A trip to the grocery store isn't exactly a cakewalk. With cramped aisles stocked with box after colorful box, long checkout lines, and crowded parking lots to navigate, there's plenty to distract the average shopper on a weekly market trip.
But getting thrown off your food shopping game can cost you. Americans end up throwing out 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy—that's approximately $2,250 worth of waste each year. Get smart with your shopping—and save yourself time and money—with these six tips.
Plan your meals for the week (or the day!)
Go into the store with a plan. Whether shopping for an entire week's worth of meals or just a few days of groceries, expecting to wing it once those doors slide open sets you up for failure. Without a general plan, it's easy to go overboard and make unnecessary or redundant purchases. Plus, is there anything more annoying than getting home only to realize you forgot the one key ingredient for dinner? Don't let that happen. Instead, plan out your menu as far in advance as possible to speed up the shopping experience.
Keep a well-stocked pantry
It's way easier to keep a pantry stocked than a fridge. Dry foods have a longer shelf life than almost anything that needs to be refrigerated, as long as they're well sealed and air-tight. Buying and keeping grains, seasonings, nuts, and few other healthy basics in in the pantry is certainly enough to throw together a meal if you're in a pinch. Plus, if you've already got quinoa, soy sauce, and spices in the pantry, you just need a few veggies to have all the makings for a healthy stir fry.
Shop local and seasonal
Head to the local farmers market for the cheapest and freshest options—find out what's closest to you here—and for the majority of produce, dairy, and meat. Buying directly from a farmer will end up being less expensive than purchasing from the grocery store. Plus, since farmers markets have a more limited selection, there's a smaller chance you'll stray from your list! Developing a relationship with farmers can certainly save money over time, and will also guarantee that only the freshest and most seasonal fruits and veggies make it into your cart.
Go meatless, occasionally
Sure, animal protein adds heft to a meal, but it's not necessary to eat every day to maintain a healthy diet. Try out #MeatlessMonday; plant-based plates can still be full of protein and be just as filling as a juicy cheeseburger, but typically the ingredients in a veggie meal are far less expensive! Not sure where to start? We know a good spot for vegetarian friendly recipes that the whole family will love.
Break up your shopping
Save time and money by doing half of your food shopping online. Knock out any items that you can using online vendors, so the only things on your list once you hit the grocery store after work are perishables like produce, meat, and dairy. Not only will this cut shopping time way down, but it will also save you tons money. It's so much easier to compare prices online as opposed to in the store, and it's pretty painless to immediately order goods as soon as you run out!
Illustration by Karley Koenig