As a person who has been cooking for a while now, I’ve learned a few lessons from my experiences when it comes to food shopping and stocking up my fridge and pantry. One big lesson I have learned is how to keep my shopping trips down to a minimum which is actually very important. Constantly taking numerous trips to the grocery store every time I wanted ingredients for just one type of meal actually costed me more money and obviously took up too much of my time.
When figuring this out, it took a while for me to realize how to go about changing these habits. I didn’t know where to start organizing myself. I had to take things step by step. So this entry is about how I went about it all and what my thought process was like. This might not work for everyone but I hope, for those who were in the same situation as I was, this can help you in some way.
- What kinds of food do I or my family usually like to eat?
This was an important question to ask because I found myself buying things that just sat in the fridge/pantry to never be used and eventually expired. Why did I buy three big boxes of oatmeal of three different flavours when my husband and I only enjoy one type of flavor? Why buy such big packs when we only ate oatmeal once in a while? I believe those 2 extra boxes of oatmeal sat there for a good year never to be eaten.Figure out what kind of foods you and your family actually like and will actually consume and that those to your shopping list. If there is an item that you don’t normally eat but want to try it out, then just try buying one of it as an experiment and not big packs of it regardless if it’s cheap or not. You still don’t want it taking up wasted shelf space. This is especially important with fruits and veggies. You don’t want rotten food sitting there.
- Maybe start thinking of a small meal plan
When you know what the main foods you and your family eat, start thinking of maybe drafting up meal plans. You don’t have to be overly scientific/mathematical with it; just think of old meals you made before and remember if it was something that you and your family enjoyed and how long it lasted for.For example, I recently made the Slow Cooker Cabbage Roll Soup. I made such a big batch that it’s been lasting us almost a week even with my husband taking bowls to work for his lunches! Saved me from having to cook during the week. Also, now that I know that my husband enjoys couscous, I also made one big batch of a couscous salad to cover not only his meals but variety.So meal plans are great if you plan decently ahead so you know how to prep for your grocery trips.
- Start thinking/stocking up your food staples
Speaking of the above, I know meal plans aren’t always a sure thing and doesn’t go as planned. I don’t necessarily plan everything out to a “T” but I at least have a rough idea of what I want to cook and if I change my mind I can still cook something good with what I have. That’s where you have to think about what food staples you should have at home and this would be a good opportunity to plan out your grocery list well enough where you don’t have to constantly go to the grocery store multiple times a week. If your plan of cooking one thing falls through, then it should be no problem to cook something else!To further explain this, here is an example of what would happen to me.
I decided one day to cook that cabbage roll soup in the slow cooker because my husband loved it and I figure why not cook it again? I have all the ingredients and I should be good to go. Then, my husband says, actually I want something else. Can you please cook me some Turkey Chili? I had no problem with it because the ingredients were quite similar and that is what I made instead.The point here is that I always have the right ingredients stocked in my pantry and my fridge makes my this #3 point very relevant. Below are some of my main staple ingredients. Staples for my Pantry
-Canned beans (of all assortments: 6 bean medley, red kidney, black, etc)
-Canned Tomato Soups
-Chicken and Vegetable Broths
Staples for my Fridge/Freezer
-Container of Spinach
-Carrots (even baby carrots)
Those are just some. If you notice for my pantry items, a lot are canned which is fine by me because they last for a long time and they are generally cost-efficient. Veggies last a week for me because I am always using veggies in my recipes. I tend to use the same veggies because I know which veggies my family prefers and there would be no point in buying all these different kind of veggies if no one will eat them. Frozen veggies are great because I use them for purees in some of my meals and great for those quick and easy oven foil pack meals. I always opt for cherry tomatoes and baby carrots because I use them up as I go and I don’t feel like I’m wasting them if I only slice up half a regular big tomato or carrot. They’re also great for snack meals and you can choose how much you want to pack.
Quinoa and Couscous are a major staple for me because they can substitute for rice on days where we want to take a break from rice. They are so versatile where you can turn them into salads or incorporate them into bigger dishes like soups and stews or even a simple stir fry with veggies (and looking from my staple items above, I can make any of these anytime because I always have them!)
So to summarize, figure out what meals your family enjoys and actually likes to eat. This will help you figure out what you can cook over the next few days and create yourself a little meal plan for lunches and dinners. Based on that, you now know exactly what ingredients you should buy. You will know what common ingredients you use on a regular basis so you don’t deviate to items that you don’t need and will eventually have a base stock of items in your pantry and fridge. This will also help with costs because eventually you will learn how much these things costs and you will learn how to make a budget for yourself. Overall, with these stocked up items, you are always prepared to cook not only your favourite meals but any other kinds of meals on the go. Maybe you can be like me and be resourceful and create recipes just based on what I have!
So I hope this helps you in some way. It’s not going to happen right away as it took me a little while to get intro the groove because I really had to figure out what kind of foods and meals my family likes. As you get going, you will eventually figure things out and realize it’s easier than it looks! Just give it a try and you will be a home cook in no time!
FOR A FULL LIST OF MY OWN FOOD STAPLES, you can click here. This is a supplement page to this article where I show you my full list of food staples along with more details like meals I cook and how else it helps you.