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How do you stock your pantry, and shop, to not run out or have things that expire?

It's just me and my husband and we cook 'sometimes' ... still trying to find a strategy for shopping that doesn't result in us throwing out items that aren't fresh any longer. Am now contemplating buying fresh items only when I know they'll be for a specific meal. (Planning/shopping a day in advance or day-of for freshest ingredients.)

Anyone have an actual shopping strategy that works for them? (With similar household size/cooking frequency.)

(Edited to add this companion thread about what stays fresh: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... )

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  1. I hear you -- as a singleton who loves to cook, I am always disheartened at how much food I can't use up before it turns to sludge in the fridge. A few tips that have helped me not be so wasteful:

    - love your freezer. Make a full recipe and then freeze half (I usually do single servings in heavy duty ziploc bags. They freeze flat and don't take up a lot of room.)
    - similarly, portion up fresh meat and poultry when you get home from the store, and put what you know you wont be eating right into the freezer.
    - concentrate on stocking the pantry with shelf-stable items that you can throw together with only a few other fresh ingredients. Good quality Italian tuna and cans of white beans immediately come to mind.
    - invite people over a lot. I have the most fun trying a new recipe if I can have a few friends over to try the result. They are always game and that way I don't have a million leftovers.
    - I haven't conquered the bag of salad thing yet, and usually end up throwing the last bit away, but if you don't dress the whole bowl of salad, opting to dress it on your plate, it will keep for at least another day in the fridge.
    - wrap cheeses properly so they last longer, never use saran wrap. I learned to wrap big hunks in a paper towel before putting in a baggie to keep the condensation down.

    1. Thanks, good advice. :)

      1. I do just about everything yumyum mentions. I am single but have 1-2 people over for dinner 1-2 times a week, order in once a week for dinner; and eat out 1-2 times a week, almost always for late lunch on weekends. I used to shop once a week and had a full fridge and was wasting food like crazy, throwing it out because it was going bad. I now shop almost every day, mostly for that nights dinner. Since I am buying only a few specific items I am in the store usually only five minutes, which added up over the week is less time spent than when I did one big shop a week. I find I am spending less money overall, with less waste and healthier meals. On weekends I do some big cookups and put portions in ziplocks and multi-use disposable storage containers which I freeze, half of this I end up giving to friends because I always cook more than I can eat.

        1. It seems to me that the salad in the plastic tubs keeps better than the salad in bags, so if you don't eat it all at once, you can put the lid on the tub, and it keeps for several days.

          I am trying to clean the fridge out every week just before I go shopping so that I notice anything that needs to be used up right away, but that might have gotten pushed to the back.

          I'm having a lot of trouble with loaves of bread right now. My husband and I eat whole grain bread, my son eats something less heavy, so we need to have two loaves available, but we don't go through two loaves before it goes bad. I guess the solution is freezing half a loaf, but that seems cumbersome.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Anne H

            I slice it into toaster-friendly pieces and freeze them in zip loc baggies - when we want fresh bread, I just put them straight into the toaster from the freezer. (just have to dial the toaster down a bit to make sure it doesn't burn)

            1. re: Anne H

              I freeze sliced bread, bagels, rolls, etc. and they stay pretty fresh. Since there are just two of us in the house, I am able to have a few types of bread at home at all times.

            2. Jars, jars, jars. My SO goes to a bulk place once a month or when needed to fill up on rice, flour, basic pasta, sugar, etc. We stick it all into jars. We have an assortment of plastic containers in which to freeze.

              We clean and cut lettuce immediately, and store it in a paper-towel lined Tupperware container.

              As far as bread goes, we buy fresh dinner rolls from the bakery and freeze what we don't use. To defrost, wrap a roll in foil and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, and all is well.