Nobody’s telling us we can’t go grocery shopping, but I think we can all agree right now that the less we go out, the better. So we should all know how to stretch out the time between grocery trips and of course, what to do when you can’t find everything you need at the store.
Even in normal life, there are those who have a hard time getting to the grocery store often – whether it’s because they have small kids, limited access to a vehicle, or, like us, just live so darn far out in the sticks.
These tips are for us; the ones who want (or need) to buy groceries less often. It saves us money on gas, it saves us time, and it just might mean we spend less money on groceries overall since studies have proven that the more time you spend in the store, the more money you spend that you don’t strictly need to.
So, by shopping smart, we can stretch out that time between grocery shopping tips – even for weeks at a time. Some of these tips are really obvious, but I’m going to go over them anyway, just to cover all the bases.
As I’m writing this, it’s been almost three weeks since I’ve been to the grocery store.
Yes, we’re low on fresh, refrigerated veggies and fruits, but we’re still in great shape!
Buy Fresh fruits and veggies on the green side
Of course, you may want to buy some at peak ripeness to enjoy right away but also plan to buy some really, really green bananas, avocados, tomatoes, etc., to ripen over time.
You can store many of these things in the refrigerator to slow the ripening and make them last longer.
At this time, as we’re dealing with the worldwide health crisis, I don’t expect to run to the store for fresh fruit every time we run out, and while it’s not super convenient to change our menu, we can easily substitute with canned and frozen food.
Buy extra eggs
Fresh eggs typically only take a few days to travel straight from the chicken to the store and will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 4-5 weeks afterward. According to EggSafety.org, some states require an expiration date to be printed on the carton, so be sure to check the side of your carton and buy eggs with the furthest expiration date you can.
If your eggs get close to expiring, you can crack them into ice cube trays to freeze (once frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in a zip-top bag) and use them in cooking.
You can also use flax seeds to make flax eggs when you run out of the real thing.
Plan on freezing milk
Like eggs, you can freeze milk in zip-top bags for longer storage (fill a quart bag half full and freeze flat on a cookie sheet until solid), or straight in the carton for shorter-term storage. Frozen milk may separate when thawed after being frozen for a few weeks, but it’s still great for baking!
Also, don’t forget that if your milk does go sour, you can still use it for baking! We had half a gallon of milk go sour a full week before the expiration date recently. You can see how we still used it to make and freeze biscuits in this video, and in this video, we used the rest to make freezer pancakes (there was a sour milk chocolate cake made in between that we did not video – ha!).
Freeze Shredded Cheese
Shredded cheese will keep in your freezer for a surprisingly long time and thaws out so well that you’ll never know it was frozen. Keep in mind, though, that this applies only to shredded cheese! Blocks of cheese will get crumbly after freezing.
Buy and freeze extra meat
For the purpose of saving money, it’s a good habit to check your store sales flyers each time you go shopping to find the meat sales worth stocking up on. For the purpose of stretching out time between grocery trips, it’s even better!
If you plan on eating your meat relatively quickly (say, within a month), you may find that you don’t need to repackage meat before throwing it into the freezer.
While many stores during a crisis limit the amount of meat you can buy at one time, making this a little harder, from what I have seen, this generally only applies to the fresh meat counter. Already frozen meat may not have the same restrictions.
And don’t forget that you can get some fairly bulky packages in that fresh meat counter, like ten-pound bags of chicken leg quarters.
Buy Freezable Greens
In my experience, salad greens stay good for mayyyybe a week, so depending on them when you’re trying to stretch the time between grocery trips won’t really work.
So after that first week, switch to freezable greens. What do I mean by this? If you’re a die-hard leafy greens eater like me, you have no intention of letting staying at home deter you from getting your greens in. So if there’s no salad, you turn to smoothies or put greens into your scrambled eggs and other dishes, using frozen (or freezable) greens like spinach, kale, beet greens, or collard greens.
For short-term freezing, you can freeze fresh greens in the containers they come in without having to repackage them into freezer-burn-proof packaging.
You may also be able to find these greens already frozen. Most stores have frozen spinach at the very least, and in our area, Walmart has kale and collard greens in addition.
And speaking of freezing vegetables….
Buy frozen vegetables
As your veggies sit in your fridge, they age and begin to lose nutrition. So plan to stick to frozen vegetables after the first several days. Veggies bought frozen from the store are likely already more nutritious than what’s sitting in the fresh produce cases since they’re been flash-frozen at peak ripeness right at the source.
We enjoy buying frozen, chopped onions (it saves so much work!), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and many other varieties. (most of these are great stir-fried in a little butter served as a veggie side dish btw!)
Buy long-storing fruit
Such as grapefruit and oranges, as opposed to berries, which spoil quickly.
And don’t forget that apples will keep for a surprisingly long time, especially in cool temperatures, and green bananas can act as a long-storing fruit.
Buy frozen fruit
My kids love to snack on fruit, and I love to let them. And it turns out, they’re almost just as happy to snack on a bowl of frozen fruit as they are fresh. Some varieties, like blueberries and raspberries, they like even better than fresh! Especially as the weather warms up, frozen fruit acts like a healthier popsicle. Even though homemade popsicles are already pretty healthy.
Don’t diss canned food
We don’t all have unlimited freezer space, so something has to give. So keep in mind that canned vegetables are still vegetables. In some cases, they may have slightly less nutrition, but the nutrition gap is not as bad as you may think, and the veggies still count!
We tend to prefer mostly frozen or fresh veggies, but in a pinch, if you don’t have freezer space, and need to spread your grocery trips out, canned will don’t. This is part of the reason we can our own chili beans and make home-canned baked beans, just to scratch the surface on home-canning!
Also, keep in mind that you can buy some proteins in canned form as well. We enjoy both canned tuna and salmon (these salmon patties are a great way to get your kids to eat fatty fish!).
With these tips, we’ve been able to spread out our grocery trips for weeks at a time – not that it’s my favorite way to shop, but it can be done.
I hope these tips gave you some ideas – and don’t forget to add your own thoughts in the comments below!
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