The dietary habits of students are legendary, and tend to involve a great deal of mac and cheese, ramen and microwave dinners. But those habits arise from a need to save money, rather than a liking for that cuisine if the term can be stretched to encompass ramen.
For those who’d prefer to eat food rather than flavored cardboard, a local grocery option exists in the form of Save-A-Lot, at the corner of SW 44th and Penn.
The first impression of the store leaves a lot to be desired. It’s cramped, laid out to maximize the amount of items that can be crammed into a store, and looks decidedly like the kind of place one shops as a last option.
But the prices and service more than make up for the appearance. My husband and I rarely spend more than $120 there, and that nets us three meals a day for two weeks — not just ramen or spaghetti, either, though those are on the menu. I’m talking about steak, pork chops, ribs; fresh greens and salads; bread, ice cream, and plenty of soda.
One of the key ingredients to the prices is the selection. While big brands are represented, they’re far outnumbered by off brands, and unique low-cost items. Some items are, of course, still relatively expensive, like ground beef, milk, and cheese. But the rest of the items can be bought almost for a song.
Another key in this mix is employees who are helpful and friendly but primarily there to stock the shelves and run the register.
There aren’t 20 different managers running about overseeing a megaplex shopping extravaganza; there are no door greeters, cart wranglers, or returns specialists. There’s just a handful of people working to keep the store running and make sure customers can find what they need.
As an aside, there are also no employees to sack the groceries, nor carousels for the cashiers to do it as they go. Instead, there’s a long table against the front window lined with bagging stations for customers to sack their own after checking out.
While sacking one’s own groceries takes a few moments longer, the savings go a long way to alleviating any annoyance, as do the greatly shortened wait times in the register lines.
Overall, between the low cost and friendly atmosphere, Save-A-Lot easily overcomes that bad first impression. For any students looking to feed themselves, or a family, on a budget, Save-A-Lot is an option that should definitely be tried.