Less-Frequent Grocery Shopping Has Made Me More Creative in the Kitchen

Food Features grocery
Less-Frequent Grocery Shopping Has Made Me More Creative in the Kitchen

The food people of the internet have spoken, and it seems like they’ve largely come to a consensus: Daily (or near-daily) grocery shopping is the way to go. In 2018, Rachel Syme celebrated grocery shopping as a daily practice for Epicurious. A year later, Sadie Trombetta wrote for The Kitchn that daily grocery shopping helped her stick to a budget. And in January of 2020, before the pandemic had many of us mass-ordering groceries online, the Washington Post also celebrated the daily grocery shopping phenomenon.

I am sympathetic to many of these arguments. Can shopping for fresh ingredients every day reduce food waste? In many cases, yes. Does having an excuse to go out into the world and interact with people in your own neighborhood seem like a positive to me? Absolutely. And am I willing to dedicate hours of my day every day to thinking about and prepping what I want to eat? Admittedly, almost always yes.

A few years ago, I was this kind of person. I lived just down the street from my preferred grocery store, and I would walk there with a single tote bag slung over my shoulder, confident that everything I needed for dinner that night would fit. I would come home, cook my dinner and not worry about the next night’s dinner until I was wrapping up with work. Only occasionally would I decide the task of both shopping and cooking was too great and decide to order takeout instead.

But then, the pandemic happened. All of a sudden, it didn’t seem like a great idea for the health of myself and others to frequent the grocery store on a daily or near-daily basis. And this is when I discovered the joy of a fully stocked kitchen.

The first time I went to the grocery store after the pandemic began, I stocked up. I don’t eat a lot of meat at home, but I still snagged several packages of chicken and pork to freeze. I bought multiple types of dried beans. Boxes upon boxes of pasta. A massive bag of rice. Enough frozen veggies to ward off scurvy for six months. Even fresh bread to stick in the freezer. Admittedly, I worried about how fresh some of these ingredients would stay after a few weeks in the freezer, but freshly baked bread didn’t seem like too much of a concern at that time.

When I got home and ran a disinfecting wipe across the surface of every food product I brought into the house (remember those days?), I began stocking my small kitchen. For the first time, the cupboards were well-stocked with all the essentials I needed to make a surprisingly wide array of meals. The freezer was packed with a slew of ingredients that were only a few hours of thawing away to becoming indulgent feasts. The options felt endless, and I suddenly had more to work with than just the few ingredients I needed for the same five meals I tended to repeat on a weekly basis before the pandemic.

With so many possibilities tucked into my cupboard, I began getting more adventurous with my cooking. I googled what I should do with white beans. I daydreamed about finding a use for my leftover broccoli stalks. I realized that the only reason I thought frozen vegetables tasted bad was because I had only ever had them steamed in a plastic bag in the microwave. And I learned that, sometimes, canned tomatoes really are better than fresh. Gazing into my pantry and deciding what to eat for dinner based on what I found inside encouraged me to try so many recipes I had never thought of throwing together until that point. And when I couldn’t find a recipe that utilized the ingredients I had on hand, I made up my own and was pleasantly surprised at some of the results.

Did I miss my regular trips to the grocery store? Of course. But spending so many months avoiding the grocery store opened my eyes to the joy of the well-stocked pantry, and now, I’m not sure I could go back to the times when I peered into my fridge, stomach grumbling, only to find a few stray pieces of kimchi at the bottom of a glass jar, half of a drying lemon and wilted dill.

I know that having the funds to buy in bulk is a luxury that not all have access to. Sometimes, shopping on a regular basis is a necessity, and a well-stocked kitchen is simply not an option for those living paycheck to paycheck. For those who can afford to spend a large portion of the month’s grocery budget in one go, though, shopping this way can often actually be more affordable; after all, buying in bulk can occasionally get you a better deal.

Shopping this way isn’t ideal for everyone, and I certainly understand the appeal of more frequent grocery shopping trips. But for those who are too busy to go grocery shopping on the regular, who live too far from the store to visit every day, who love making sure that they always have what they need to cook an easy dinner in a moment’s notice, less-frequent shopping can feel like a huge relief—and may even make you a better cook.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin