Your 3-Step Guide to Grocery Shopping & Cooking in NYC

by Haley Davidson

You’ve been in the city for a few weeks now, and you may or may not have utilized your kitchen yet. And if you haven’t–well, that’s understandable.

Dollar pizza, not to mention Chipotle, Pret-a-Manger, and other yummy options are on every corner, and internships tend to keep you too busy to even think about cooking.

If you’re anything like me when I first moved to the city, your diet might look something like this:

Breakfast – make a faster-than-light stop at Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks for coffee and a pastry

Lunch – race to nearby Chiptole for lunch to be eaten at your desk, or enjoy a pricier feast with your coworkers

Dinner – check your bank account and eat popcorn or toast for a late-night meal or splurge for a fancier outing with new friends

The city’s baristas, burrito-makers, and chefs make delicious meals, but your wallet and your stomach will thank you for cooking at home every once in awhile. Why?

  1. Groceries for a week at Trader Joe’s cost around $30. That’s how much you spend in a day eating out every meal (or even just two!)
  2. Eating out is not sustainable – one day, you’re going to have to pay rent and student loans and will have to learn to cook!
  3. Sometimes it really does taste better to make your meal just the way you like it, in your own home.

Cooking at home might seem intimidating, but NYCIntern is here to make your life a little bit simpler. Save money and eat better with these three steps to cooking your own meals at home.

Step 1: MEAL PLAN!

It doesn’t have to be complicated or take more than five minutes, but meal planning will make your life so much easier.

Simply write out a list of what you want to eat each day of the week. Make sure you consult your calendar so you can include parties, office lunches, and free food at church or community functions. Above is an example of my weekly meal plan. I shop on Sunday afternoons so my week starts on Sunday night.

You can make your life simpler by sticking with one or two constants for breakfast–stuff you can depend on. For me, I alternate between eggs and fruit salad and smoothies. I switch daily so I maintain variety, but also keep things predictable so I can almost cook both meals in my sleep.  

Another tip is to plan on eating leftovers for lunch. Then each night you can cook dinner and leave enough for lunch the next day. It may not sound glamorous, but remember–you’re the one who might be able to afford Broadway tickets at the end of the day.


From that meal plan, make a grocery list. Keep in mind what you already have in your pantry.

Here are our best tips for grocery shopping:

1. Schedule it. I go to the same grocery store at the same time each week. That way I can meal plan around that date and make it a priority so I have food to eat.

2. Purchase with a purpose. Don’t go in hungry and don’t ever shop without your list. Otherwise, you’ll end up with more groceries than you carry and less than half the items you actually need. Trust me, I’ve been there.

3. Get your groceries from:

  • Trader Joe’s on Court St. in Brooklyn or at Union Sq. in Manhattan. Here you can find natural, organic, and cheap food. Trader Joe’s makes shopping an enjoyable experience with great customer service (not to mention great Hawaiina shirts).
  • Key Foods on Fulton St.  or Montague St. for moderately priced food and a good selection of items. Convenient access from most buildings makes this a choice of many NYCInterns.
  • Amazon Fresh, FreshDirect, Peapod, etc. Even if you use a delivery service, you should still schedule a time each week to order groceries. You can also use a free trial to get free delivery from these services. 

Step 3: COOK!

Follow your meal plan, use your groceries, and you’ll be an expert before you know it. Make sure you also schedule when you’re going to cook!

Good luck cooking, and make sure you follow @NYCIntern on Twitter for lots of intern-friendly recipes!