Streamline Your Grocery Shopping Routine

While one way to be more efficient when grocery shopping is to pick up what you need every day, it’s tough to find the time or patience to do that. Another way to simplify your routine is to go the opposite direction, minimizing trips to the store with careful planning.

Yoga.Eat.Run. offers some tips to help you cut the time and money you spend at the store:

* Shop and cook just once a week. If you plan out all your meals ahead of time, you can haul in everything you need at the beginning of the week, then come home and cook it all, giving you ready-to-reheat meals when you come home each day, hungry and exhausted.

* Keep your fruit and veggies visible. Burying your produce behind other stuff makes it easy to forget about it, letting your food spoil before you eat it. Also, making healthier, natural snacks more accessible than chips and pretzels helps you eat better.

Further tips include taking an inventory of your food and getting rid of the space-wasting stuff you know you’ll never eat.

Grocery Shopping 101 [Yoga.Eat.Run.]

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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If you plan your meals and buy groceries accordingly, how does cooking all your meals in one day to reheat them later streamline your grocery shopping at all? I mean, if you’ve planned your meals, you have the groceries you need whether you cook everything on Sunday or cook a meal every day of the week.

    • castlecraver says:

      More of a convenience thing I guess, but could also eliminate the urge to pick up some takeout at the end of a long day. Also perhaps storage and forgetfulness is an issue for folks and it might make sense to use as much of your fresh veggies at once (instead of tossing half of something in the fridge and forgetting it’s there for a few days, when it might no longer be very appetizing).

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I would rather cook every other day and use ingredients as I need them rather than cook everything on one day and keep reheating. Most things just don’t taste as good reheated. Whenever we decide just to slum it and get pizza, it’s because we don’t want to eat the leftovers that are in the fridge. Reheating food you’ve prepared three days ago doesn’t seem to be anywhere as appetizing as just ordering pizza or Chinese, especially when it’s hot and wasn’t made three days ago.

        • castlecraver says:

          Agreed on that, but in the long run it’s definitely cheaper to eat the leftovers.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            It’s probably cheaper to develop the mental fortitude to just cook fresh meals that are less time-consuming. Stir fry can be very healthy and only take about 35 minutes. You can chop your vegetables ahead of time to save time, but once you throw it into the pan, it doesn’t take very long to cook.

            • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

              I agree, and realistically, keeping your pantry stocked with fresh, regularly used items isn’t a difficult task. It’s rare that I decide to cook something that has an unusual ingredient unless I’ve planned ahead of time and purchased the item in advance.

            • Potted-Plant says:

              Stir fry is great. Using the same technique and just switching up the spice palate can give you any variation of Chinese, Thai, Korean, or Japanese.

            • 451.6 says:

              Agreed. And with a smart rice cooker, it’s even easier. I program my rice cooker in the morning and I have warm rice when I get home. They also do a great job of keeping rice warm and delicious for a few days, so sometimes, I’ll cook rice the night before, have an onigiri for breakfast and use the rest of the rice with dinner and lunch the next day.

              There are a lot of basic Asian one-pan dishes: mapo tofu, oyako don, Szechuan green beans, or any veggies with your basic brown sauce. Sometimes, I just make up my own thing with lots of ginger, rice vinegar, chili sauce, stock, and hoisin. It never tastes the same twice, but you can’t go wrong with such delicious ingredients.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Agreed, although some things taste better when reheated.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          We also run into the same trap of just getting sick of leftovers and then ordering pizza.

          One way around it is to freeze extra food, so you’re not constantly eating the same thing every night. We probably have about two or three weeks worth of food in our chest freezer, so we can generally keep a pretty good rotation going.

    • I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

      [reaching] Perhaps the rationale is that if you make sure you get everything you need during that one shopping trip, you eliminate the chance that you’ll have to run back to the store for one or two extra items.

      I think the objective is just to save time in your everyday life, in addition to grocery shopping.

      • Rachacha says:

        We used to go to a service that would prepare several menu options for the month. You would go in, assemble all of the ingredients into zip-loc bags and take them home and place them in your freezer. You would simply pull a meal out of the freezer the day before and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Cooking/Prep time was typically 20-30 minutes, and all of the ingredients (except for water and occasionally some cooking oil) were included.. It was very handy, and eliminated the problem of “I want to prepare {dish} but I dont have this one ingredient…let’s just go out”

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Yeah I remember those. They charged 3-5x what you’d pay for the ingredients if you made it yourself. The convenience was great, but you still had to go to the place to obtain and assemble the food. Those places all closed up after the recession hit, by about 2009 or so.

