Supermarket savvy: How to shop once and eat for two weeks

During sick season, it pays to stock up on groceries in case you catch a bug and can’t go out. Here’s how to minimize food waste—and simplify meal prep—with versatile items that won’t spoil quickly.

How do you grocery shop to cover a couple of weeks without all that food going bad—or your meals becoming boring? It’s a handy skill no matter what’s keeping you home, whether you’re dodging a virus, recovering from ankle surgery, or simply averse to trudging through the supermarket every three days.

The secret to a two-week supermarket haul is to shop for items that have a long shelf life and are versatile, says Leslie Fink, MS, RD, a nutritionist and recipe editor at WW. “Think about foods that serve multiple purposes.” For example, plain Greek yogurt—generally good for at least 14 days from purchase—is useful in sweet and savoury dishes alike, while canned diced tomatoes are a base ingredient across cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, Greek, and Spanish. 

Once you tick those boxes, opt for items you already know and like. Sure, canned green beans might help you survive being sequestered, but if you wouldn’t eat them otherwise, they might languish in your pantry once the need for preparedness passes.

Another tip from Fink: Make friends with your freezer. Frozen, pre-cut fruits and veggies are generally as nutritious as fresh, so grab a few bags of your favorites. And you can freeze most refrigerated items nearing expiration—from sliced bread to fresh chicken—for later use without undermining quality, which is reassuring to know in case illness saps your appetite.

If you do end up stuck at home, don’t pressure yourself to prep fussy recipes. (Chances are, you’ll have enough to worry about.) The following shopping list is made for mixing and matching, so let yourself improvise with combos. Read on for Fink’s list of supermarket staples that stay good for at least 14 days followed by a few toss-together ideas for meals and snacks. 

 

Long-lasting groceries to toss in your cart

 

Fresh produce

 

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
  • Crunchy apple varieties such as Granny Smith, Fuji and Honeycrisp
  • Carrots 
  • Celery
  • Uncooked beets
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Onions 
  • Garlic
     

Meat and dairy 

 

  • Firm or semi-firm cheese, such as cheddar, Parmesan and part-skim mozzarella
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Uncooked chicken breast
  • Vacuum-packed pre-cooked sausage
  • Eggs

 

 

Frozen items

 

  • Bell pepper strips
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Broccoli florets
  • Edamame
  • Shrimp
  • Veggie burgers
  • Meal-starter kits (such as a veggie fried-rice kit to which you can simply add oil and eggs) 
     

Canned and jarred items

 

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Fruit, such as pineapple, packed in juice
  • Salmon and/or tuna
  • Salsa
  • Prepared soup
     

 

Grains and other pantry items
 

  • Dried pasta
  • Vacuum-packed milk
  • Dried, uncooked grains such as brown rice, farro, and barley
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Unsalted nuts, such as sliced almonds
  • Peanut butter, powdered or regular
  • Dried fruit, such as cranberries or apricots
  • Crackers or rice cakes
  • Tortilla chips
  • Protein bars
  • Stir-fry sauce
  • Pre-sliced bread
  • English muffins

 

Simple meals to make from foods in your pantry

 

Easy breakfast ideas

 

Scrambled eggs with sauteed sliced onions and frozen peppers, served with toasted English muffin
Oatmeal prepared with frozen berries and vacuum-packed milk, topped with sliced almonds
English muffin breakfast pizza made with part-skim mozzarella and tomato sauce

 

Easy lunch ideas
 

Tuna salad made with Greek yogurt, diced celery, and diced onion, served on toast with a cup of prepared soup
Tex-Mex bowl with sauteed chicken, brown rice, black beans, corn niblets, shredded cheese, and salsa
Pasta tossed with tomato sauce and sauteed frozen veggies, then sprinkled with cheese

 

Easy dinner ideas
 

One-pot chicken biryani, a garlicky simmered dish with succulent white meat, brown basmati rice and dried spices such as turmeric and coriander 
Spicy black bean soup that combines canned corn, canned tomatoes and cumin for stick-to-your ribs deliciousness
Greek-style veggie burger with yogurt tzatziki and jarred red peppers
 

Easy snack ideas
 

Apple “fries” with creamy peanut butter dip 
Edamame hummus with crackers
Greek yogurt with warm blueberry sauce

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Erin Quinlan is a freelance editor and journalist in New York City.