Content written for greentree.coop by Tati Jones
The ongoing pandemic has fundamentally changed the way Americans shop for food. For the first time in a generation, in fact, Americans are spending more at the supermarket than at restaurants and fast-food chains — both because of dine-in restrictions and because shoppers are simply spending more time at home. Curiously, this increased grocery spending is happening despite Americans taking fewer trips to the supermarket.
In fact, 19% of Americans took at least three weekly trips to the grocer pre-pandemic; that number dropped to just 10% during the course of the pandemic. And it makes perfect sense, as the less people go out, the less likely this virus will spread. This is especially true today in light of this pandemic raging on seemingly unabated. But if you want to cut your trips to the supermarket effectively, you’ll need to learn a few grocery shopping hacks that’ll help you maximize every visit to the grocer, so that you won’t have to return over and over. Some of these hacks are as follows:
Start meal prepping.
Meal prepping, or preparing meals in advance for easy cooking or reheating later on, is one of the biggest keys to maximizing your trips to the supermarket. That’s because meal prepping allows you to make a concrete plan of what you and your family will eat for every meal, usually for a full week. Armed with this plan, you will be going to the grocer knowing exactly what you’ll need to buy and how much of it, thereby minimizing the chances of you forgetting something. As an added bonus, you can stock up and save big on some commonly used ingredients, like all-purpose organic vegetable broth, or even ready-to-eat treats, such as granola bars.
Invest in the right kitchen appliances.
Given the crucial role meal prepping plays in maximizing your every trip to the grocer, it’s equally important to have the right kitchen appliances so that you can reheat your prepped meals quickly and easily. A must-have is the rice cooker, particularly a modern one. A review of the best rice cookers details how today’s models have a wide selection of settings that not only ensure perfectly cooked rice, but can also be used to make a range of meals, including those you’ve prepped for the week. Modern rice cookers are very simple to operate, too, which means everyone in the family can use it to reheat or cook food. Instant pots are similar to rice cookers in this regard, and would be just as useful to those who are meal prepping.
Not everything will go according to plan. Sometimes, a few of the ingredients you need won’t be available at your nearby grocer. Rather than get frustrated and start panicking, registered dietitian Lauren Clark advises people to stay even-keeled. “Once you get to the store be flexible,” Clark explains. “If they’re out of something that you need don’t panic. That’s the time to let your inner chef come out and start making some substitutions.” No buttermilk? Improvise with vinegar and lemon. No lemon grass? Lemon zest would work just fine. No pepperoni? Salami is a great alternative. A good hack in this case is to bring along your smartphone to research these substitutes. Or ask your friendly Co-op staff for suggestions – they’re always willing to help!
Do an inventory — always.
Finally, take stock of what’s left in your pantry and fridge. Then, meal prep based on whatever you find and just add whatever else you’ll need. (Checking out available sales before you shop can also make creating your shopping list easier.) Make it a point also to dispose of items that are already expired so that both your fridge and pantry will have room for the next batch of groceries. Not to mention, you may even find that what’s left in your kitchen would be enough to make meals for another day or two. And if that’s the case, you’d be able to put off your next trip to the grocer.
If it’s time to go to the supermarket, make sure you follow the precautions recommended by your local authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like keeping a safe distance from others, washing and disinfecting your hands as often as possible, and wearing a mask. In this way, you will increase the likelihood that you’ll stay safe even when out and about.