Lets face it, heading out on your own to University or College can be a scary  for even the most independent young scholar. Its a new chapter in a young persons life full of adventure and hard work. With that being said snacks and meals should be the last thing a student should have to worry about.

Grocery aisles are bursting with variety but it can be a little over whelming if you are not prepared. To make your life a little easier, here are some great tips to help plan your meals and write up a shopping list so you’ll always have the basics at hand—from the pantry to the freezer. Perfect for healthy eating—any time of day!

Dinners don’t have to always be pizza and macaroni and cheese. As a busy student you need the brain fuel for intense classes and long nights of cramming. Sure there can be some fun food but the food you buy should be cost effective, healthy and relatively easy to prepare.

With all this being said I teamed up with my daughter, who is going into her third year at University of Waterloo, to compile a list of kitchen must-haves. She’s living the dream of independence but is extremely thrifty and sends me pictures of some amazing meals so I know she is not going hungry.

In the Pantry

  • Nuts and dried fruit – I know nuts can be a bit pricey but a little goes a long way and they are packed with healthy fats. They contain a large quantity of calories, essential unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and essential amino acids. Nuts are good sources of vitamin E, vitamin B2, folate, fiber, and the essential minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. Unroasted walnuts have twice as many antioxidants as other nuts or seeds.
  • Pasta and rice – The nice thing about making pasta or rice dishes is that you can make a double batch and either have your lunch or dinner for the next day. Pasta can be eaten cold in a salad or as a hot meal so it keeps things interesting. Most pastas are reasonably priced and come in bulk as well. Pasta and rice are not particularly full of nutrients but they do have a substantial carbohydrate count which gives you energy.
  • Pasta sauce, tomato paste and canned tomatoes – Not just for pasta any more. You can use both the pasta sauce and tomatoes in sauces and in hearty soups. The sky is the limit. Try making a double batch of tomato soup and freezing the left overs in single portion sizes for easy grab and go meals. Give this hearty soup a try with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich then freeze the rest for 4 more meals. https://www.not-too-sweet.com/coconut-curry-lentil-soup/
  • Peanut butter – Makes for an easy breakfast with toast or how about trying the peanut butter cookie recipe on the jar? Only 3 ingredients and makes 24 cookies.
  • Nutella
  • Granola Bars – Easy grab and go when you have run out of time
  • Protein Powder – Great to add a little more protein to your diet in a smoothie. Protein powder can be purchased at the Bulk Barn inexpensively.
  • Tuna – Straight out of the jar, in salads and with pasta. No matter how you eat it, Tuna is a good source of  omega-3 fatty acids
  • Soup – When I walk down the soup isle I am always amazed as to how many soups there are and the forms they come in. There are dry soup mixes, canned, boxed and some grocery stores even have their own available. Be sure to read the lables carefully as soups can be very high in sodium
  • Oatmeal – Stick to your ribs breakfast
  • Canned or dried Beans – Beans are an excellent substitute or accompaniment to meat dish. Dried beans are generally cheaper but there is a little more prep involved as they need to be soaked ideally over night before cooking. Give this meatless chili a try. https://www.not-too-sweet.com/3-bean-veggie-chili-red-lentils/
  • coffee and tea – Your morning wake up call and all nigh cramming buddy.
  • crackers – Makes a great quick snack. Pair it with your favourite jam, cheese or some of that peanut butter or Nutella.
  • Potatoes – They should last you 3-5 weeks in the pantry and 3-5 months in the refrigerator.
  • Cereal – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so be sure to have quick things like dry cereal on hand.

Fun Pantry stuff when you just don’t have the time. I wouldn’t suggest eating these all the time as they can be full of sodium but the are good to have on hand in a pinch.

  • Mr. Noodle
  • KD


  • Eggs, lots of eggs – Another quick protein fix that can be prepared in so many different ways. The sky is the limit! This egg recipe is a great way to include your fresh veggies. https://www.not-too-sweet.com/potato-and-egg-skillet/
  • Cheese – Buy one of those large bricks of old cheddar. Great for snack and adding to your favourite meal. Will last 3-6 weeks in the fridge once the package has been opened.
  • Pre-cut veggies – Washed, trimmed and cut, veggies make a super snack. Fill up on vitamins!
  • Dips – Hummus, guacamole or salsa, dips go great with mini pitas or your veggies.
  • Sauces and condiments – Soy sauce, bottled lemon juice, plain yogurt, mayo, salad dressings, mustard and katsup. Be sure to have the basics on hand to cook up a quick sauce and add flavour to your meals.
  • Cold cuts – Perfect for a tasty sandwich lunch or even add ham to your gooey grilled cheese.
  • Milk – Cartons can be expensive for the amount you get so buy the bagged milk instead. I know it seems to be a lot for one or even two people but you can freeze the individual bags until you need them.


  • Frozen Meals – If its not quite shopping day and you have nothing left this is a good one to fall back on.
  • Ground Beef – Excellent for tacos and meat sauce. Take it out in the morning and let it defrost in the fridge while you are at school. It will be thawed by the time you get home.
  • Chicken Breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks – Chicken breasts are more pricey than thighs, wings and drumsticks but when they go one sale stock up if you have the freezer space.
  • Hot dogs – Quick and easy snack
  • Frozen pizza – Great meal for when you are expecting your study group for the night. A lot cheaper than delivery.
  • Bagels and Bread – Keep these in the freezer to prevent them going moldy.

Where do I start?

Be prepared – Try and plan your meals for the week if you have the time. Make a list and don’t go shopping when you are hungry. You are more likely to stick to what you need if you are focused on the list and not on your grumbling stomach.

Double up your recipes – Make bigger quantities and freeze whatever’s left over.

Prepare your fresh produce – Try preparing them as soon as you’re home from the grocery store. Carrots, broccoli, snow peas, peppers… wash, cut and store in airtight containers.

Use up your leftovers – Don’t let your hard work go to waste! Make a colourful swith leftover fish. Stuff pita bread using leftover chicken.

Buy in bulk if you have the room – Buy large containers of yogurt instead of individual portions, then pour into smaller airtight containers. Do the same with those chicken breasts that are on sale.