Ten Questions to Ask Before Going to the Store

Stop and Shop Vegetables
Image by Elizabeth Thomsen via Flickr

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.

Part II: Ten Questions to Ask When Buying Produce

Part III: Tips for Choosing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Part IV: Tips on Storing Fruits and Vegetables

Ten Questions to Ask Before Going to the Store

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. How many people are eating? Estimate the number who will be eating at home each day, including guests.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

See also:

Part II: Ten Questions to Ask When Buying Produce

Part III: Tips for Choosing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Part IV: Tips on Storing Fruits and Vegetables



Preparing for a Holiday Cooking Session

Estimating Quantities


  1. Rachel Inbar says

    These are great tips. We always have space issues, especially with frozen things that are on sale & can last for months…

    Rachel (arrived via sleeQo)

  2. Interesting post. I never thought of this as a list, but I usually consider these things before shopping. Today was the first time I organized the freezer before going shopping (I wanted the space to flash freeze strawberries), and it was really nice to come home to an empty freezer and just chuck everything in.

  3. Debbie, could you tell us how you freeze the strawberries?

  4. I put them on a cookie sheet, keeping them separated so they don’t clump together. They freeze pretty quickly this way – maybe an hour or two. I freeze them whole or sliced, depending on if they are bruised and need to be cut. If they’re really bruised, I’ll mix them with some sugar and lemon juice and eat them chilled (although I’ve heard you can freeze that, too). It makes a nice non-cooked “jam.”

    Once the strawberries are frozen, you can put them in a bag or container and they won’t stick together. Saves freezer space 🙂

    Now that strawberries are about $1.35 a kilo, I’m trying to save some for the summer, but they are mysteriously disappearing…

  5. Mrs Sparkles says

    Some good ideas here: thank you. I will be back to read again.


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