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Making the Most of Grocery Trips

Reducing the number of trips to the store is a priority for many of us. There are several things we can do to make our lives a little easier. Here are some tips for making the most of each grocery run:

  1. Have a plan. Meal planning is a good way to ensure that you include all the ingredients you need to prepare the meals you’re planning to make. It also gives you an idea of how long your groceries will last.
  2. Focus on nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables rather than processed foods and snacks (i.e. boxed dinners, frozen meals, chips, cookies, etc.).
  3. Buy enough for your family. If your goal is to grocery shop every 10-14 days, it makes perfect sense that you might need to buy more of certain items compared to when you were shopping every 3-5 days. But be considerate of others, and only buy as much as you need.

When Buying Produce

Fresh produce has limited shelf-life, but you can still eat enough fruits and vegetables without making frequent trips to the store. Here’s how:

  • Frozen fruits and vegetables make excellent stand-ins for fresh options and are still full of nutrition because they’re picked at the peak of ripeness and immediately flash frozen, sealing in nutrients. They last much longer than fresh so you can stock up without worrying about spoilage.
    • Tip: Try adding frozen fruit to oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, or baked goods. Frozen vegetables are great in cooked meals such as stir-fry dishes, soups, frittatas, pasta dishes, and more. Try roasting heartier vegetables like frozen broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, sweet potato, or butternut squash for an easy side dish.
  • Opt for plain frozen fruits and vegetables instead of versions with sauce or syrup to avoid excess salt and added sugar. If you buy canned vegetables, look for low sodium or no salt added.
  • Choose long-lasting fresh produce such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, apples, oranges, and grapefruit. Be sure to store them correctly! Onions and potatoes should never be stored together, as an example.
    • Tip: Got wilted produce? Carrots and celery can be revived in water, or use your limp produce in soup or homemade stock instead of tossing it out.

Get Creative

Now is a great time to flex those creative cooking muscles you didn’t know you had. Coming up with meals using pantry staples can seem challenging at first, but it’s all about keeping things simple.

  • Combine grains and whatever vegetables you have (canned, frozen, fresh) to make soups, casseroles, grain bowls, and stir-fry dishes.
  • Not sure what to do with all those canned beans? For a boost of fiber and nutrition, try adding them to pasta with tomato sauce and chili powder to make one-pot chili pasta or chili mac and cheese. Beans can also be added to rice and salsa to make burrito bowls or added into quesadillas, vegetarian nachos, or veggie burgers.
  • Come up with substitutions for ingredients you don’t have on hand, such as:
    • Substitute rice for quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, or cauliflower rice. With Asian dishes, try using cooked ramen or lo mein noodles.
    • Dried herbs can stand in for fresh. Just be sure to use a smaller amount than the recipe calls for as dried herbs are often stronger in flavor. And if your recipe calls for an herb or spice you don’t have, substitute one that you enjoy or leave it out altogether.
    • Ditch the salt and substitute with acidic additions like lemon, lime, and vinegars. These are excellent ways to build flavor without adding salt and can often be swapped for each other without noticeably changing the overall dish.