Supermarket Shopping 101: Our advice, tips & tricks will make your next trip to the supermarket a breeze!
Here on A Family Feast, we’re all about sharing all kinds of delicious recipes. But shopping for, and choosing the best ingredients you can find, is just as important as following the recipe itself.
Make a meal plan for the week
Meal planning (and meal prepping) is all the rage these days. It really is a great way to save time and money when it comes to grocery shopping, and getting meals on the table when schedules are busy.
The concept of meal planning is to make a list of ALL of the meals you plan to serve for the entire week ahead. Gather the recipes, review the ingredients list (and cooking instructions), then make a complete list of all of the foods and other cooking supplies you’ll need to prepare the recipes. (In some cases you might realize that you can “cook once, eat twice” – eating leftovers from one meal at another meal later on in the week!)
Having a meal plan really is a great way to get organized even before you set foot in the supermarket. When you head to the store – buy everything for the meals you make during the week ahead in just one shopping trip. This is a great time saver because you won’t have to make any other stops for groceries during the week – and you might find it saves you money too! (No impulse purchases when you are hungry!)
Group similar items together on your shopping list
You might laugh when you read this, but Jack and I typically do two versions of our grocery shopping lists – especially when we have a big shopping trip ahead of us.
The first version is the list of everything we need for the week ahead. Then, we re-write the list, grouping similar items together on the list so when we’re at the store, we can more easily find everything we need off the list. For example, group all produce together, all dairy, all meats, etc. (Confession time: When I don’t do this, I’m notorious for missing that one item on the shopping list – even if I’m crossing items off as I put them in my cart!)
If you are familiar with the layout of your supermarket, you could even go a step further – and list the groups of items on your shopping list in the order you’ll find them at the store.
Choose the freshest produce available
Your recipes will turn out the best when you use the freshest ingredients available. Here are some tips for choosing the best options:
- Avoid produce with bruises and brown spots.
- Seek out the products with the longest sell-by dates on the package.
- Know when fruits and vegetables are in season – then plan your meals around that as much as possible. You’ll also pay less for in-season produce because it can be grown locally and won’t need to travel as far to get onto your supermarket shelves.
- Ask your store’s produce manager to tell you when they receive their produce shipments each week (they will be happy to tell you) – then shop around that time. Mornings are often the best time to shop for produce because larger supermarkets have staff that works overnight to unload trucks and restock stores.
- We also recommend staying away from produce that is pre-cut or premixed and most other convenience items. While they can be a time saver in the kitchen, you’ll never know how fresh the produce is. Plus – it’s so much less expensive to buy the whole fruit or vegetable – then cut it at home.
- If possible, check out your local farmer’s market and buy produce there. Sure – the prices are sometimes higher – but consider that you are helping to support a local farmer’s business. Plus – you are more likely to be buying organic produce that is fresh from the farm.
Choose the freshest meats, seafood, and dairy available
- Similar to produce, search for packages with the longest codes.
- For meats – look at the color and avoid beef that is starting to turn brown or gray
- Chicken should look plump and pale, not withered and pasty.
- Seafood should smell like salt air – if it smells ‘fishy’ stay away.
Get perishables safely home
Bring a cooler or insulated tote with ice to store perishables for the ride home – especially on warm summer days. Even a short ride home in a hot car can start to impact the freshness of produce, fish and meats.
Watch for sales on Pantry Items
Click here to read more about Keeping a Well-Stocked Kitchen Pantry. Then, watch for sales on dry goods, canned items, and other pantry items with a long shelf life – and stock up when you can.