9 Smart Shopping Tips for Busy Families

Hear from the finalists of Food Network Star about how to save time and money when grocery shopping.


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Pick a Protein and Stick with It

"Take one protein, buy a ton of it, and use it in different meals. Don't try to make chicken, salmon, another fish, whatever every day," Addie Grunwald recommends. "Trying to simplify what you're making will actually save you money." 

Know the Items You're Buying and Why

"If you are buying with a purpose — you know what you’re buying, why you’re buying it — then there’s probably going to be a lot less waste. I prefer chicken thighs over chicken breasts any day," explains Amy Pottinger. "There are definitely scenarios where fresh is better, but there’s also some scenarios when frozen is better, like if a vegetable is out of season."

Push the Boundaries of What You Eat

Cao Tran's advice is simple: "I literally just eat it all," she says. "You can eat everything — carrot tops, beet tops — you just have to cook it. Just blend it. Mix it into your meat if nothing else. If you can’t figure out anything else to do, just put it in a food processor, then after you cook your meat, mix it in there and it’s being used."

Whole Ingredients Will Go Further

Take it from professional chef Cory Bahr: "I maximize my ingredients by buying whole ingredients, whether it be whole pigs, whole fish. Also, I want the vegetables with the peel and the roots and the leaves and everything, because that for me is a very efficient, very honest and very ecologically sound way to cook. So that’s how I maximize flavor —let’s say I buy a whole fish. I break down the fish, save the head and the bones, and make a stock from that. You buy a whole carrot, you take the carrot tops, you make salsa verde or chimichurri or all these beautiful things. So, you’re not only buying one product; you’re getting a multitude of uses out of it." 

Embrace the Grocery List

"Organize, have a grocery list, have a plan, have a task. Cause a lot of times, people will go to the grocery store hungry. You don’t want to the grocery store hungry, cause you just do impulse buying. Don’t do that," notes David Rose. "Have your set list, your set budget and just stick to that. Be very self-disciplined." 

Buy in Bulk When Possible

"Instead of buying a small thing of spaghetti that may be $2, buy the larger one that’s on sale for $1.99," Jason Smith tells us. "Yes, that may be a penny, but you’re still going to get more for your money, and you’re going to get more meals out of that."

Cook and Prep for Later

"Whatever’s fresh is what I’m going to cook at that time," declares Rusty Hamlin. "Now is a perfect time of year to go out and get all these amazing fresh vegetables that you can take and spend your Sundays [with] and take some time in the kitchen. Bring your kids, bring your family into the kitchen and clean corn and cut corn off the cob and take and seal it up and put it in the freezer. And then you look back and [when it's] November and everybody’s shaking and shivering, you have beautiful fresh corn that just came out of your kitchen." 

Stick to the Perimeter of the Store

Trace Barnett shares his shopping philosophy: "One thing I really like to do, and this is kind of my go-to thing in the grocery store, is try to only shop around the outside perimeter, because that’s going to be your produce, that’s going to be your dairies, and also your meats — all your perishables are going to be on the outside perimeter. And I definitely look for in-season produce. Definitely stuff that’s in-season, fresh off the farm, that’s perfect. So, work your way around the outside, and then filter your way in to the more processed stuff, because that’s going to be a bit more expensive."

Preserve Food So It Stays Fresher Longer

"I take fresh herbs out of the package and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Marinating chicken, beef and fish will prolong the shelf life, especially if there’s citrus or garlic in there, because it actually preserves the food. Salting it ahead of time does that too," Matthew Grunwald explains. "If you have wilted vegetables that are going bad, you can coarsely puree them in a food processor or a blender, and they freeze beautifully."

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