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Jul 5, 2010 11:22 AM

How often do you shop for food?

I'm trying to get into the habit of shopping only every two days or so, as I've heard so many Europeans do. I like the idea of buying only what I'm going to cook for the next 3 to 6 meals or so, and ensuring everything is at its freshest. And during the spring and summer, it's a joy to visit local stands and farmer's markets as often as possible, and select freshly harvested produce.

However, it's really hard to shop often, when life is so hectic, and your parents gifted you and your new husband a pair of Costco memberships! It's sooo tempting to fill a massive cart with food to last an entire season, you know?

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  1. First, practice frugality. IT'S A MAJOR SIN to buy beautiful fresh produce and allow it to go bad because you over-bought (or under-ate). Same with freezer-burning meats because you keep finding great deals.

    Second, write a shopping list. At least a general plan for only two days - Chicken Something and Lamb Something. Now when you go to the store you're going to look for ingredients that can be used with lamb and/or chicken. Not beef short ribs and fresh mahi mahi.

    Third, when you go to Costco/Sams, take in 4 freshly washed cloth grocery tote bags. When they're full, leave! No carts or trolleys or semi-trailers!

    1 Reply
    1. re: KiltedCook

      Amen on the frugality.

      I aim for at least 20 no-spend days per month (during the winter, I manage 25-26), and if I'm spending money, some of it is going to be on food; therefore, I shop for food 10-11 times per month in the spring and summer. I also don't eat fish or meat, so my groceries are less volatile than most, but I have thrown the odd forgotten potato into the compost.

    2. i shop for fresh stuff 2 days at a time. until you get in the habit it's easy to get too much. i also go to markets (farmers, fish, meat, bakery) rather than big box grocery stores (the big store is usually every 2 weeks or so). that said i have a very deep pantry of non-perishables. good luck!

      1. i shop 4-5 days a week, however I live in a very small apartment with almost no storage (I have literally one small overhead cabinet for food storage) so I can't keep much in the house. I usually run into my local grocery store on the way home from the subway at night and pick up something for dinner (which is also lunch the next day) generally spending between $3-$6. I do one "big grocery" trip every two weeks where I get about $60 worth of stuff from trader joes.

        1. We are being sort of forced to shop Euro-style by my European MIL who has no concept of what "planning ahead" means because her apartment is tiny, her fridge is tiny, and she has a sprawling open market right outside her door. I find it expensive to shop this way here. I can't complain too much since she's cooking wonderful meals, but sometimes it's frustrating when we went to the store yesterday, asked her if there's anything else she can think of that she needs, only to find out today that she ran out of tomatoes and wants to make a dish tonight that calls for one or two and used up all my canned ones. Such is life for the 3 months they are here, bless her heart.. ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jen76

            Its not unusual for me to go to the grocery twice in one day (did that today, actually, after realizing I didn't have as many grape tomatoes at I thought!) i rarely run out of "pantry" items but I do most of my cooking with lots of fresh veggies and dairy so I usually spend the day trying to plan my dinner meal so by the time I'm on my way home I have a shopping list set in my head. Plus, my fridge and freezer are SO tiny- I can't even really keep lots of frozen meats so I generally buy the meat or fish I want the day I'm going to cook it unless I come across a really great deal.

            1. re: CarmenR

              "so I usually spend the day trying to plan my dinner meal so by the time I'm on my way home I have a shopping list set in my head"

              Key word is "plan." And we don't have a tiny space. We live in a moderate house (1500 s.f.) with an American fridge/freezer (i.e. huge), a small chest freezer, and a pantry. Plenty of food in the house, but if you don't plan a course of action to use it, you end up going to the store daily to find the one ingredient you're missing. Sometimes the one ingredient can only be found in an ethnic market that's 20 minutes away by car. I'm the planner in the house, but we don't speak the same language so it's difficult for me to help her plan since I am at the mercy of my husband's willingness to play translator, though I'm improving my comprehension of some words/phrases. ;)

          2. During the warm weather months every two days. During the winter once a week.

            Once you get in the habit, you'll find it very easy and relaxing to do. Instead of planning every meal, every moment you get to eat what looks good that day. For me, it's meant putting fresh fish on the table every couple of days. Delicious AND healthy.

            You'll save so much time and stress not having to hone your spatial logic while standing in front of your open fridge that the 5 minutes in the store will seem like a vacation.