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How to Shop for Groceries

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After you learn to buy food strategically, you’ll save time by having to shop less frequently and save money by buying produce in season and buying only exactly what you need.

Create Shopping Lists

Putting together a short shopping list for one or two days’ worth of food is simple enough, but if you’re shopping for a week’s worth of meals, you’ll need to reorganize that list in order to reduce your shopping time.

  • Don’t organize by recipe or meal: Arranging your list according to the recipes you plan to follow or the meals you intend to prepare will force you to retrace your steps in the supermarket to pick up forgotten items or scan the entire list repeatedly to figure out which items are in which aisle.
  • Do organize by aisle: Arrange your shopping list by food types that correspond to the aisles in your supermarket before heading out. That way, you will need to go down each aisle one time only.

You might want to take a few notes about the layout of your supermarket and the contents of each aisle while you’re there, but before long you’ll know the layout by heart, and arranging your shopping lists by aisle will take only a minute.

Buy Food in Season

All produce has its own particular growing and harvest season. It’s best to buy produce in season because:

  • It’s less expensive: Produce is more plentiful when it’s in season, and greater supply means lower prices.
  • It tastes better: When a certain type of produce is in season in your region, it means that it didn’t have to be shipped from a great distance to get to your market. The produce arrives in less time and with less shipping stress, resulting in higher quality.

By preparing meals that emphasize the produce that’s currently in season, you’ll save money, and the food you make will taste better. The following tables show when a variety of fruits and vegetables are in season. These tables are meant solely as a general guideline, since the seasonality of produce varies by region.

Spring Produce (March–May)

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Collard greens
  • Fava beans
  • Fennel
  • New potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Sping baby lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Vidalia onions
  • Watercress

Summer Produce (June–August)

  • Apricots
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

Fall Produce (September–November)

  • Acorn squash
  • Apples
  • Butternut squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Figs
  • Gingers
  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard

Winter Produce (December–February)

  • Chestnuts
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Radishes
  • Radicchio
  • Tangerines
  • Turnips

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