Smart Supermarket Shopping: 16 Tips for a Busy Week
Shopping for your week's groceries is always a puzzle. How do you get everything you need in one shot and avoid midweek runs for forgotten items? Here are some tips from the Food Network Kitchens.
Going to the grocery store with a plan makes for a smooth, carefree experience. Without a guide, you can easily become flustered and buy items you don't even need. We plan, shop and cook as a part of our job, so here are a couple more tips from Food Network Kitchens.
We are narrowing in on how to shop for a busy week. Sometimes you don't get home from your day until right before you need to have dinner on the table. Having your refrigerator stocked properly can put you two steps ahead. Ideally, make your grocery run during the weekend, and start cooking on Sunday before the chaos ensues. The key to eating this week is planning ahead.
Think about building your grocery cart with three categories of food: items that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated, items that can be purchased prewashed or precut, and items that are quick-cooking. Having the right combination of the three will ensure a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner possibilities. This combination will also balance out your budget. Precut and deli items may be a tad more expensive, but you'll make up the difference in other categories, utilizing cheaper cuts of meat, inexpensive grains and rolling everything you make into endless leftovers.
Prepare ahead: Buy ingredients that can be incorporated into all kinds of dishes.
- Soups and stews: This is a great way to get healthy meals in ahead of time. Make a variety of pureed soups (e.g., squash, broccoli, pea, mushroom and lentil) and freeze, defrosting when needed. Or make two soups on Sunday and keep in the fridge for at least two dinners or lunches. Big batches of chili or hearty stews will also come in handy; these kinds of dishes always taste better the next day anyway. Soups and stews are a great way to stretch a buck, as well.
- Casseroles: Assemble these on a Sunday when you have more time, leave in the fridge and pop in the oven right when you get home. Great options include lasagnas (no-boil noodles help), sliced portobello and eggplant stacked with tomatoes and shredded cheese, and chicken and rice.
- Braising meats: Slow cooker to the rescue! If you have 15 minutes in the morning to drop a brisket or pork shoulder in your slow cooker, you'll come home to a fantastic meal that evening. Or braise some short ribs on Sunday and use them the whole week long in sandwiches, pasta sauces, burritos and quesadillas. Added bonus: Braising cuts are much cheaper than the more tender cuts of meat.
- Oatmeal or grits: Make a huge batch, store in a resealable container and eat in the morning with different additions all week long: dried fruit, toasted nuts, maple syrup, honey or brown sugar, fresh berries and more.
Prepared foods: Buy ingredients that are inherent time-savers.
- Prewashed lettuce: This will save you time when making salads for lunch or dinner.
- Prewashed spinach: Washing spinach can be an endless process, but it is quick-cooking and healthy, so buy it prewashed. Add it to eggs for a healthy omelet or sauté it with garlic and red pepper flakes for a simple, flavorful side dish.
- Precut produce from the salad bar: The salad bar at the market offers great variety of prewashed and precut produce, far more than the carrots and celery that you may see in your produce section. Look for hearts of palm, broccoli florets, beets, artichoke hearts and corn that can be added to salads, but also quickly tossed into pasta sauces or rice dishes.
- Good cheese: If the French can feast on a baguette and a slice of brie cheese for dinner, so can you. There is something decadent, yet simple about a dinner of great bread and great cheese. Add a side salad and you have a fast, luxurious dinner.
- Good bread: Having artisanal bread in your kitchen this week will save you. Your quick sandwich turns into something heartier; your leftover vegetable side turns into a sophisticated bruschetta, all in the matter of minutes. If it's summertime, just layer a couple of tomato slices on some toast and sprinkle with sea salt — a perfect lunch.
- Good deli meats: In the same vein as the cheese, a variety of salami, good turkey or roast beef can come to the rescue when you're out of time. The more flavorful your ingredients, the happier you'll be when you assemble your meal quickly.
- Rotisserie chicken: The supermarket rotisserie chicken is an amazing addition to your refrigerator this week. Shred it for chicken salad sandwiches or chop it up for a hearty whole grain salad.
Quick cooking: Buy items that take no time on the stovetop.
- Seafood: Because fish takes no time to cook, it is a rescue item this week. Remember it doesn't last long in the fridge, so buy one type and cook it Monday night. If your family likes scallops, pick those up — they cook in just one minute per side.
- Fast beef options: Strip steak is the ideal cut for you this week because it will cook up quickly. Drop it in a zip-top bag with some olive oil, citrus, garlic and herbs, marinate it while you're at work, then drop it on a preheated grill pan for just a few minutes per side, let it rest, then slice and serve.
- Chicken: Chicken tenders are a great solution this week because their small size gets them from oven to table fast. If you have time on your Sunday prep day, coat these tenders in flour, egg and then panko, and wrap them up in plastic to store in the fridge. On Tuesday or Wednesday, toss them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, make a salad and a quick, delicious barbecue sauce or spicy ketchup. Chicken tenders are a great item to buy on sale in bulk and store in your freezer.
- Sliced bacon: A staple for breakfast, sliced bacon (and turkey bacon) can come in handy this week for lunch and dinner. Bacon does fine cooked in the microwave (fast and little cleanup); in just minutes you can have a delicious BLT sandwich or cobb salad. Or turn things upside down and serve bacon and eggs for dinner.
- Instant rice: No judgments here! We admit to buying packages of 90-second microwavable brown rice for last-minute, healthy meal preparations. This is a brilliant way to have a no-fuss, no-fail, quick rice component on your plate, lunch or dinner. Toss with herbs and crumbled cheese, or lay as a bed for quick stir-fry or reheated chili.
Just because you have a hectic week doesn't mean you need to turn to takeout or fast food. Shopping with these tips in mind, and doing a little prep and cooking on the Sunday before, will get you on your way to a fulfilling, nutritious week of efficient eating!
Before you head to the store, make sure your pantry is stocked, and check out more smart shopping strategies and recipe ideas from Food Network.