4 Tips to Grocery Shop Less

posted by Andrea | 03/8/2017
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Last month, I shared a few of the ways I’m able to save a considerable amount of time shopping for groceries — one of which is the fact that I usually only go to the grocery store every 10-12 days (sometimes I can even stretch it out to 2 full weeks).

I really never planned to stretch my shopping out by more than a week, and it’s not something I hold myself to like a strict rule, but it just sort of happened (mainly because I hate getting groceries and put it off as long as I can!)

That said, it has really been quite nice to limit my trips to the grocery store and I save LOTS of time by stretching my trips every 10-12-14 days.

However, several of you asked how we are able to do this — especially with fresh fruit and other perishable ingredients like milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, bread, etc.

As I thought about these questions, I realized there are a few specific things I do that make it possible for me to fairly easily stretch my grocery shopping trips (saving me both time and money) without running out of food and without letting all our produce go bad!

1. Realize that many foods aren’t as perishable as you might think.

I’m a stickler when it comes to dates on food and I will rarely use perishable foods after the “use by” date. I also have an EXTREMELY sensitive nose and if anything smells even slightly “off” I won’t eat it.

That said, I think you might be surprised how long of a shelf life (or refrigerator life) many “perishable” foods have — and this is KEY to being able to extend your grocery trips longer than a week.

Eggs, for example, are good for well over a month after you purchase them — which means I often buy 6 dozen eggs at a time. The kids and I usually eat 5 eggs every morning, I regularly use eggs for baking, we usually eat some sort of egg dish for dinner 2-3 times a month, and we almost always have a big breakfast on Saturday morning. This equals out to roughly 3 dozen eggs per week — so if I buy 6 dozen eggs, it easily lasts for the 10-14 days.

Milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese are also good longer than you might think. I can easily buy 4 gallons of milk and several containers of sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese without worrying about it going bad before we use it up.

Cheese (block cheese, shredded cheese, cream cheese, etc.) will last for MONTHS in your refrigerator — no need to freeze it. In fact, I used to slice our cheese, then freeze it all — but now that I realize how long it lasts in the refrigerator, I no longer bother with the extra freezing/defrosting steps. I do still store all our shredded cheese in our deep freezer (but mainly because we don’t have room for ALL of it in our refrigerator!)

I buy several loaves of bread and put it in our deep freezer and we have no issues with the taste or texture of defrosted bread or buns. I also keep several logs of frozen bread dough in the freezer for the rare occasion that we run low on store-bought bread. I can simply whip up a fresh loaf to tide us over until my next shopping trip.

I’ve found that most vegetables (even lettuce and spinach) last longer than you might think if properly stored in your refrigerator. Of course, root veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. are good for months, and even broccoli, cauliflower, celery, beans, and peppers easily last the full 2 weeks in our fridge (if we don’t eat them all first). Here’s one of my favorite tips for getting lettuce and spinach to last longer (it works so wonderfully).

If we run out of fresh veggies, I always keep canned corn in the pantry and frozen broccoli and cauliflower in the freezer as “last resorts”. Our family doesn’t mind eating those every once in a while (especially if I put cheese sauce on the broccoli and cauliflower!)

Fruit is probably the hardest to stretch the 10-14 days — but even that’s not so bad if I plan ahead. My kids LOOOOOOVE berries, so even though they are often pricy, I do usually buy quite a few berries every shopping trip. I wash and cut up 1 pint of strawberries at a time, and mix them with blueberries, raspberries, grapes, and clementine oranges as a little fruit salad for almost all our meals. We also eat several bananas every day, so I try to buy a handful of yellow bananas and quite a few green bananas on each grocery trip.

However, since we almost always run out of berries and bananas before my next trip, we then switch over to apples, grapes, and oranges — all of which seem to last longer in the fridge. And if all the fruit is gone, I always keep frozen fruit in the freezer (for smoothies) as well as canned mandarin oranges and my home-canned peaches and pears in the pantry. Plus, we ALWAYS have my home-canned applesauce available at every meal 🙂

2. Create extra cold-food storage (freezer/refrigerator).

I would not say it’s 100% necessary to have an extra deep freezer or an extra refrigerator — but it sure is handy for our family!

