After a while, eating on campus for every meal, every single day can get pretty monotonous ... and a little painful. A college student can only put up with so much carb-loading and diarrhea. But rather than blow your entire savings eating out every night, you can mix it up with some stuff from the grocery store that's good to grab and go. If you're new in town, or if your mommy always did the grocery shopping, you might be confused by all of your options (Piggly what?). So here's a little primer on the main spots around town. But before we start, be sure to remember: apply for a store discount card (it's always free), shop generic, and don't shop hungry.
The downtown Piggly Wiggly on Meeting Street is very approachable. You can find everything you need without having to go on a scavenger hunt. The selection is nothing fancy, but it's a good place to find the basics at a fair price. Even better, you can pick up an "I Dig the Pig" T-shirt here, plus a 10-count package of ping (beer) pong balls for a buck. If you're looking for a Southern-style home-cooked meal, they've got some of the best fried chicken and sweet tea in town.
The East Bay Street Harris Teeter — or Hairy Teet, as we affectionately refer to it around the office — is the only grocery store south of Calhoun and a popular choice for students. The selection is pretty diverse (perhaps due to the area's more wealthy population), and the prices seem a tad inflated. They often offer great deals like buy-two-get-three-free on ice cream (we hope you have a big freezer), and if you get the right cashier, she'll make sure you know about the best deals. They've also got daily sub specials that draw a big crowd around lunchtime (foot-longs are often below $5), not to mention an in-house sushi chef. Check out the brand new West Ashley location just a few minutes away, as well as Mt. Pleasant and James Island spots.
The James Island Bi-Lo is a "Super" Bi-Lo, and you can tell when you walk in that it's your typical grocery store on steroids — there's a beautiful fresco over the produce section, for cryin' out loud. You don't even have to unload your own cart. There are a few locations around the greater Charleston area, with the James Island store being our favorite.
Publix is generally a reliably clean place to shop in the 'burbs, and our favorite thing about it is their store brand stuff — the packaging makes you forget it's generic. Publix doesn't have a savings card because the regular prices are already great. They've got a good deli counter, fresh sushi, a super-friendly staff — they'll even take your cart out for you and help you unload if you're a lazy bum. Our favorite location is in Mt. Pleasant on the way out to Sullivan's Island, but there are also locations closer to downtown in James Island, West Ashley, Daniel Island, and Mt. Pleasant.
The selection at Whole Foods is completely organic (right down to the shampoo and tampons) and worth the extra couple of bucks you'll pay for it. Bring your own bags, or buy a few of their recycled bags (reusable and stylish). Another earth-conscious alternative is Earth Fare — we love their samples and free cooking classes. Here's a challenge for you: if you find an ingredient in a product you buy at Earth Fare that is on their "banned foods" list, you can get a $50 Earth Fare gift card.