          • Kestris says:

            Not all. There’s still a few around, such as ‘Foodies’ here.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              Don’t know where your “here” is, but many of those DIY-convenience-dinner shops that catered to HELOC soccer moms went away after the recession hit. I can see them surviving in high-income densely populated suburbs but not anywhere else.

              More online research finds that about 4/5s of those that were in Phoenix are now closed, including some chains such as Super Suppers and Dream Dinners. DD still has 2 locations in the Phoenix metro, and they have a special going right now – 18 “servings” for $75. That’s about $4.20 a serving (this is for your entree only), and I’ll bet my 420 that the servings are small.

              I notice there are no side dishes. I suppose they are available at the store, at additional cost, increasing the price per person accordingly. You have to schedule your prep time, which can be a boon the organized or a hassle for the rushed.

          • Rachacha says:

            Let’s Dish in the Washington DC area. There is a slight premium over going to the grocery store and picking up the ingredients yourself (A meal for a family of 4 would cost $6 rather than $5 purchasing all of the ingredients seperately), but having a pre-planned menu, including side dishes and a bunch of variety and having most of the prep work done made it easy to prepare dinner – Open bag, dump in skillet, turn occasionally for 15 -20 minutes over medium heat until cooked is a lot easier to manage when checking the kids homework before running off to soccer practice than having to find and measure all of the ingeridents and then cook it, and $6/meal is certainly a lot cheaper than $40-$60 that you would pay at a restaurant for a family of 4.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              I have a hard time believing a business like this is able to keep the lights on and the owner fed if they are charging only a 20% markup over grocery store prices. The ones I saw (in OKC, Dallas and Phoenix) charged about $5 to $10 a pound for their food. And there aren’t many meals you can make for $1 a person anymore even at home. A pound of hamburger is $3 minimum.

  2. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Shop once a week, yes.

    Cook once and reheat? You’ve got to be kidding. I can see some things, Lasagna, chili, etc. But a stir fry? Broiled/grilled chicken?

    With any kind of planning, there are many 30-45 minute healthy options. And since you are going to the store once a week, you have done the planning.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      There are many foods that reheat reasonably well or where the bulk of prep time can be done in advanced.

      We generally try to do most of our cooking on Sunday night and when we cook during the week, try to make enough food to get us by for two or three days. A lot of it just depends on how exhausting work is, if we have to work extra hours, have any community meetings, or need to shuttle the kids around.

      Getting home at 6:00 and immediately cooking for an hour is incredibly unappealing.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I agree that it has a lot to do with lifestyle and your daily routine. If have kids, that makes it really hard to cook for an hour when you’re already tired or have just spent a lot of time running errands. I don’t mind cooking for an hour when I get home, but I don’t have kids.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          We were exactly the same way too.

          If we have a clear evening schedule, as soon as I get home from work, my primary goal is to play or read to my kids for a half hour to an hour and then eat dinner. They go to bed at 8:30, which only leaves 2 1/2 hours to be with them before they’re out for the night.

          Things will probably be a little different once they’re old enough to participate in cooking. Until that time, we’ll probably continue to eat a disproportionate amount of stew, chili, casseroles, and reheated food. Summer is always nice because it’s so easy to grill and eat outside.

        • sponica says:

          I was an expert in cooking food in less than half an hour….sure it meant a lot of rice or pasta, pan fried chicken or pork, and frozen veggies. cooking for me is a means to an end, it doesn’t have to be spectacular…that’s why restaurants exist, to cook the things I am incapable of doing myself (usually fish dishes)

          I do think if people are concerned about veggies rotting in their fridge they should just go the frozen route. store brand frozen broccoli florets are just as good as the name brand…

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            I think you should revisit fish. I don’t order fish in restaurants anymore because it’s so easy to cook. The biggest worry is usually overcooking, but a meat thermometer is your best friend.

            • sponica says:

              the price of fish is usually higher than I can normally cost justify that my brain jumps to “if I’m going to spend that much on a meal, someone else is cooking it gosh darn it!”

          • OutPastPluto says:

            Vegetables should not rot if they sit in your fridge for a week. Otherwise, you need to find some place else to shop.

            Although veggies that are past their prime can be frozen or turned into soup (which itself freezes nicely).

      • Charmander says:

        Consider a crockpot – it’s nice to get home hungry and exhausted and have a hot meal waiting for you.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          I don’t think we could survive without our crock pot.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          I am cleaning out the hoardiness of my cabinets, back room, closets, etc. (several years of stuff I have been too lazy to shuffle or go through) and found a BRAND NEW 2-qt. Crockpot, still in the box. It will definitely get used. I’d love to have a nice meal cooking while I go through more crap, or while I’m at the Hellhole all day.

