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.
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…