Nine steps to shopping well, shopping once from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book

Save money, time and space by only buying items you really need.
Save money, time and space by only buying items you really need. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Cut down on the hassle of shopping and meal planning with these tips from the authors of The Plan, Buy, Cook Book, Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman.

Many people go food shopping three times a week or more. In fact, we often spend more time shopping than cooking.

Not having the fresh ingredients you need in your kitchen limits the types of meals you can make, and often tempts you to reach for processed, ready-made food that is high in sugar and fat.

We are all guilty of heading to the shops without a definitive plan, only to find ourselves picking up random ingredients to cobble together some meals for the next few days.

Meal planning can put a stop to this and save you time and money. Here are our tips:

Jen Petrovic (left) and Gaby Chapman.
Jen Petrovic (left) and Gaby Chapman. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Have a list and stick to it. Only buy what's on the list, unless you find a great special on a food that you can freeze, such as meat, or a pantry item you have the storage space for.

Reduce supermarket visits to once a week. A little bit of organisation with one larger shop will save you time and money. If you run out of fruit and vegetables later in the week, then buy extra at a greengrocer where you won't be tempted to make impulse purchases.

Try online shopping, as you only buy what you need rather than being tempted by additional (usually non-planned) items at the end of the aisles or at the checkout.

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Discount supermarkets and generic brands can save you quite a bit of money. Try them to see whether they suit your taste.

Plant fresh herbs in your garden. Herbs add great flavour to your cooking, but they are expensive to buy. The added bonus in growing your own is that you only pick what you need for each meal.

Don't buy fresh ingredients without thinking about how they will be used, unless they freeze well. They will often end up in the compost or bin. That eggplant that looks amazing in the supermarket will look less great at the end of the week if you haven't planned a meal to use it in.

The Plan, Buy, Cook Book.
The Plan, Buy, Cook Book. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Keep your pantry stocked with staples such as tinned tomatoes, garlic, onions and pasta for an emergency meal.

If you have the storage space, buying pantry goods in bulk can save money. But beware of buying too much, or buying items you're unlikely to use, as they too will end up in the rubbish when you haven't touched them two years down the track.

Don't shop when you are hungry; you'll buy more than you need.

This is an edited extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.