This is the first of a four-part series on grocery shopping, with a focus on fruits and vegetables. Today I’m giving you questions to ask yourself when planning a shopping trip. Go here for more on menu-planning.
Ten Questions to Ask Before Going to the Store
- What food do you have in the house? Check what you need to use up. Look in your refrigerator to see what fresh and cooked produce is spoiled or leftover. Why didn’t it get used up? Keep receipts to compare from trip to trip.
- What items did you go through quickly or run out of? You might want to buy more this week. If the item is unhealthy or expensive, try to make the same amount last longer this time or buy less, choosing a cheaper and healthier alternative.
- Do you need to go to the store yet? Maybe you can cobble together a few more meals from what you already have, assuming you’ll have a chance to shop another day. Then you won’t be tempted to use the fresh produce before the previous trip’s has been finished.
- Do you have room? Make space in the refrigerator. Get creative with storing non-perishables if you have limited kitchen space. In a pinch, ask if a neighbor can spare room in her fridge. Make sure you have enough containers to store cooked food too.
- How many people are eating? Estimate the number who will be eating at home each day, including guests.
- What else is happening in my life? If time is short, you might splurge on prepared greens. If you have more time, experiment with something new or buy extra to cook and freeze for another time. If a holiday or party is coming up you could start preparing now. Friends who are having babies or moving could use homemade meals.
- How will I get the food home from the store? If you’ll need a ride, delivery, or an extra pair of hands to get food into the house, make sure they’re available.
- What is the weather forecast? If it’s hot, plan for lighter food and go heavy on salads. In the winter, think rich soups and casseroles. Avoid the oven on hot days and plan for fast-cooking meals that don’t require standing over a hot stove.
- What vegetables are in season or on sale? Avoid recipes that include expensive produce. We’ll talk more about this when we get to the shopping section.
- Will other food come my way? Maybe there will be leftovers from a family party, or a garden vegetable is ready to harvest. You can’t always predict, but if your neighbor usually drops off a dozen zucchini this time of year keep it in mind.
Once you get used to asking yourself these questions thinking about them will become second nature. I’m looking forward to your comments.