1. Keeping an updated shopping list is more important than ever
A shopping list is a must-have in most households, but it turns out that a big percentage of people don't update the list on a daily basis throughout the week, simply writing down an approximate list the day they go shopping instead. This is a common mistake and one that's bound to leave you without many staple items you don't use every day, such as cleaning products, flour, sugar, etc.
An updated and accurate list is especially crucial when you're set to only go shopping once or twice a week, so make sure to have a running list you update the moment you see an item is missing or low. This could either be a sticky note on the fridge or a note on your smartphone, but if you do prefer to write the list down the old-fashioned way, don't forget to take it with you when you go shopping. I know I've forgotten my list at home a number of times, which is why I got into the habit of taking pictures of the list with my phone, too, just in case.
When compiling a list, it also helps to visualize what you already have, so it's a good idea to go and actually open the fridge, freezer, pantry, and cabinets to see what should be added to the shopping list.
2. Shop your fridge and pantry before you go to the store
By the end of the week, we often run out of fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, bread, milk, and juice, which often makes us think that we're out of food and need to go shopping asap. Most often, this is not really true, and you actually have a lot of food "hiding" in your pantry and freezer.
So, instead of running to buy more food, get creative with ingredients you already have at home, such as canned foods, pasta, and frozen veggies. Chances are, you'll be able to make some sort of pasta dish, oatmeal for breakfast, or a quick stew or stir-fry that will last you at least another day.
3. Buy alternatives that stay fresh longer
Buying fruit and veggies for two weeks can be tricky, but it's not impossible. You just need to buy foods with longevity in mind. For example, loose-leaf lettuce typically lasts only a few days, while a head of romaine lettuce will be good for a whole week if kept in the fridge. If you're looking for an even more long-lasting salad alternative, consider cabbage, because it is known to stay fresh for a month or even more in the refrigerator.
Instead of stocking up on berries and bananas, which can last a week max, buy a smaller quantity of the former and also buy some apples and pears that last for weeks. You can also buy carrots, potatoes, and onions in bulk, as these veggies will stay fresh for more than a month. When it comes to cheese, it's also useful to opt for hard cheeses, such as gouda, parmesan, or cheddar instead of soft cheese varieties like brie, mozzarella, and cottage cheese, as the former will also stay fresh much longer.
4. Buy only 1/3 fresh produce
If you're planning on going grocery shopping less often, chances are you'll need to rethink your shopping habits a bit. Experts recommend mostly buying non-perishables, such as frozen, dried, or canned foods, which should make up 2/3 of your groceries.
Only 1/3 of your purchase should consist of perishable foods, such as most dairy products, bread, fresh fish or meat, and fruit and veggies that wilt faster. Investing more in canned produce may be worth a shot, too. To see which canned products to buy, read our previous article on the best and worst canned foods.
5. Be ready to make adjustments to the weekly food plan
Plan weekly meals with the perishability of different ingredients in mind. You'll have to use up the foods that get bad fast first, so you might enjoy oatmeal with fresh berries, avocado toast, and a green salad with baby mozzarella during the first few days after your shopping trip.
Sometimes, this will mean sacrificing your evening meal plans for something else, like a quick salad if you see that your lettuce is on its last legs, or pasta with tomatoes and a creamy sauce if your tomatoes started to soften and dry out. Compromise is key.
6. Get the most out of your freezer
We've previously already written about the best and worst foods to buy frozen, so chances are that you already know how to maximize the use of your freezer. We highly recommend buying frozen veggies and freezing a variety of foods, such as meat and fish, and even bread, if you know you won't be able to eat it in time.
Freezing helps you extend the shelf life of foods significantly, so buying in bulk and freezing is a smart tactic if you don't want to shop often.
7. Be ready to spend more every shopping trip
It only makes sense that if you shop twice or three times less often than you would normally, each shopping trip will cost you twice or three times the sum you're used to paying. While this may be quite heartbreaking at first, you must understand that this is just because you're buying more food than you used to. As a matter of fact, stocking up on things and buying in bulk may actually save you some money in the long run, even if it doesn't seem like that when you see the total at the register.
8. Make do without the missing items until the next trip
Perfection may be the goal, but it's not always possible, and that's fine. You're bound to forget some things, even if you came to the store with a detailed shopping list and made a weekly meal plan. Instead of being upset or running back to the store, however, we advise you to have a more flexible approach and make do with the food you've already bought.
This means being willing to use substitutes, e.g. making oatmeal cookies instead of chocolate chip ones, or replacing sour cream with yogurt in a recipe. And sometimes, this just means postponing the recipe until your next shopping trip altogether. Remember, practice makes perfect, and even if planning for the entire week or more may seem impossible at first, it will soon become second nature!
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