Unless you’re ready to have a take-away with every meal, regular trips to the grocery store are required. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can reduce the number of supermarket trips by planning ahead and developing smarter shopping habits. That way, you can spend less time navigating crowded aisles and more time enjoying your quiet dinner. We spoke to Heather Ramsdell, Editor-in-Chief of The Spruce Eats, about the best ways to optimize your grocery stores.
1. Shop in your pantry first.
If your pantry is well stocked, wait a while before spending money on perishable goods. Many stock items – like pasta, rice, beans, and canned vegetables ̵
2. Memorize recipes that use forgotten foods.
The sad lettuce on the back of your fridge or the old loaf of bread on your counter can be turned into a calming meal with the right recipe. Memorize a few recipes and figure out what to do with foods that are about to expire. “Some recipes are made to use up leftovers and foods that are spinning,” says Ramsdell and nearly stale bread in your kitchen. “
3. Optimize your food rotation.
Going to the supermarket without a plan leads to food waste. If you cook a bunch of new recipes that use different ingredients each week, you will end up with bags of unfinished food in your fridge. A smart alternative is to choose some reliable meals that make good use of everything in your kitchen. “Instead of making a dozen dishes a month from a number of kitchens, focus on a few, perfect them, and then create a rotation that makes sense over time,” says Ramsdell. “You can vary the seasonings or toppings so you don’t get bored.”
4. Aim for two-thirds of the pantry and one-third fresh.
If you buy non-perishable goods most of the time, you won’t be cooking your groceries anytime soon after you bring it home. To ensure that the perishable items in a grocery store (ideally a third of that) are consumed, Ramsdell uses this guideline: “Focus your meals on the longest lasting foods in your pantry, such as rice, cornmeal, tortillas, pasta and dried beans, hard cheese or frozen food. Then add fresh foods as flavors or garnishes for color, freshness, and variety. Find out which foods last the longest. Eat fresh meat, fish, and volatile vegetables and fruits like peaches, melons, tomatoes, and berries soon after your trip. Oatmeal goes well with fresh fruit. Rice lasts a long time. Make rice bowls with your perishable goodies. “
5. Make use of your freezer.
Your kitchen inventory shouldn’t just be kept in the fridge and pantry. According to Ramsdell, your freezer is an invaluable resource. “Frozen food is there for you,” she says. “Frozen vegetables require less preparation and are often more nutritious than fresh ones. Sometimes they are also cheaper. “Even if you buy food fresh, there is an easy way to extend its shelf life by putting food in the freezer before the expiration date.
6. Experiment with meal planning apps.
Even if you follow the advice above, buying groceries worth two weeks at a time can feel overwhelming. If you are still plagued with the stress of meal planning, don’t hesitate to use an app to guide you. Ramsdell recommends a few options: “There are so many for every type of person. Are you a prepper for Type A meals? Use MealPreppro. Are you cooking on a budget? Try Meal Board. Do you want to make sure you don’t throw a piece of food in the trash? Big Oven is great for suggesting how to use leftovers. “