          And yes, I am throwing all the crap away. *facepalm* I don’t know why I ever thought I needed my school notes from 2004. But I filled up four boxes with junk yesterday and put it out by the trash. :) Yay me!

  3. Labratt21 says:

    I have been blessed (or cursed) by having an extremely organized girlfriend. When she and I make out our grocery list we add things on based upon what we need for our 2-3 week menu and whatever things like milk, etc we’re running low on. To add more organization, we arrange the list so that the list flows with the arrangement of the grocery store. Also, it prevents us from going down aisles that we don’t need to go down.

  4. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I stopped at the first line – “asses in the fridge”. No way – no matter how cheap they are.

  5. tator says:

    A do a lot of my meal planning in the store based on in store specials (like discounted meat/veg that is about to be pulled from the shelf). I allows a lower cost meal to get to the table rather than working completely from a list. I do use a list for staple items and to take advantage of advertised specials/coupons.

  6. brinks says:

    *assess
    *cupboard
    *rancid

    Did I miss any? She types like I do, but I’m not writing a blog or expecting anyone to read this.

    If you only shop once a week and you’re only feeding yourself, those fresh fruits and veggies will go bad before you eat them all. This always happens to me and discourages me from eating better. Otherwise, I think she offers pretty good advice.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I agree on the veggie issue. I have 2 mitigations:
      1. bleach soak. Since all veggies sold commercially are supposed to have been bathed this way already, well, I don’t care. 1/4 c water in a half-sink of water. Soak for 10 mins, turning occasionally. Drain and rinse with clean water; drain and store. Most things will keep for 2 weeks. No bleach odor, no rotting. Don’t soak potatoes or onions.
      2. Throw away any leftover vegs after 2 weeks.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Keep a freezer bag in the fridge for carrots/celery/onions. Trimmings or whole veggies that are on their way out can just be tossed in the bag. Keep uncooked chicken bits in the bag as well (skin, backbones, wing tips). When the bag is full, make stock.

      For other fruits and veggies that are in danger of being tossed out, puree and freeze. The fruit can be part of drinks or desserts; the veggies can be used for soups or sauces. You can do what we did when we made baby food: keep an extra ice tray for your purees. Freeze them, then put the cubes in plastic bags with labels. Makes it dead simple to portion.

    • sponica says:

      I buy frozen veggies to combat rotting veggies and I’m generally a lazy person. a bag of store brand frozen broccoli cuts will cost me about 1 dollar and 5 minutes of prep time. a bag of fresh broccoli will cost significantly more in money and time.

      I’ve never had a problem with fruits going bad before I get to eat them….unless it’s something that sat on a truck for 3000 miles. I tend to only eat fruit seasonally and buy from the farm stand because those strawberries will last longer than the ones that came on a truck from CA.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Why not just buy the amount you’ll eat. If you’re only feeding yourself, only buy three apples instead of a 5 pound bag. Or, if you want to buy the 5 pound bag because you think it’s just a better value, only eat apples or find a second use for them (apple sauce, smoothies, juice).

    • 451.6 says:

      I’ve gotten really, really familiar with how to freeze and pickle veggies. I live alone but it’s a lot cheaper to buy things like onions and carrots in the larger packages, so I’ll often chop and freeze these. That way, if I want soup, I can just put everything in the crockpot and come home to food after work. It makes no difference for soup or stewed dishes. Sometimes, I’ll pickle things if I’ve got too much food and I don’t want to freeze it. I love pickles in salads or just out of the jar so it’s win-win for me.

  7. Lethe says:

    My bf and I just bought a new house that is a 3 minute drive from where we both work, and there is a great grocery store right on that 3 minute route. I don’t think we could save any more time if we tried.

  8. ponycyndi says:

    This is why I drive past HellMart to go to Aldi instead. It takes me 30 minutes total from the time I leave the house, to the time I return again. I shop once a week. The only extra effort required on my part is to put my reusable bags back in my trunk after I put away the groceries, and keep a few quarters in my car.

    I just realized this last weekend how much I enjoy shopping there, when I ended up at Kroger because the Aldi was closed for the holiday. It took me forever, and I was exhausted from all the extra walking (mostly because I’m pregnant right now).

    • mbz32190 says:

      Aldi is the best for the basics (eggs, jam, cereal, etc). Many people are turned off because they think it is for extremely poor people. However, Aldi usually doesn’t open in those kind of neighborhoods. The one near me is kind of in a “dead” shopping center and not an extremely wealthy area, but most of the shoppers seem to be senior citizens and mothers. You really do save a lot of money even through all the hassle (bringing bags, “renting” cart, bagging own groceries, no credit cards accepted).

