Building the Perfect Grocery List

Maybe it’s my own horrible indecisiveness and inability to think on the spot, but I need to make a list for everything I do. Homework? List for that. Meals I want to try? List for that. Story ideas? List for that. Movies I want to watch? List for that. Future baby names? List for that. You get the point. So, it only makes sense that here I am writing about one of the most classic lists: the grocery list.

If you’re anything like me, going to the grocery store can be kind of overwhelming. It can be hard to strategically buy everything you need without realizing half way through making dinner that you forgot to pick up onions or that you completely neglected to buy anything for breakfast.

So, without further ado, the perfect grocery list:


Fruits are a great way to incorporate some healthy sweetness into your diet, and nothing makes you feel ready to take on the day than fresh fruit for breakfast, whether it’s whole or blended into a smoothie. Some of my favorites are strawberries and bananas, and it doesn’t hurt to buy some frozen fruit like a big bag of mixed berries if you’re worried about it going bad. Canned mandarin oranges and pears also make great additions to your pantry and have an eternal shelf life.


Not to sound like your mom, but eating vegetables is so important. When shopping for vegetables, it’s important to grab some that you actually like and will work for different meals/recipes. Buying versatile veggies are key to grocery shopping in college. Here are some ideas for some pretty versatile veggies:

- Spinach: can be used in a green smoothie, salad, curry or pasta

- Broccoli: can be baked and seasoned, put in salads raw, steamed and served alone or stir-fried

- Avocado (OK may be a fruit but whatever): chopped into a salad, spread over toast or smashed into guac

- Potatoes: cut into fries, baked or mashed

- Tomatoes: chopped into salads, thrown in pasta or sliced onto sandwiches


These are all usually pretty cheap, and they’re all easy to stock up on. These will also fill you up and give you energy, so pasta, rice and bread are pantry must-haves. If you’re feeling guilty about carbing up, try Banza chickpea pasta and Food for Life gluten-free rice bread for a low-cal option.

Dairy Substitutes

Non-dairy products have been on a rise, and more and more people are making the switch to almond milk or soy milk. I can even remember when I first went vegan (about 4 years ago), only Whole Foods would sell non-dairy cheese and other dairy substitutes. Now I feel like I find all kinds of new non-dairy treats everywhere I go! Within walking distance of Penn State’s campus, both Target and McLanahan’s offer a pretty decent selection of non-dairy products. Obviously you can get dairy products if you want, but here’s my selection for the non-dairy section:

- Coconut yogurt (perfect for breakfast parfaits or a quick snack)

- Vegan butter (you’d be surprised which ones actually are vegan)

- Almond/soy milk


Gotta spice it up sometimes (or all the time)! Luckily spices have a long shelf life and pretty much take forever to go through. No need to feel guilty for spending a couple of extra bucks on some spices that are going to take your cooking to another level. Grab whichever ones you think fit your taste palette (personally obsessed with cinnamon and basil — but not together ew). Of course, things like salt, pepper, sugar, and oil are also key to cooking, so make sure those are in good supply in your kitchen.

This is a pretty basic list, but it’s a great starting place and is definitely buildable for all kinds of different diets and lifestyles (not just vegan). Placing an importance on eating whole foods and buying foods that’ll make us feel good is so important to our well beings, so next time you go to the grocery store use this as a strategy to shop around with confidence.