For almost five years, we've saved you energy (and money) with our bright, practical ideas for shopping and cooking. Here are some of our best.
1. Check your pantry and the refrigerator before you shop, and make a list so you buy only what you need. For the most efficient shopping trip, organize items by the section of the store you'll find them in.
2. Follow our Grocery Bag's lead: Plan a week of menus to make every ingredient count -- sometimes more than once! Cook big batches of meat and chicken, and use leftovers in next-day salads and sandwiches.
3. Don't go food shopping when you or the kids are hungry to help avoid unhealthy and expensive impulse buys.
4. Stick to the outer aisles of the supermarket to find the widest selection of unprocessed foods, which also happen to be less expensive -- and healthier.
5. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season for the lowest prices and best flavor. Consider on-sale frozen vegetables; they're often just as nutritious as the fresh kind.
6. Instead of buying precut meat and poultry, buy more affordable untrimmed pieces, and prep them yourself. When purchasing in bulk, rewrap meats in individual portions, which are more convenient and take less time to thaw if frozen.
7. Buy staples such as pasta and rice in bulk or during supermarket sales, and store in airtight containers. Discount days are also a good time to pack the pantry with long-lasting items, such as canned goods and condiments.
8. Fresh herbs are great, but what if you can't use the whole bunch? Tie leftover sprigs together with kitchen twine, and hang them upside down from a rack or shelf in your kitchen to dry. Once dried, transfer the herbs to airtight containers, and keep them in your spice rack.
9. If you've opened a can of broth (or tomato paste) and haven't used it all, transfer the remainder to ice-cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop the cubes into resealable plastic bags. Label, date, and store in the freezer; you'll have a convenient amount when you need it.
10. While prepping, keep a bowl on the counter for bits and pieces of vegetable scraps, and make one trip to throw them out -- preferably on the compost -- when the bowl is full.