      • pop top says:

        I would rather deal with all of that “hassle” than shop at other, larger supermarkets. Aldi’s has exactly everything I need in a small space. The cashiers are friendly and process your transaction quickly, and they’re rarely very busy, even around the holidays. It’s a lot faster especially because most stores now have their cashiers bag the groceries, and they take forever. Having worked as a bagger when I was in high school, I can bag better and faster than most people, and I can bag my stuff the way I want it bagged as well.

      • kalaratri says:

        Ours is in a middle class neighborhood, but it’s always filled with people who behave like animals and their unattended children. More often than not there’s two people going apeshit at each other and/or a police cruiser outside.

  9. Kestris says:

    How about simply making a list of things you need throughout the week and the night before, go through and add whatever you missed or think you might need for that week. That way you only make one trip anyway. If we need specialty or rarely used ingredients, we add them to the list ahead of time by going over the recipes to see what we don’t have on hand.

    Works just fine for us.

  10. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    We buy all our staples in bulk (Costco, etc) and perishables we buy weekly. We’ve bought some things in bulk on the net: cases of Charmin toilet paper or Bounty towels because of the fantastic discounts with free shipping that are available at times. Some people think it’s funny (“Hey, you got FIFTY rolls of bumwipes in yer storage closet!”) but it really, really pays off moneywise and it’s really, really convenient not to constantly schlep the stuff from store to home.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      There’s nothing wrong with having a ton of toilet paper on hand. I clip coupons, and watch for sales, and have a stack that would last about a year, all purchased at greatly reduced prices. That way when I have a tight money month, I’m not shelling out excess money for full priced TP. Plus, you never know when the zombie apocolyse will befall us.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        Exactly. Nothing wrong with stocking up on non-perishables that you KNOW will be used…like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. I stockpile mustard when there’s a sale because the stuff, even after opened, won’t go bad for forever. I stockpile cat litter when there’s a good deal. Same with TP, paper towels, white vinegar, etc. That stuff will keep until I’m ready to use it, and there’s a 100% guarantee it’ll be used unless I die first.

    • gman863 says:

      Stocking up on non-perishable items can save you up to 50%.

      Last night I purchased about a year’s supply of liquid Tide (5 bottles). Between a sale price, coupons and a $10 gift card for purchasing $30 worth of P&G products, my net cost was about $3.25 per bottle – less than half of the $7.49 regular price, and even several bucks less than buying one industrial size bottle at Sam’s Club.

  11. webweazel says:

    One hint–Organize your shopping list according to departments, list the dairy or fresh vegs. or paper products together, and also according to how your store is laid out. Makes things easier.

    Also check other stores for better prices. Utilize them to your benefit. For example, on a big list for us, I shop at 3 (sometimes 4) stores: Dollar General for the basics, Winn-Dixie for meats (only) on BOGO, WalMart for the rest. Something important that I couldn’t get at the others, Rouse’s supermarket.

    I know it sounds like a pain in the ass, shopping at multiple stores, but it saves me about $50 or more per month to do it this way, and our freezer stays stocked with only items bought on sale. The best prices but limited selection is at DG. W-D is astronomically priced for everything, but I can get meats and stock my freezer for cheaper there than at Sam’s Club. All three stores are in a straight line for me, Rouse’s is the only one out of the way, but they carry a lot of odd stuff the others don’t. (Fresh SUSHI! My payment for a job well done!)

    One other thing– once or twice a month, buy something on sale you wouldn’t normally buy. Like cabbage, squash, kale, rabbit, a big bag of peaches in season, etc. Go online to Supercook and input the ingredient(s) and cook something new. Really expands your personal menu plans when you find things you like. (and don’t like) Keep a binder with plastic page protectors, and put in the printed recipes you like. Refer to it often for meal planning!

  12. pk says:

    Cooking once a week is quite possibly the dumbest suggestion I have ever heard. If you really don’t like to cook, how is spending hours in the kitchen on one day a week a good option? Also, eating leftovers every night would suck the joy out of your life.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Many people do not have the luxury of unlimited convenience and options. Compared to the options people had 75 years ago, supermarkets and food prep and storage appliances are pretty amazing. Spending one chunk of time (a week) for food prep saves a lot of time and hassle the rest of the week. It’s also cheaper and usually healthier than eating out every day.

      • pk says:

        My point is, if you don’t like to cook in the first place, isn’t doing all your cooking at once, I don’t know, 7x more daunting then just cooking a simple recipe every night? Also as others here mentioned, 5 day old leftovers cooked by a novice home chef will probably result in that food going to waste and buying a pizza instead.

        Articles like this are written for complete morons. If you’ve made it into adulthood without figuring out how to properly grocery shop and feed yourself, “YogaEatRun’s” article ain’t gonna help you.

        • ChuckECheese says:

          I’ll use my brother as an example. It’s surprising how frequently common sense doesn’t get into people’s heads. My brother or his gf cook every dinner nearly every night. They get tired of cooking. I say “Why don’t you cook larger meals a couple times a week?” They scratch their heads, say “Why not?” and then they go back to cooking every night.

          The problem is habit. People do what they’re accustomed to doing. It’s not that they lack knowledge, it’s that they don’t apply new knowledge to their current circumstances. Articles like this help those who are ready plot a course for change.

          As a celiac, I cook from scratch nearly everything I eat. I counsel new celiacs on their diet. If they say “I can’t / don’t like to cook,” I tell them they’re screwed. There’s little I can do to help them. Obviously an article where the main advice is to cook is not going to work for non-cooks. For a small family where somebody cooks however, making 2 or 3 meals and sides once a week will save effort throughout the rest of the week. If you have a larger family, obviously the only way to go is to enslave your children.

          For those who don’t like leftovers, I say “pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold …”

          • OutPastPluto says:

            Having leftovers every time you cook, is a good middle ground. Your leftovers don’t get quite so stale and you don’t have to cook every night.

            Although I think a lot of people’s palates have been destroyed by the excess salt, fat and sugar in industrialized food to the point where it’s difficult if not impossible to appreciate simple meals.

        • Not Given says:

          Once a month might work better. Chop everything that needs to be chopped all at once. Set up an assembly line. Make enough of each dish for several meals, seal it up in individual portions in freezer or vacuum bags or containers. Every night pull what you feel like eating out of the freezer and nuke it. Then you don’t have to cook until next month and you can do something fun with the money and time you saved.

    • 451.6 says:

      I usually plan for leftovers to freeze, either components or whole meals. Sometimes I can eat leftovers for days, other times I’m more fickle. If I’m chopping onions for something, I’ll chop extra to freeze. If I’m making black bean burgers, I’ll make a double batch, and freeze extra patties uncooked. Bechamel sauce, bread/pizza dough, many sauces, etc can be frozen. When I get home from visiting the ‘rents, I’ll pulling ricotta, butternut squash bechamel sauce, cheese, spinach, and other veggies out of the freezer and making lasagna the next day.

      I grew up in a household where my mother would buy tons of something (usually meat) while it was on sale and freeze it. She’d also freeze leftovers and either eat them later or add them to another dish. I don’t have 2 fridges, so I can’t do quite as much, but I’m trying to save money and minimize eating out or wasting groceries. I plan my meals at the beginning of the week, that way, I know when to take food out of the freezer or prep food or whip up a marinade in advance. I make things that freeze well, like this miso walnut dressing that I love on fresh veggies, because I know my mind only responds to simple commands after work. It’s much easier to convince myself to cook if I think “oh, I only have to steam those veggies” or “Everything’s already sliced, I just need to cook this stir-fry.”

  13. maxhobbs says:

    This sort of reminds me of a technique I would tell friends that wanted to go on a diet. I’d tell them every morning to take out the food they were allowed to eat for THAT day and put it together. Then you know that is the food that has to get you through the day. It’s a technique that works rather well, when people know what they have they tend to eat less to make sure they don’t eat it all up by lunchtime.

  14. maxhobbs says:

    Another great technique is to eat the same foods day in and day out. Stock up on oatmeal, chicken, potatoes, rice, veggies, etc…

    yes, it can be rather boring but it streamlines your shopping, makes you not feel as hungry, helps you keep weight off (as long as you eat basic healthy foods).

    Remember, you eat to live, you don’t live to eat.

  15. sadie kate says:

    I’m a big fan of cooking on Sundays for the whole week. I have a high-maintenance newborn at home who generally just screams if I ever set her down, and my husband leaves for work at 7am and doesn’t get home until 6pm, so neither of us feels much like cooking on a weeknight. He makes us dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights; Sunday during the day I cook two different entrees so we can eat one on Monday and Tuesday and the other on Wednesday and Thursday, and then Fridays we treat ourselves with some takeout. I also make a week’s worth of sandwiches for his lunch so it only takes me 5 minutes to pack his lunch every evening.