Opinion | Venture off campus for affordable groceries

By Aparna Lakkaraju, Opinions Editor

Living in a college town is expensive, and if you’ve hit up a few places on Green Street, you would know that the University is not an exception to this rule.

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average college student spends a whopping $547 a month on food, and this is including both groceries and dining out. This number does not account for students who are on University meal plants, which are also outrageously expensive.

If this wasn’t expensive enough, food prices are steadily increasing due to rising inflation rates. According to the Department of Agriculture, grocery costs are predicted to increase between 8.5 to 9.5% in 2022, meaning groceries aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon.

To save money on groceries, avoid the grocery stores at a walkable distance, which can dramatically mark up their prices due to their easy accessibility on campus.

Instead, try to use any transportation you can to access groceries that won’t break the bank. Here are a few places I recommend:

Aldi

Aldi is a gem for the basics — shop here for groceries that don’t perish quickly and staple pantry items offered at unbeatable prices. You won’t find many recognizable brand names here, but the affordable, generic products that Aldi stocks are nearly indistinguishable from the large brand names you may be acquainted with.

The one downside is that Aldi’s range of products is not as extensive as other grocery stores, which means you’re less likely to check off your entire grocery list. I recommend getting as many of your groceries as you can at Aldi and then stop by another grocery store on this list to get the rest.

Walmart

Who hasn’t heard of Walmart? As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart sells just about anything for competitively low prices. If you’ve been looking for a specific grocery item, you will always find it here for a digestible price.

The Walmart locations in Champaign and Urbana are accessible by bus. However, a downside is both Walmarts are the furthest grocery stores from campus, so the buses that take you there will not run often on weekends or evenings, and they take over 40 minutes to get there and back.

Costco and Sam’s Club

Costco and Sam’s Club are warehouse retailers that offer bulk products at low prices that regular grocery stores won’t beat. Customers must carry a paid membership in order to shop at either of these stores. Don’t sweat the membership, though — the minimal markups on goods end up making the cost worth it.

Buy condiments, grains, beverages and meats at these locations. Beware of buying easily perishable produce in bulk. Chances are, they will spoil quickly and result in unnecessary food waste. Try the infamous $1.50 hotdog combo at Costco while you’re there as a reward for saving so much money.

Urbana’s Market at the Square

If you want to support local businesses, head to Urbana’s Market at the Square (also known as the Urbana Farmer’s Market), which hosts many local vendors every Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Lincoln Square Mall in downtown Urbana.

The Urbana Farmer’s Market offers an economically sustainable experience that allows you to pick from a variety of fresh, locally grown produce and meet the people who grow your food. In addition to farms, the Urbana Farmer’s Market hosts many local bakeries, apothecaries, restaurants, butcher shops and soaperies. Go with your friends and have some fun while running your weekly errands.

Aparna is a sophomore in LAS.

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