them up into healthy portion sizes.

College student grocery list: refrigerated goods

Even if you have a tiny dorm-sized fridge, you can pack a lot in there, so you always have food handy:

1. Packs of cheese

It’s nice to have some packs of cheese on hand. You can eat them straight from the package, use them in a grilled cheese, roll them up with a slice of deli meat.

2. Yogurt

Stock your fridge with a variety of containers of yogurt for a snack. Alternatively, eat it with granola, oatmeal, or fruit for a filling meal.

3. Bagels and cream cheese

Having a stash of bagels and cream cheese offers so many options. Eat them cold, warm them up, add some cheese and deli meat, or whatever suits your mood. The options are practically endless.

4. Deli meats

assorted sliced meat

Place deli meats on sliced bread or bagels, roll up the slices and eat as-is when you need some extra protein.

5. Hummus

For a quick and filling meal, keep hummus and crackers or pre-cut fresh veggies on hand.

College student grocery list: frozen foods

Frozen foods offer maximum convenience while being cheaper and healthier than their fast-food counterparts. Here are some things you should stock up on, as freezer space allows:

1. Frozen dinners

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to cook. The convenience of frozen dinners, burritos, and pizzas means students can get a balanced meal in very little time.

2. Frozen juice

Buying juice in the supermarket can be pricy, and it has an expiration date. By buying frozen juice concentrate, you not only save time, but you don’t need to worry about finishing it before it expires.

3. Breakfast foods

Waffle Peanut Butter Sandwich

Waffles, pancakes, biscuits, danishes, and other frozen breakfast foods can be made easily in a toaster oven or microwave. Keep a few different options so you can skip the cafeteria for breakfast or those late-night cravings.

Get your college food essentials delivered to your door!

Are you exhausted from packing and moving and want to veg out on the sofa and watch Netflix rather than go grocery shopping? No worries, we’ve got you covered. An Instacart shopper can help you out and deliver your groceries to your door, so you can focus on the important stuff, like studying!



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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