Grocery shopping guide

Back to school can be an exciting time for many. But for others, the return to Queen’s means a return to living alone as an independent adult. And for those of you no longer coasting on the easy waters of a meal plan, that means one thing — it’s time to start cooking.

For myself, a culinary enthusiast since age 10, this is incredibly exciting, as I can now experiment freely in the kitchen without endangering my family’s taste buds in the process. Yet for the majority of students, the task of meal making is an overwhelming nightmare.

Fear not — though everyone may not be as keen as I to get crazy in the kitchen, everyone does have to eat, and it’s all about taking early steps now to stock up for the semester. Having good ready-made meals and quick dinner options can save your figure and your wallet from those thrice-daily trips to Cogro or Pita Pit.

Start off big and bold.

I always start every semester with one huge break-the-bank shop at Loblaws or Costco. Get a solid base of non-perishable food items so you always have an easy meal ready that will last all semester. Good examples are cups of soup, peanut butter for sandwiches or good old-fashioned pasta. I also get big packages of meat on this trip that I break down into smaller amounts and freeze for easy protein on a salad or with vegetables.

Warning: this trip is not for the faint of heart. Though many would rather live in denial and not look at a $300 grocery bill, try to remember that a big shop now is saving you time and money later when you aren’t eating every meal out because you have no food. I also usually splurge on a cab for this trip too so you might as well get absolutely everything you need and make it count.

Fill up on fresh food from the farmers’ market.

Now that you’ve got a good sturdy base for the semester, it’s really just about filling in the weekly gaps with things that run out fast or go bad quickly, like eggs, milk and produce. Take advantage of awesome local food options on campus like the weekly farmers’ market every Wednesday in front of the JDUC. So much delicious variety and for so cheap — you really can’t go wrong with anything you buy here. If it’s not Wednesday, I often top up at the Grocery Checkout in the ARC. Reasonable prices, good quality and you can’t beat the convenient location.

Make your freezer your best friend.

Use a lazy Sunday to make a big pot of spaghetti sauce, chili or soup. You can package and freeze the food for busy exam times for a quick, hearty meal. Just store the food in single portion containers for homemade, healthier versions of TV dinners. Freezing is also a really good option to help make bread and milk last longer (you can freeze milk bags). If your fridge freezer is looking tight, a chest freezer may be a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re living with housemates.

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