Hey Valley babes! It’s my first year living off-campus, which means I have a kitchen, finally! With that being said, I’m now responsible for stocking said kitchen with food. My first shopping trip to Trader Joes—the holy land—was reminiscent of 5-year-old me walking through the aisles of Toys “R” Us —grabbing everything that looked appealing.
After lugging all of my bags upstairs and organizing the contents in my refrigerator, I realized I over-bought. But what was worse, was that about a week and a half later, much of my produce had gone bad. As I was throwing away my bell peppers, spinach, and mushrooms, I kept visualizing actual money being thrown into the trash. I realized in that moment that I needed to become a smarter shopper, and so I started researching tips about food preservation and average expiration dates, so I could go into my next shopping trip with a game plan.
Because I know that I’m not the only one to experience this aggravating and costly dilemma, I’ve decided to share some of the tricks that have worked for me, with all of you.
Make A List
I know this seems obvious, but you should always go grocery shopping with a list. It not only helps you remember exactly what it is that you need to buy, but it also saves money by making you stick to the script and not overbuy—or in my case, overindulge on yet another artisanal cheese spread.
Plan Out Your Meals
The day before you make a trip to the supermarket, plan out your meals for the week. Getting into the habit of doing this will give you a more realistic estimate of how much food you consume, and therefore, how much you will actually need to buy. Planning ahead will make your experience in the store more straight-forward and efficient because you’ll know exactly what you need for each meal, making it less likely you’ll go astray of your list.
Yes, I understand that we all enjoy buying fresh produce because the time it takes us to inspect and finally choose the fruits and vegetables makes us feel adult-like. But if you don’t eat, for example, mushrooms, asparagus, cucumbers, or spinach within a week it’ll spoil. Instead of dealing with the frustration of not-yet-eaten rotten vegetables and fruit, head to the frozen section. You can buy bags of plain spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, and even raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries that can last in your freezer anywhere between 8-10 months.
Check the Expiration and Sell-By Dates
Just because an item might be at the front of the display, does not mean it’s the freshest! The items that are closer to their sell-by or expiration dates are usually pushed to the front. So, in order to get the longest shelf/refrigerator life, push past the first row of options to get to the products with later sell-by and expiration dates.
Keep these tips in mind during your next grocery store trip, because no one enjoys wasting money, whether or not you’re on a budget, and/or dealing with spoiled food. On this website, you can find organized charts of how long fresh produce will last. Happy shopping!