Today I want to talk about how you can shorten your grocery list—and save time and money in the process.
Now, is it just me, or has grocery shopping gotten more annoying?
I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere, but in the Bay Area, where I live, in the evening or on weekends just the wait for a parking space can be enough to bring on a bad mood.
Then you get into the store, and you practically have to be an acrobat to navigate your cart around the crowded aisles.
And don’t even get me started on the checkout lines.
So I want to make my trips to the grocery store fewer and faster.
And I have a way to do that—a radically different approach to buying groceries.
Most of us start by picking out some recipes to try, and then making a shopping list. If you’re into healthy dishes with whole ingredients, your list can end up being REALLY long with lots of different grains, beans, veggies, fruits, nuts, seasonings, etc. to purchase.
That gets expensive and makes your shopping take eons.
And then, since each recipe only uses a small amount of some of the ingredients, you’re stuck with all these small bits of leftovers you never use, which eventually go bad.
Okay, now here’s the bold new fix I’m proposing (and have been using myself for awhile with great results)…
What if we made a short shopping list FIRST, and THEN chose recipes to prepare based on our list?
Seem like a crazy idea?
There is precedent for it.
Have you ever watched any of those cooking shows like Iron Chef?
The contestants are given an “availability list” of certain ingredients to choose from, and everything they make must use only those ingredients.
This challenge actually forces them to be more creative, not less. And invariably, the contestants come up with a wide variety of amazing dishes.
If they can, so can you!
Here’s how (trust me, this is actually fun):
1. Make a list of no more than 10 seasonal produce items.
2. Make a list of no more than 20 staples and seasonings you’d like to use.
Staples include beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruits, oils, and vinegars.
Seasonings include dried herbs and spices, soy sauce, miso, etc.
(If you already have some of these staples and seasonings on hand, make your list based on what you have.)
3. Come up with at least five recipes that contain ONLY these ingredients!
Use “overlapping ingredients” to do it—meaning you’ll use these same ingredients in more than one recipe.
For inspiration and recipes, check out cookbooks or search online for recipes that use your ingredients. Then get creative and make a plan for substituting some of the ingredients in the recipes you find so that you’re using only items on your list!
4. Go shopping, buying exclusively what’s on your list. You don’t even need to indicate exact amounts, since all your ingredients will “get used” in various recipes, regardless of which ones you make.
Let’s look at how this can actually work.
I’m going to show you a sample shopping list of 10 produce items plus less than 20 staples and seasonings.
After the list, you’ll see all the recipes I could make with it. (And I could probably create even more than what I’m showing here.)
Sample Grocery List
- Red Bell Pepper
Staples & Seasonings:
- Frozen Blueberries
- Garbanzo Beans
- Sunflower Seeds
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
Using “overlapping ingredients” from the above list you’d be all set to make the following.
- Apple Banana Green Smoothie
- Apple Blueberry Green Smoothie
- Banana Lemon Green Smoothie
- Quinoa Porridge with Sunflower Seeds, Thawed Blueberries, and Homemade Almond Milk
- Not Tuna Paté and Garden Salad
- Stuffed Red Bell Pepper with Not Tuna Paté
- Garden Salad with Tahini Dressing
- Romaine and Shredded Carrots with Homemade Hummus and Sauerkraut
- Crudités with Olives
- Lentil Soup with Garden Salad
- Chickpea Quinoa “Bowl” with Shredded Carrots, Romaine, Cucumber, Parsley, and Tahini-Lemon Dressing
- Mediterranean Kale (raw kale, chopped almonds, red bell pepper, olives, lemon juice, olive oil) and Quinoa
- Garbanzo and Veggie Stew with Garden Salad
- Plate of Cooked Lentils, Cooked Quinoa, Steamed Kale and Carrots in Lemon Dressing, and Sauerkraut
- 2 dates stuffed, each stuffed with an almond and lemon zest
Note: I’ve shared some of these recipes here, and many of them are in my book Raw Food Made Easy. But a lot of these are so basic that I bet you could improvise them with your own creativity or the help of a quick Google search.
Okay, so here’s a challenge for the week: give this process a try!
Using the steps I just described, come up with your own availability list and some recipes based on it.
Then make them, and comment to let me know what you think of the process — whether it made shopping easier and got you feeling more creative in the kitchen.
I can’t wait to hear from you!