It’s safe to say that New York City has more supermarkets per square mile than any other city in the nation (we think?), which can make for a very convenient, but also very daunting, grocery-shopping experience. Somehow, every time you walk into one of the billions of stores, there still manages to be a line that snakes around the aisles, and back into the produce section. This can be enough to make even the most avid health fanatic want to forget buying groceries altogether, and opt for Seamless delivery instead. After my fair share of trial and error, I’ve made the weekly trip pleasant by adhering to these three rules of thumb:
1. Shop in the AM. Whenever possible, head to the grocery store bright and early to avoid the crowds. Avoid Monday evenings—they're the worst.
2. Come armed with a list. A list not only keeps you smart in the kitchen, but also gets you in and out of the store in 30 minutes flat.
3. Join your local CSA. For the months your Community Supported Agriculture program is in session, you can support local farmers and skip the grocery store scene all together. (More on CSAs here.)
I spend the majority of my time in the produce aisle, picking up about 10 fresh veggies, three to four types of fruits, and lots of herbs. I also pick up anything that is running low in my pantry. Keeping some staples on hand is the most helpful thing you can do to start cooking more at home, even if you don’t have the space for every nut or grain. I’ve built my collection of pantry items and superfoods over time; try adding one to your grocery list per week instead of amassing everything all at once. Here is how I typically stock my kitchen:
In the Fridge
- Fruits & Veggies -I load up on dark, leafy greens, carrots, peppers, apples, ginger, scallions, and cilantro every week. I’m pretty much obsessed with anything that can be added to my veggie bowls.
- Organic Eggs
- Organic Non-GMO Tofu
- Unsweetened Almond Milk - I like Whole Foods' 365 Brand.
- Dijon Mustard
- White Miso Paste - I make a big batch of miso-ginger dressing every week.
On the Counter
- More Fruits & