5 Ways D.C. Interns Can Stretch their Grocery Budgets

Checking out a grocery store near The Washington Center

I’ve quickly learned that the best way to save money in this city is through meal preparation. Here are five ways hungry college students everywhere can accomplish this.

Prepping a meal
Save even more time by prepping ingredients before you begin cooking.

1. Make a list

For many college students, transitioning to life as a D.C. intern requires the development of several new skills, not least of which is grocery shopping. Although it may seem like a basic task, some simple planning can really make a difference in how much you spend at the register. Before you ever set foot in a grocery store, take a few minutes to write down some meals you’d like to make that week while you’re at home. Then, write the ingredients for those meals in the order that they appear in the store. This make take some getting used to, especially during the first few weeks as you are familiarizing yourself with your new neighborhood grocery store. However, it will greatly help speed up the shopping process and get you back home faster than ever before.

2. Use ingredients in multiple meals

When planning your meals, try to make dishes that have crossover ingredients. For example, if you’re making tacos one night, you’ll likely have lots of leftover lettuce and tomatoes. Use these items in a salad or sandwich later in the week. By doing this every week, you’ll cut down on food waste and save a ton of money.

3. Buy in bulk (but only if its non-perishable)

Do you have that one go-to meal you make almost every week? If you’re like me, you probably have several. To cut down on overall costs, buy non-perishable items (e.g. rice, pasta, beans) in bulk. Although items sold in bulk may seem expensive, it’s cheaper to buy them in this larger size once than many times at a smaller size. That being said, don’t take the risk of buying perishable items (e.g. meat, vegetables, fruit) in bulk—you’ll risk it going bad before you eat it, which will cost you a fortune.

Final meal ready to be served.

4. Take shortcuts

We aren’t all Gordon Ramsay. Don’t overcommit on meals you don’t have time to complete or simply won’t follow through on. Keep in mind that cooking often takes much longer than we think; prepare for your meal to take longer to make than what the recipe may suggest.

5. Do it the night before

This also applies to any free time you may have. Plan-ahead and prepare your meals as often as you can. Whether its making double portions for lunch leftovers or making a sandwich the night before, there are plenty of ways to stay ahead of the game when it comes to food.

Matthew Lawson headshot

Matthew Lawson is a political science major at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He was a TWC Spring 2018 Intern at the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, a Department of Defense regional center geared toward promoting international security cooperation through facilitated dialogue and academic expertise.

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