Cook More, Shop Less

With all of the attention being paid to the platforms of foodies like Jamie Oliver and Michael Pollan, you would think that Americans would cook more and rely less on fast- and processed-food.

The misperception that cooking is too time consuming turns out to be a major roadblock on our path to a sustainable national food system.

Cooking is not time consuming. Shopping for groceries, however, is.

One strategy for making cooking a part of your daily life is to maximize your cooking to shopping ratio.

Here are some tips on how to cook more and shop less:

  • Planning –

    In order to spend less time shopping, you must plan your meals in advance. Set aside 30 minutes on the weekend to make a simple menu for the upcoming week. If you’re sitting in your office at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday and don’t know what you’re going to make for dinner that night, the battle is already half lost. Check out these seasonal recipes for inspiration.

  • Go shopping once a week –

    Schedule grocery shopping for your least hectic day of the week and simplify your routine. If you regularly visit more than one grocery, try to alternate which store you visit each week and buy more per visit. Prioritize the farmers market if you have one available to you (many of the larger farmers markets move indoors for winter). A well stocked pantry will allow you to make the most of local produce, meat, and dairy even if you don’t have time to visit the supermarket that week. Click here for a pantry staples checklist.

  • Keep your meals simple –

    High quality ingredients like fresh produce and free-range meat don’t need a lot of fussing over to make them taste good. Cooking meals with fewer ingredients will simplify your grocery list, allowing you to spend less time hunting for random items. Here are some ideas for simple recipes.

  • Cook in bulk –

    Making one-pot stews, soups, chilies, or slow-cooked meals soon after your shopping mission ensures that none of your fresh groceries will go to waste. Cooking in bulk saves you from having to make an extra trip to the supermarket when you realize that your produce has spoiled. Check out this post for crock pot tips and a simple recipe.

  • Start slow –

    Don’t treat lifestyle change as an all or nothing process. Americans tend to approach changes to their relationship with food the same way they would a fad diet – they’re either on the diet or off the diet. Viewing your eating habits as black or white sets the stage for failure. Simply reducing your shopping time so you can cook one more meal per week is great progress!

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(Image courtesy of Twm™ at flickr under a Creative Commons license)

4 thoughts on “Cook More, Shop Less”

  1. Great tips! I totally agree…cooking from scratch doesn’t have to take ages. It’s all about making a list, having a plan, and cooking in bulk!

  2. We follow this same routine each week for a few months now and it’s been such a blessing. We started meal planning when my son was diagnosed with multiple food sensitivities, requiring a rotation diet. Now that I’ve streamlined much of the planning process and take into consideration things like chicken on sunday so we have leftovers for quesadillas, etc. it’s gotten even better!

    thanks for sharing!

  3. How interesting that you started this routine after you realized your son had food sensitivities. I started cooking more and shopping less two years ago when I realized how sensitive I am to gluten and dairy. In some ways, these types of food allergies can be great incentives to cook more and eat better!

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