Smart Shopping is one of the quickest ways to prevent food waste while also saving money. Smart shopping means fine tuning your grocery shopping habits so everything you buy gets put to good use. The two main aspects to smart shopping are planning and being realistic.
Proper planning is very important. Research has shown that most of us do not check our fridge and pantries before heading off to the grocery store, which results in duplicate items being purchased. Always check your supply at home first and bring a list to the grocery store. As obvious as this may sound, many people don't bother with shopping lists, and this can make a big impact on preventing us from buying duplicate items or purchasing things we might not actually want or need.
One step further, the optimal strategy is to pre-plan meals for the week, develop the list of ingredients and exact quantities needed, review your pantry and fridge for what you might already have, and then head out to the store. Don't forget to take leftovers and nights off into account in your plan.
But making a 7-day meal plan may not be realistic for all of us, so just as important as planning is understanding our habits and lifestyle and having your plans reflect reality. Do not be over ambitious in your meal planning for the week; buying more ingredients in the hopes it will persuade you to cook is not a great method and more often wastes a lot of food and money. Know yourself and be realistic! Adjust your planning for the days you will get takeout because you don't feel like cooking or life gets too busy.
Check out our pages on prepping and storing food to continue best practices once you're back from the store. If you are following good storage practices but you still end up wasting a lot of raw ingredients, smart shopping might be the area you need to focus on!
- Shopping Guidelines - from the NRDC
- Shop with meals in mind - example shopping list from the EPA
- Bulk Bins - get the exact amount you need and skip the packaging
- Techniques to Generate Less Food Waste - Solana Center Blog
- Guestimator - NRDC's calculator for making the right amount of food for your guests