Transitioning from a meal plan to buying your own groceries can be daunting. Racking up a triple-digit grocery bill personally makes me nauseous, and I always feel like I’m spending way too much on food. But alas, we need food to survive, so grocery shopping is a necessary evil.
I went on a mission to find the most cost-effective grocery store within a ten mile radius. College students already have a million things to stress about, but your weekly grocery bill doesn’t have to be one of them.
Newark Natural Foods
Located in the Main Street Shopping Center, Newark Natural Foods is the most convenient grocery store location-wise with its close proximity to campus. It’s an easily walkable distance for students who live on campus and do not have reliable means of transportation. Newark Natural Foods is a co-op, which means most of the produce and other goods are sourced from local communities. For those who value sustainability and ethical spending, this grocery store is for you. It also carries lots of organic and plant-based items for our vegan friends. However, the price for a full food shop is comparable to that of a full month’s rent. Seriously, a gallon of milk here costs $6.99. I wouldn’t recommend getting all of your groceries here unless you have a considerable inheritance or a six-figure salary.
The closest ACME to campus is about one mile away, so you won’t be expending a lot of gas on the drive over. It’s the biggest grocery store on the list and carries just about anything you could want, though you might run up a scarily high grocery bill here if you’re not careful. In order to get the most bang for your buck here, make a meal plan beforehand so you know exactly what you need to buy and can roughly calculate how much it will cost. You can also check their website to see what foods and brands are on sale that week. You can usually find deals for basic meal staples like rice, pasta, bread, canned beans and eggs. Canned or frozen fruits and veggies are also an inexpensive alternative to buying fresh produce. And if fresh produce is a must for you, try adapting your meals around produce that’s in season, as they will usually be cheaper than produce that’s out of season. Also, an unrelated fun fact: you can get your COVID-19 vaccine at most ACME locations if you qualify!
The closest Food Lion to campus is located on New London Road, so it’s also easily accessible. The prices here are significantly cheaper than the previous two grocery stores and they carry most of the basic items college students will need to get by. The only caveat is that the produce isn’t always the freshest (I once bought a bag of oranges there that turned completely moldy after two days), so you’re better off buying frozen or eating your produce fast. To save even more money, you can also sign up for a Food Lion MVP card and save up to $20 on your entire purchase.
The closest Aldi to campus is in Elkton, about a 20 minute drive give-or-take, which makes it completely inaccessible to students without reliable transportation. However, Aldi is also by far the cheapest grocery store due to the fact that almost everything they carry is off-brand. If buying off-brand doesn’t bother you, and you don’t mind taking a longer drive, then you might want to give Aldi a try. From personal experience, a full food shop at Aldi costs about 40-50 dollars less than it would at ACME, so you won’t have to worry about going bankrupt. Unfortunately for our vegan and vegetarian friends, Aldi does not carry that many plant-based products. My roommate and I are both vegetarian and couldn’t even find tofu the last time we went (sometimes they have it and sometimes they don’t, luck of the draw). It’s a small store, so keep in mind they won’t have the same vast selection that ACME or Food Lion might have.
WINNER: Food Lion
Food Lion is what I like to call the holy trinity of grocery stores: it’s cost-effective, it’s close to campus, and you’ll find everything you need. Happy shopping!