Cooking meals at home helps your family eat healthy and save money, but if you don’t shop with a plan, you can end up throwing expensive produce away. It’s happened to most of us at some point. You head to the grocery store with good intentions, buy a lot of random produce,—because with ten pounds of broccoli in the house, you can’t fail to lose weight, right?—and then half of that produce spends the next two weeks being nudged closer and closer to the back of the fridge before it’s finally tossed in the trash. It’s frustrating and discouraging. For you and for the produce.
The solution to this problem is to plan your produce. Here’s how.
- Choose one day a week to sit down and plan your meals for the week. If you’re new to cooking at home, pick one or two meals. Baby steps, baby spinach, baby bellas, baby got back on track. Try to choose menu items that share common vegetables. For example, a bag of spinach can make a spinach salad and a mushroom spinach omelet, or one head of cabbage can make Mu Shu Vegetables and Fried Cabbage. As you plan, make a shopping list of what you need to cook the recipes you’ve selected.
- Take your list to the store and don’t stray from it. There are going to be produce items that you always keep on hand like garlic and onions, and items that you only buy when you need them like bell peppers and broccoli. It all depends on your family and your preferences. For example, I always have carrots in the house. My boys like to snack on them (when given the choice of carrots or nothing), I like to mindlessly crunch them in front of the TV, they’re cheap, and they’re useful in a plethora of recipes. It’s a staple. Cauliflower, on the other hand, only comes home with me when I have a plan for it. It’s like the out of town relative you enjoy having over, but feel like you have to entertain.
- End the week with either a batch of homemade vegetable soup or veggie stir fry. Take your leftover bits and stems and combine them into something wonderful. Now your fridge is reset for the week to come and nothing goes to waste.
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. Genesis 25:29 (NIV)