As your parents will no doubt tell you, college dining halls ain't nearly as bad as they used to be. And that's a good thing. But that doesn't mean undergrads don't still pine for something different, and there is a little bit of satisfaction in making a meal for yourself, right? Thankfully, you can buy more than Natty Light at those mysterious produce-purveyors known as grocery stores. Before shopping, figure out, in general terms, what you're looking for. Otherwise, you'll return home with a jar of salsa, Oreos, and seven different kinds of cereal (all those pretty colors!). Also, don't forget to sign up for a free store discount card.
445 Meeting St.
It's a Southern mainstay, it's fun to say, and they even have garishly colored, pig-headed T-shirts (trailer park chic?). The downtown spot is navigable and has all the basics you need without the exotic stuff that distracts a beginning shopper. Plus, that new ad campaign ("Icely Creamly!") might seem annoying, but try throwing in curse words and let the fun ensue.
860 Folly Road
The James Island Super Bi-Lo is an overall solid option and might just be the best bang for your buck. With the help of a bonus card, you can find some real savings. This superstore is also a bargain option simply because you can get so much different stuff here. Remember the days when you got lost at the grocery store, wandered for what felt like hours, and eventually found someone to call your parents over the intercom? Kids today, dealing with ginormous spots like this, would laugh at our misadventures. Good thing they all have iPhones.
290 East Bay St.
The East Bay Harris Teeter is the only full-service grocery stop on the harbor-side of Calhoun and the second most fun to say after Piggly Wiggly. It almost feels like a hybrid of the everyday, bargain-friendly options and the more expensive locales. Perhaps the best attribute of the Teet is the great sub specials at the deli, especially on Fridays, when foot-long subs are less than $5 and a helluva lot better than the sandwich chains.
Burbage's Self Serve Grocery
157 Broad St.
Burbage's is a little throwback place on Broad Street. It's got all the staples as well as a meat counter in the back. It's family owned and operated, and you'll make friends quick if you make it a habit to visit. Burbage's also has a few signature items, like their housemade pimento cheese or broccoli and cheddar bread.
520 Folly Road.
The best thing to be said for Publix is probably their friendly customer service. There always seems to be an employee around when you're looking for one, and, amazingly, most of them actually seem to know where their products are shelved. Plus, they'll push your cart to your car and unload it for you. Publix might not have a value card, but their prices aren't bad in general. And they do have awesome weekly coupons (pick up a leaflet at the front of the store). The Publix brand items are better than any other generic line, and the Greenwise brand (often on sale) is just about the cheapest way to shop organic anywhere. The closest spot to campus is on James Island, but the two Mt. Pleasant stores are also good bets.
923 Houston-Northcutt Blvd.
74 Folly Road Blvd.
Let's be honest, most kids aren't thinking organic or sustainable when they're looking to stock up, and you're probably not relying solely on either of these places without a serious stipend from mommy and daddy. However, the produce selection is the freshest around, there's a broad array of healthy snacks to help stave off the Freshmen 15, and many of their products also accommodate allergies and other special dietary needs. Both locations are fairly convenient, with Whole Foods just across the Cooper in Mt. P and Earth Fare right off 17 on James Island
334 East Bay St.
Another high-end option, Ted's is built around its all-natural butcher counter that offers the usual suspects as well as some less-available cuts and game like bison and rabbit. Ted's is one of only a few places in town to find really knowledgeable butchers, and if you want to impress some friends or coeds with a roast or some grilling, Ted's is a nice place to start. Ted's offers some prepared options, a selection of specialty beers and wines, and a solid artisanal cheese menu. They also offer some of their own products — condiments, butters, sauces — and showcase some local items like Rio Bertollini's pasta and 3.14 Pies.
Caviar and Bananas
51 George St.
Again, you'll pay for what you get here, but if quality matters to you, it's a fair investment. C&B has a ton of local products as well as a coffee bar and meat counter and deli, complete with daily lunch specials. It's probably the only grocery that inspires kid-in-a-candy-store euphoria with all its cool offerings, especially the local desserts and sweets. Trust us, you'll feel good about what you're buying when you leave this place. Plus, residing on George Street between King and St. Philip, it's about as convenient as you can get to campus outside of a dining hall.