We have a medium-size deep freezer in our basement and a full-size refrigerator in our extra garage/outbuilding. We store all sorts of extra breads, meats, shredded cheese, baked goods, and more in our deep freezer. We also keep extra gallons of milk, orange juice, eggs, and surplus quantities of fruits and veggies in our extra refrigerator so we have a bit more room in our kitchen fridge for meals and leftovers.

Like I mentioned above, I don’t think this is totally necessary, but even something small, like a mini fridge, could help you stock up more and shop less often!

3. Utilize some sort of meal plan so you don’t have to make extra trips.

The last 2 times I was at our local grocery store, I saw a friend who I grew up with all the way from preschool through high school. She has 3 kids almost the same ages as ours and I joked that we must be on the same “shopping schedule” since we saw each other 2 times in a row.

She responded that she actually comes to the grocery store EVERY SINGLE DAY because she doesn’t decide what she wants to make for dinner until the afternoon — then she goes and buys everything she needs to make that particular meal.

I tried to hide my shock… and made a joke that we both laughed at, but inside I was thinking “Are you crazy? Why would you want to go to the grocery store with 2 or 3 kids every stinkin’ day?!?!”

As you know, even though I’m a huge advocate for meal planning, I don’t go crazy planning months of meals at a time, doing huge freezer cooking sessions, or making fancy foods. I simply jot down a handful of simple meal ideas based on what our schedule looks like for the next 10-12 days and add any ingredients I need for those meals to my grocery list.

It’s not an elaborate process by any means (it takes me 5-10 minutes total) but it saves me from making many little trips back to the store for things I forgot to buy.

4. Have a quick-stop plan for in between big shopping trips.

Although there are plenty of times when we literally do not step foot in any type of grocery store for 10-14 days at a time, there are other weeks when I have Dave stop to get bananas or another gallon of milk, or I walk with the kids to the small neighborhood grocery store to pick up another container of yogurt or strawberries.

I definitely don’t think it’s bad to have to pop into a store to pick up a couple things in between my 10-14 day shopping routine… as long as I only get the 1 or 2 things I need. I don’t want to get sucked into buying whatever was on sale that week and end up with a cart full of groceries, a $100 bill, and a bunch of wasted time at the grocery store again.

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Of course, shopping every 10-12-14 days won’t work for every family, but it seems to be working really well for our family right now (at least the majority of the time).

I LOVE not getting groceries every single week, and as long as I have some sort of generalized meal plan and an idea of any food I’d need to bring for upcoming parties or gatherings, I can easily stock up (thanks, in part, to our extra deep freezer and extra refrigerator).

Less grocery shopping is one big way I simplify my life right now — so it’s totally worth the small amount of extra planning for me! 

I’d love to know…

How often to you head to the grocery store?

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29 comments

  1. Pixie508

    03/09/2017

    Your last point describes more of what we do – I do a big trip every other week, but I do a smaller trip weekly for fresh produce, and milk (and bread if we need it). I only have one fridge, so I’m limited on the amount of produce I can have. However, we have a deep freezer, and pantry shelves downstairs. If I’m being honest, if I made sure we had enough meat, I could easily stock up for a month, as long as I made weekly stops for produce, milk, lunch meat, and bread.

    I used to stock up more, but I found I ended up wasting, and things got way expired (we’re not talking just a month, where it’s probably fine). So now, while I do keep a few spares of things we use all the time, I def buy less quantity than I used to.

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  2. Jenny

    03/09/2017

    The last sentence under # 4 made me snort!
    “I don’t want to get sucked into buying whatever was on sale that week and end up with a cart full of groceries, a $100 bill, and a bunch of wasted time at the grocery store again.”
    A cart full of groceries often costs me well over $100! But I see your point and all of these hints are great!!!

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  3. Mary

    03/08/2017

    My kids are almost the exact same age and gender as your three and I hate shopping with them. I tend to spend the bulk of my budget at the beginning of the month going to the commissary and Costco. Then I will fill in at the smaller Walmart grocery near my house or Sprouts for produce maybe once or twice.

    I have also been working on my heart attitude when I deal with food, menus, shopping and cooking. I do spend a large amount of time and effort feeding us healthy but I realized what a blessing and privilege it is to be able to drive my car to a store where I can purchase anything I need! I then can come home to unload it to my not one but two refrigerators where it will keep fresh for weeks. My kitchen is tiny but it has a stove and clean running water. Such a privilege that many people all around the world do not have. I try to keep this in perspective when I feel like grumbling about taking all the kids shopping or cooking yet another meal.

    And thanks for the spinach tip. I tried it today and I’m hoping it will extend the life of my salad.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you know, I almost concluded this post with something like what you mentioned — about how even though I dislike grocery shopping, It’s still SOOOOO much better than having to make every single thing from scratch, milk my own cows, make my own butter, make my own bread, just to feed my family a simple meal. So yes, I fully agree that we have it so good these days. I’m thankful for both our refrigerators and freezers and how much food I’m able to provide for our family just by driving a few miles down the road!

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  4. Kelly

    03/08/2017

    I try to grocery shop every Wednesday. Having it on a designated day and time slot helps me, because otherwise I sometimes end up needing to go at an inconvenient time otherwise. (Like, maybe I can stretch to Saturday, but I don’t really like using our weekend times for shopping).

    I actually really enjoy shopping with my kids, for some crazy reason. We are a bit of a freak show, haha, as we have 4 kids under five, including twin babies. I can only manage Trader Joes because it is small, so I can push the babies in the double stroller and then pull a cart behind me. I don’t think I could make it through a bigger store that way (if we just need a couple items, I can just put under the cart).

    Somehow it feels like a bit of an accomplishment to get out of there all in one piece, and people are usually really nice and helpful to me. I hate to give up the precious time my husband is around to go shopping with fewer/no kids, because there are many more things I would like to do with that time!

    So for now that’s our routine. We do some of the things you listed in your post, but I ought to buy some bread dough, as that’s a great backup tip!

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    Andrea Reply:

    the frozen bread dough is such a great thing to have on hand!
    Also, I agree that things are often easier when they are on a schedule. I found that doing laundry on the same days every week has been very helpful for me.

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  5. Heather Ratliff

    03/08/2017

    I’m generally a once a month food shopper. I plan my meals for the whole month and make a list from there. (Or sometimes I’ll do a pantry challenge and make my meal list from the pantry/freezer!) I don’t mind shopping, but I don’t like having to deal with lots of people in the store. However, I do make other trips to stores, so I end up going 5-6 times during the month.

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    Andrea Reply:

    well I guess I could also say that I wouldn’t mind shopping — if I didn’t have to deal with other people in the store 🙂 Maybe I can have a private grocery shopping time where no one else is allowed into the store!

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    Pixie508 Reply:

    Andrea – that’s why I used to shop at 9p when my oldest was small! The grocery is practically empty! The only thing is that the counters are closed, so if you need the bakery, deli, or butcher, you’re out of luck. If you only need things in the cases, you’re golden!

    These days, I shop while my 5yo is at school, and I just take my 2yo, who will happily munch on the free slice of cheese our deli gives out to kids.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I do go at night sometimes — but as I mentioned in my post a couple weeks ago, I don’t love “wasting” my kid-free hours at the grocery store. I’d rather be working on house projects or blog work, or just relaxing and watching Netflix 🙂
    So most of the time, I go after Dave gets home from school or when Nora is at school and I just have the 2 boys!

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  6. Hannah Beth Reid

    03/08/2017

    We usually only do a big shopping trip at the beginning of the month, with a few smaller ones throughout the month. The main issue we have is preserving the correct food until later in the month (cheese for a recipe, etc), so I’ve been known to label things with a marker or hide it in a grocery store bag in the back of the fridge (sometimes even writing on the menu plan where I put it). I also keep some non-perishable items in a completely different place in our laundry room in a box. It is like Christmas to open the box mid-month and find groceries without shopping or spending a dime!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — that’s great! You sound very organized, and that’s probably why you can get away with shopping so little! good for you!

