Plan your next trip to the store accordingly.
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"You're always at the grocery store." That's what my mom says whenever we talk on the phone. And she isn't wrong—if I'm not at work or the yoga studio, I'm probably lost somewhere in the Wegmans produce aisle or standing in the Harris Teeter checkout line (I somehow choose the slowest one every time).
But while my mom thinks my near-daily trips to the grocery store are a waste of time and money, according to experts, frequent grocery shopping could actually save you money. Since groceries are one of the 10 things Americans spend too much money on, we could use all the help we can get.
The problem with your massive once-a-week grocery store haul is that most people typically end up buying more than they need and consequently let food go bad—and wasted food = wasted money. In fact, the deputy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s food waste program says the average American wastes about 20 pounds of food a month, which is more than both grocery stores and restaurants combined. That adds up to nearly $1,500 wasted each year on food that’s thrown away (!!).
Our kitchen and cooking writer, Valerie Li, agrees. "I definitely think doing more grocery shopping helps you budget and save money because you always get what exactly you'll need and you're less likely to waste food," she explains.
It depends on the size of your family, your lifestyle, and how often you cook, but Valerie recommends about four times a week. "I plan a main grocery shopping trip once a week to buy most of the produce, meats, eggs, and condiments I need for the week of meal planning," she says. "Then throughout the week, I take maybe three smaller shopping trips to buy fresh fruits and salad greens because we run out of them fast."
The secret to cutting back on food waste and costly grocery bills? Meal prep. For that, tons of people—including our managing editor, Meghan Kavanaugh—swear by their Instant Pot, which is our number one multi-cooker of the year. "I have an 8-quart Instant Pot, so I can make large batches of recipes that can feed me and my boyfriend for a couple nights at least," she says.
Even if you don't have an Instant Pot, you can still make the most of your grocery haul by getting creative. "I always think about the different ways each ingredient can be used that week," Meghan explains. "Buy a bunch of greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, cheese, salsa, and a protein, and you have the flexibility to make quesadillas, tacos, or even a salad, all with the same core ingredients. Leftover peppers? Pair them with hummus for a snack." She adds that since wasting food is essentially throwing away money, she does her best to always repurpose everything she buys.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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