Why Trader Joe’s is the Best Grocery Store Option For Students

Once you’ve moved off campus, you are no longer required to be on a meal plan, meaning you are now responsible for buying and making your own food. This can be a huge struggle for students, especially those who are inexperienced in the kitchen, but also don’t want to eat microwavable food for the rest of the semester. Rest assured- not all hope is lost! With a helpful sum of my tips and recipes, you will be eating like the king or queen you are!

bowl of vegetable salads

Why Should You Care?

Why bother eating healthy you ask? Well, it is commonly known that eating is essential for energy, and succeeding in school. A study performed by Burrows and colleagues show students perform better academically when consuming all three healthy meals a day. Additionally, results displayed that the students who consumed more fruits than the other participants received greater academic scores. So, there’s some proof in the pudding for ya.

person in white shirt standing in front of food

But How Can Eating Healthy Be Possible In School?

I know what you’re thinking… healthy eating is so much more expensive. To that, you are not completely wrong, “The researchers found that healthier diet patterns—for example, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—cost significantly more than unhealthy diets (for example, those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains). On average, a day’s worth of the most healthy diet patterns cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones” (Harvard 2013). I asked a fellow friend of mine at West Chester University who was a freshman last year; she stated to me that even though her meal plan was $1,500 for the semester, the food was “meh,” and she mostly ended up eating something she brought herself in her dorm. So, with the increase to a healthier diet only being $1.50 based on the Harvard study, it’s not that bad when you start doing all the math on what your meal plan used to be.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

The average college meal plan in America is around $4,500 for only 8 months out of the year, which equals to $18.75 per day for 3 meals. Meanwhile, it should only cost you $4.25 to make a typical meal (Fay 2021). 

My 2 cents…

Not all college dining halls are the same- food can be crappy, let’s be honest. Or, you can be lazy and not want to walk there in the first place- I’m not judging! But, then you end up skipping a meal or two and eating things that are quick, and, quite frankly, not the best at energizing your body. We’ve all heard of the freshman 15… let’s not continue to add onto that.

assorted fruits on brown wooden rack

So What’s The Solution?

Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s! Trader Joe’s is great for a variety of reasons, so let me rattle off a few:

  1. Small
  2. Convenient
  3. Cheap
  4. Non GMO 
  5. Specialized food
  6. BANGIN’ frozen food section
  7. Friendly staff members!

Okay, but you may be wondering, is going to Trader Joe’s for your food shopping really worth it over going to a local, and bigger, grocery store? My answer to that is yes. Consumers Checkbook found that Trader Joe’s is in fact 16% lower in overall prices of goods, and more specifically produce was 24% lower than the prices you’d find at any other typical store. That’s basically getting 25% off right? Trader Joe’s makes eating fresher and healthier foods so much more accessible. 

With that let’s get into my favorite picks at Trader Joe’s!

My Go To Grocery List 


Shakshuka Starter Spiced Stew of Tomatoes and Peppers

The Shakshuka Starter frozen kit is perfect for a yummy breakfast, if you have a little bit more time to make something special. I’ve had authentic Shakshuka before and this hits almost the exact same. Just add 2 eggs and a side of toasted pita bread and you’re set to enjoy this traditional Jewish dish.

Hashbrowns Shredded Potatoes

The hash brown patties are a Trader Joe’s classic. Most people throw them into the airfryer, but I don’t have one of those. I’ll pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds, then let it sit in the toaster to get crispy while I fry up an egg. I’ll also top it off with Trader Joe’s Spicy Honey for a sweet and hot kick.


Vegetable Pad Thai

This is my favorite quick lunch between classes. I’ll either follow the microwave instructions, or if I have more time, I’ll heat it on the stove. For more spicy heat I add some of Trader Joe’s Sriracha!

Riced Cauliflower Bowl

Love this quick vegan option for lunch as well!


Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto

You can add this pesto to any pasta noodle of your choosing (I also add cherry tomatoes to my bowl as well.) You can even spread it on bread with your favorite sandwich combo as a lunch option. Yummy!

Mandarin Orange Chicken

Craving Chinese food? Wait- Don’t order take-out! Trader Joe’s has the best orange chicken that tastes remarkably the same. Just make a side of rice and you’re set. A win for comfort food lovers.

No Prep Required/Favorite Snack Options:

Peanut Udon Noodle Salad

Everytime I go to Trader Joe’s, I’m picking up this bowl for a quick lunch between class, or even a rushed dinner option. So good!

Creamy Hummus & Vegetable Wrap

I would consider this a light snack, so it’s a great option for a fresh and healthy pick-me-up.


There are too many to choose from, but all of Trader Joe’s bagged salads are worth exploring (find your favorite)! I usually get 2 to 3 servings out of these. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll add my own cooked chicken, shrimp, or tofu on top for added protein.

Pita Bite Crackers

I love dipping these in hummus!

Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups

These are my favorite sweet treat.

To Recap…

You don’t need to panic now that you are on your own. Buying groceries can be affordable, easy and healthy, and Trader Joe’s is a great place to start your journey. I only listed a small portion of what they have to offer, but you can find your own go to’s and favorites!

Remember feeding your body is essential to staying focused, driven and successful in school… and that, my fellow friend, is the most important takeaway.

Happy food shopping!