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  7. Jennifer

    03/08/2017

    Wow! We are almost on the exact same schedule! I try do every 10-14 days as well. But I agree the longer the time between grocery trips the better. We do the exact same with fruit. Eat the berries up first and save the other fruit for a few days later. I notice that this saves us a lot on grocery costs as well because no matter how hard I try I always have some impulsive buys while at the store so the less I’m there, the less of the impulsive buys I get!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I’m the least impulsive shopper around — but even I will get sucked into special sales or discounts when I go to quickly pick up bananas or something!

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  8. Kristen

    03/08/2017

    Do your kids eat cantaloupe or pears? I’ve found that since they take a few extra days to rippen I can buy those and save them for when our berries and other fruits are eaten up and can hold out on a grocery trip are little longer.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, we just had cantaloupe for lunch. James won’t eat it, but the other two will. Also, I have a bunch of canned peaches and pears (that I can myself in the fall) in our basement, so they eat those as well.

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  9. Karen

    03/08/2017

    Way too often. And all the stores are a ten minute drive away. I have no good reason not to do this. I always feel like I need to take advantage of unadvertised specials and markdowns, but, really, I have a fairly substantial stockpile of non perishables. I don’t use paper towels, but I’m sure I can find something to help with the leafy greens.

    I pay very little, if any attention to the “best before” dates, having grown up before there was such a thing for any products, including medication. But I agree, always use your nose. Food does NOT have to be past the marked date to be bad. The local food bank distributes “non perishable” food up to one year beyond that date.

    I’m going to bet that I will save as much or more money by not being at the store as often. Thinking about the stop for fruit yesterday that ended up costing $39….

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    Andrea Reply:

    Well, in your defense, fruit can be really expensive 🙂
    As for the lettuce and spinach, you can use a thin lint-free towel too — I have a bunch of flour sack clothes that work really well (although they usually get stained slightly greenish after a while!)

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    Karen Reply:

    Cough, cough, only $8 was spent on fruit. Yeah, stay outta the store.

    Thanks for the flour sack tip. I have a handful of actual flour sacks that are already stained. I really did try to purge them, but they’re some of my mother’s real flour sacks with the print still on them, so they went into my “I’m allowing myself to hoard this, at least for now” storage. Making them useful again is better. Does that count as backhanded purging?

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well then you didn’t buy all that much fruit!
    And yes, I think it’s totally OK to save some of those flour sacks with the print on them (although I’m a sucker for antique kitchen goodies)

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  10. Amy

    03/08/2017

    Off to search craigslist for an extra freezer/fridge. Man I dislike getting groceries.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, we’ve had good luck finding used appliances on Craigslist. Good luck!

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  11. Annette Silveira

    03/08/2017

    We are also able to stretch our shopping trips out with meal planning, buying larger quantities and storing things properly. I definitely save money, I think mostly because I’m not repeatedly impulse buying.

    I’ve also started using Amazon and Target subscriptions more. Even if the item isn’t on subscribe and save, if I can get it delivered, I save myself a trip to the store and I consider that a win.

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  12. Kari

    03/08/2017

    I’m generally a weekly shopper, but you’ve inspired me to try to go 2 weeks. 🙂

    How do you defrost your bread/buns? I’ve tried a few different ways, but have been unsuccessful.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    Curious as to other answers, but we just let ours thaw naturally on the counter. I try to pull it out the night before we will need it. We’ve been thrown in a pinch a few times and tried to defrost various ways and it was very unsuccessful.

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    Kari Reply:

    Do you leave the bag sealed?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, this is what we do too. I’ve tried defrosting a few slices in the microwave and that never turns out well!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I just pull them out of the freezer and set the bag on the counter (and per your other question — yes, I leave the bag closed). We’ve never had any issues with frozen bread or buns not defrosting well.

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    Kelly Reply:

    We just toast our bread in the toaster! I try to make sure rolls and bagels are sliced before freezing, for the same reason.

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