So you are going to the grocery store to pick up food for the week? Here is how I get what is best and maximize my time.
To me, there are two goals of stocking the fridge: (1) Keeping up with the essentials and (2) buying what is best looking or is best value. These tips help me stick to the plan, but are lenient enough for me to have variety in my diet and keep me excited in the kitchen.
TIP 1: DON’T OVER BUY!
Probably the biggest mistake that people make when they go shopping is that they over buy and they do not have a plan. Think ahead to the upcoming week and understand what you already have. If you know you are not going to be home alot, do not stock your fridge for a full weeks worth of meals. If you are lazy like me, make sure to write a list of the essentials that you need. This way you will know what is in the fridge and needs to be eaten. Here is an example:
- Fresh Fruit
You will note that I have intentionally vague categories for some things. This means that I have the ability to be flexible.
TIP 2: Look for affordable quality, not price.
Understand that what you are putting into your body is important. Just because something is organic does not make it better.
In terms of meat and fish. Look for environmentally friendly products that are higher welfare. This stuff goes into you and I think that shitty food comes from animals that have a shitty life. Fish especially should come from places that are environmentally friendly. Look for the MSC certified logo for the best products. Though these products may be more expensive, look for alternatives or go with the best you can afford.
When given the option and if the savings permit, I prefer to shop in open bins rather than for large baskets.
TIP 3: Know your seasons.
I always try to buy local to support local farmers but I also look for freshness. Fruit should smell…like the fruit it is supposed to be. Vegetables should be firm with no soft or brown spots. Uniformity is not as important as the over-all look. Trust your senses AND BUY WHAT IS IN SEASON!
In general, things that are in season (either in your back yard or around the world) are going to be cheaper and better. There is a reason why strawberries in January taste like nothing. They are picked green and bred to be flown across the word.
Check out this handy guide from Foodland Ontario here.
TIP 4: Shop using the “ring model.”
The ring model means that you spend as little time as possible on the inside of the shopping isles. This means that you are more likely to buy fresh ingredients and fill your cart with good things, rather than purchase processed food.
There is a problem though: MARKETING.
Most grocery stores understand that they can make the most money by enticing you with promotions, brand names and processed food. To combat this, make sure that you take your time and look for deals.When you do go into the isles, make sure you look for no-name/generic items as they are typically very similar. But never let this sacrifice quality. For some things, its worth it.
TIP 5: Look for the Raduit
My mother always taught me to look for the raduit cart. Typically this is a table full of a random assortment of fruits or veggies at the back of a store that need to be used as soon as possible. If you are planning on using something quickly, this is a great spot for savings.
Avocados are especially good in this area. Beware of things that are past their prime.
TIP 6: Don’t judge flavour by looks.
Something tasty does not always have to be pretty. Take for example this selection of veggies popularized by supermarket brand Intermarche:
Most people would not dream of eating that *ahem* carrot. But give it a chance and ugly fruit and veggies will show you that weird and wonderful can be beautiful. Even better, by choosing to eat ugly vegetables you will cut down on food waste!
TIP 7: Check out the Freezer
If you do venture between the isles. Look for things in the freezer section. Freezing veggies, meat, fish and fruit can be a great ways to preserve freshness.
Stock up on frozen peas, artichokes, okra and spinach (I prefer whole leaf if they have it). They will last forever and are great to have on hand.
I always have frozen fish and shrimp in my freezer. Frozen fish and seafood is often far fresher than the fresh stuff and is usually substanially cheaper. Meat is also great to buy frozen, but steaks and quick cooking cuts should be bought fresh when possible to preserve texture.
*bonus tip* Sprinkle a half and half mix of salt and sugar on fish as it defrosts to concentrate the flavour and improve the texture. You will notice the difference.
TIP 8: Stop and look.
Things like meat, fish and fresh produce, don’t be afraid to come home with something new. With the internet, you can easily find recipes for things, or try and think creatively. I have put all manner of things in soups and stir-fry’s and it has come out great!
The next time you are aimlessly walking through the market looking for the same old stuff, I want you to STOP.
Look to the left and to the right, what do you see? There is a whole variety of things waiting to be tried. This is especially true when shopping in culturally diverse areas.
Don’t be afraid to try new things! Discovering new ingredients is a great way to break of the same routine.
*BONUS* TIP: DON’T SHOP HUNGRY.
You will buy more. Spend more. Just don’t okay, eat before you go!