We’re all inside people now. But every once in a while, you probably have to leave your home to hit the grocery store.
Touché. Either way, spending a little time strategizing your shopping list can help you shop less often and save more. Here’s how:
Make a (meal) plan. Knowing exactly what you need can get you to checkout – virtual or IRL – faster. And avoid getting to step five in the recipe before realizing you don’t have a key ingredient. No need to (always) get fancy. Some nights just call for three-ingredient meals.
Think long term. Make sure you’re buying some foods with a long shelf life. Bonus points for versatile staples you can feature in a lot of different recipes. Think: peanut butter, rice, beans, potatoes, and canned or frozen veggies.
Stay fresh. Fruits and veg usually cost less (and taste better) when they’re in-season. Because when the supply’s up, prices tend to go down. In the spring, that’s stuff like asparagus, rhubarb, and peas.
Map your store. If you’re going out for groceries, try to group your shopping list by aisle. That way, you can avoid wandering and get home ASAP.
Focus on making your food last. You’re only saving money if you actually eat (read: not waste) what you bought. Some tips:
Store it right. Apples and basil last longer in the fridge than on the counter. Meat should go on the bottom shelf, where it’s coldest. And if you’re saving them for later, coffee beans live their best life sealed in the freezer. Now is not the time to run out of coffee.
Squeeze more life out of your produce. Turns out, lemon juice isn’t just for Bloody Marys. Squeeze some on sliced apples, avocado halves, and artichokes to prevent browning.
Save the date. “Sell by,” “use by,” and “best by” dates indicate the last day a product will be at peak quality...not necessarily when it’s no longer safe to eat. (Important exception: formula, which the gov says to avoid feeding to your baby after the ‘use-by’ date.) Manufacturers may be more conservative with expiration dates. Conduct your own sight and smell test to decide what’s OK to eat.
Batch-cook and chill. Cooking foods that are about to go bad resets their ‘eat by’ date. Freezing puts even more time on your side. Put these tips together, and make some freezer-friendly meals. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor when you’re hungry between Zooms for weeks to come.
Grow your own way. Celery ends, carrot tops, and garlic growing new stems might look like trash. But with a little effort, you can use them to regrow fresh herbs and veggies.
Everyone’s happy when ‘saving’ is on the menu. During this pandemic, thinking ahead about what to buy and making your food last as long as possible can benefit your health and your wealth.
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