Stealthy Shopping

By Corinne Easterling

September 19, 2014 4 min read

Healthy cooking can be hard. It takes a lot of time and patience to find nutritious recipes you like. Save yourself some time (and money) by reducing shopping trips and optimizing the ingredients in your kitchen.

First, plan a menu for the week. Ask yourself: What do you already have in your kitchen? Do you have multiple recipes than utilize many of the same ingredients? We've all done it -- bought ingredients specifically for one recipe and then never opened it again, letting it go to waste. Instead, try to design a weekly menu based on ingredients you already have handy and other ingredients that you will use in multiple recipes. Menu planning not only will save you time in the long run but also can reduce your grocery bill.

If you really want to try a yummy new recipe that requires unusual ingredients, search for substitutions. Did you know one cup of milk plus one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar can be used in place of buttermilk? Or that fresh ginger can be replaced by rinsed candied ginger or dried ginger plus fresh lemon juice? You don't need to search the supermarket high and low if you have readily available substitutions at home. Print out an easy reference chart from joyofbaking.com or other cooking sources. Then keep it in your recipe book the next time you're searching for something to make for dinner.

You also want to make sure you have enough supplies in your kitchen for the recipe you want to make, and also at last you at least a week's worth of cooking. After all, isn't it the worst to be halfway through a recipe only to find that you've run out or don't have enough of what you need? Running over to the neighbor's house for a cup of sugar is less popular these days. Buying commonly used ingredients like olive oil, dried herbs and spices, rice (make that brown rice), canned tomatoes, or even beans in bulk will significantly cut down on your number of grocery runs.

However, even with a well-stocked kitchen and a weekly menu plan, it can still take a lot of time and energy to prepare and cook a wholesome meal. Meal prep done a few nights ahead of time will minimize daily effort and encourage mini culinary adventures. Use free time throughout the week to prep for future meals by chopping vegetables and fruits, measuring out ingredients and even precooking certain foods. All these tiny steps will save you time in the kitchen and get you sitting at the dinner table faster.

If your job or life is especially busy one week, look for shortcuts within the recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for chicken, purchase precooked poultry and add it to your meal instead. Things like jarred pasta sauce, frozen pastry dough and shredded cheese can save you time in the kitchen also. Canned goods, such as beans, tomatoes and broth, last a long time in storage and sometimes can be used interchangeably with fresh ingredients.

Freeze leftover ingredients and use as needed later on to save food from being wasted. Sauces and uncooked meats, poultry and seafood can be frozen and used months later. Remember to label and date them, however, so you know what's what and how long it has been in the freezer. Even fresh herbs can be frozen -- chop and section into teaspoons or tablespoons, distribute into ice cube trays, and fill with water. Remove them and use as needed -- no more throwing out half-used bunches of limp parsley!

The more organized your kitchen becomes the easier healthy cooking gets and the more free time you will have to actually enjoy your meals! Remember that old saying, "a stitch in time, saves nine?" By planning your weekly menu and utilizing these easy tips, you can make the most of what you have in the kitchen and save time and money at the supermarket.

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