Crohn's on a College Budget: Tips for being a mindful shopper and saving money


Probably one of the biggest thing I struggled with in college, other than balancing my social life with academics, was money. I wasn’t very adept at budgeting my spending. I probably ended up spending much more than I needed and wasn’t able to stretch my money out as long as I could have. I spent what I had on what I wanted and there were no trade-offs; that is, until I realized I had been spending too much and would forego grocery shopping that week. Not a good spot to be in! Especially for someone who experiences stomach pain when I go too long not eating. The healthy way to approach spending would have been to ask myself, “How much money is left over after my necessary expenses?" Like tuition, books, rent, utilities, Remicade copays, etc. "How much do I want to spend on groceries? How much do I want to put towards fun?”

If you've ever been asked by your parents, tried to do some adulting yourself, or written up a grocery list, then you may have already asked yourself, "What is my budget?"

The truth of the matter is that setting a budget is entirely personal. How you want to spend your money is up to you? If you want to put most of your green towards 6 packs of assorted White Claws for college football game days, leaving yourself $50 for groceries, I can't stop you. You do you, honey! I just hope I get an invite to your tailgate!

There are so many factors to account for when setting a budget, including: money distributions, frequency of spending, being environmentally conscious. Reaching the point of having a well-groomed budget is a process of trail and error, meaning you'll have to dip your toes in before you can perfect it. This month I want to help any of you curious about how to set a monthly college budget, mindful grocery shopping, and finally, tips to save money both before and while at the store! Skip to whichever section you are most curious about!

Making a Crohn's-Compliant Budget

First, calculate your monthly expenses.

Take your monthly income and subtract your monthly expenses that, no matter what, you need to pay! This could include rent, utilities, Netflix, medication copays, and whatever else suits your lifestyle! If you're starting with a financial aid reimbursement, make sure to include long-term expenses over the semester (e.g. tuition or rent through December). You can do this on paper or in a spreadsheet. (Tip: Excel has some nice templates to work from - because why do it all yourself!).

Second, distribute the money left over.

You see the amount left over from your necessary expenses, that's your budget and that's all you get! Let's get a little more specific now. Divide your left over money into these categories: Food (grocery shopping and takeout), Self-care (healthcare products), Fun (for local events or social gatherings), and anything else you can think of that applies to you (medical, credit card debt). If you are having trouble knowing how much to allot, How much do you normally spend when you go to the grocery store?

Mindful Grocery Shopping

Mindful grocery shopping means, well pretty much what it sounds like, not going in and grabbing things mindlessly. You should go shopping with a goal - to buy healthy foods for yourself, on a budget, and within reason.

Be mindful of your current state. In other words, never go shopping when you are hungry. Whenever I go shopping hangry, I tend to hone in on snacky, sugary, junk foods - all of which I shouldn't eat on a Crohn's conscious diet.

Be mindful of what you place in your cart. Are you shopping from a list? Are you grabbing a bunch of ingredients for a recipe? Will you get home and inevitably realize you have a bunch of ingredients but none that form a whole recipe?

Be mindful of how much you are putting in your cart. Get enough to last you until your next trip, but not too much that will go bad before you use it. This is particularly important if you get a lot of fresh produce and perishables.

Tips for Saving Money

Saving money on your groceries mirrors being a mindful shopper and includes proper planning.

  • Research some recipes you'd like to try and plan out a weekly menu. Start with planning 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners (since you will probably have leftovers).

  • Tailor your recipes to the produce that's in season. These veggies and fruits are the cheapest at that time.

  • Make a list of all the items you need and ONLY GET THOSE ITEMS! Unless, of course, you stumble upon something you forgot.

  • Grocery shop every week or every other week. This will help cut down on waste and allow you to replenish your fresh produce.

  • Stock up on nonperishable items you use most often when you can (i.e. there are sales!). This includes supplements or other products that help sustain you during an IBD episode.

  • Compare the prices with off brands or similar items. This may not save you a lot, but a little adds up over time.

There are plenty more factors to be aware of when setting up a budget and being a mindful shopper when you have Crohn’s disease. I hope this article has helped you think more about being a green-, environmental-, and personal health-conscious adulter!

What tips do you have for anyone with Crohn’s or Colitis and shopping on a budget?