More than chain stores for C-U grocery shopping

The freedom that comes with college gives students the ability to try new hobbies and stay out past curfew. It also means learning new responsibilities, such as keeping a closer eye on your bank account and feeding yourself. Ordering Chinese every night may seem like the best option, but learning how to grocery shop and get the most value out of a dollar will benefit you in more ways than one.

Some grocery stores may have cheaper prices but are far enough off campus to be inconvenient for a lot of students. Meijer and Walmart are known to be cheap but require a longer bus ride than County Market or other grocers. Both Walmart and Meijer in Champaign are located on North Prospect Avenue, while the Urbana stores are far from campus. County Market, at 331 E. Stoughton St., in Champaign has weekly sales for students and a sizeable produce section. County Market is also a favorite spot for making beer runs and for satisfying late-night cravings because it’s open 24 hours.

Other grocers closer to campus can provide for students who have diet restrictions, health concerns or the desire to buy local food.

Strawberry Fields, at 306 W. Springfield Ave., in Urbana has food that caters to several diet restrictions and carries a lot of unique health food choices that may not be found elsewhere. Vegans and vegetarians are sure to be comfortable in Strawberry Fields, but meat eaters are welcome, too. Strawberry Fields has a wide selection of local meats as well as quality produce. When students aren’t feeling well and want to try something besides over-the-counter or prescription medicine, Strawberry Fields carries essential oils, vitamins and other herbal remedies.

Common Ground Food Co-op, located at 300 S. Broadway Ave., in Urbana (inside of Lincoln Square Mall) provides a homey, local shopping environment for those who want to contribute to the Champaign-Urbana community and surrounding communities. Anyone can become a member of the co-op for a flat $60 fee, paid all at once or in $5/month installments. There are no annual fees, and members receive special discounts on classes and bulk foods. Members also receive 10 percent off of their entire order four times per year. Common Ground even has its own cafe, serving pizza, sandwiches, coffees, teas and more.

Urbana’s farmer’s market is right next door to Common Ground, in the parking lot of Lincoln Square Mall. The market is open from May to November, from 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday, rain or shine. A variety of locally grown produce finds its way to the market each week. Plenty of local meat, eggs, cheese and baked goods are also offered to market customers. The options are never the same at the market, as the produce varies based on what is in season. It’s always a new adventure to grocery shop at the farmer’s market.

To get the most out of grocery shopping trips, prepare ahead. While it may be hard to plan a menu for the week for some, buying ingredients for favorite dishes is never a bad idea. Remember to take advantage of freezing, too. I like to buy a lot of vegetables, cut up half of them when I get home and throw them in a freezer bag for a stir-fry. Also, buying favorite foods in bulk can save money, as well as buying block cheeses instead of pre-sliced cheese, whole fruits and vegetables as opposed to fruits and vegetables that are already pre-cut. etc. If unsure of what to do with leftover ingredients, Google “recipes with (left over ingredient),” and maybe a newfound recipe can become a new favorite.

Janelle is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]