I’ve struggled with grocery shopping and recipe management for years. It seems like no matter how much I planned, I still took hours to buy groceries. I was terrible about knowing what I already had at home, and usually harassed my husband over text, asking him to see if we had any onions.

Everything finally gelled in the past few weeks; I created a list called “Always-On-Hand”. It consisted of the ingredients that I should (duh) always keep on hand in the house:

  • Tomato paste, cans of diced tomatoes, chicken broth. These are staples of slow cooking.
  • Yellow onions, crushed garlic. Used in practically everything I make, plus yellow onions are shelf-stable and can be bought in bulk.
  • Instant mashed potatoes packets. I’ve accidentally over-salted too many slow cooker recipes, but adding instant mashed potatoes will generally fix the problem.
  • Ginger paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar. I do lots of Asian cooking. The ginger lasts forever in the fridge.
  • Panko bread crumbs. Shelf-stable, so may as well stock up.
  • Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. I use this in practically all Mexican-like recipes, so I keep multiple cans on hand.
  • Frozen broccoli. For those nights where I can’t be bothered, but I can whip up skirt steak on the grill with some steamed broccoli. We always have a giant bag in the freezer, and I have a great veggie steamer.
  • Shredded cheese. Gets garnished onto a surprising number of foods.
  • Kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, apple cider vinegar. Duh.

I double-check it before I make the weekly shopping trip. It makes grocery-shopping much faster, because now I’m only buying 5 or 6 specialty items or perishables, like meat, veg, and dairy. And that makes shopping go faster, because I’m only hitting the perimeter of the store. The center of the grocery store is a time-suck, with thousands of items packed into small spaces, so it’s far more likely I’ll get distracted.

Got any tips for how to make grocery shopping more efficient?  Let me know in the comments!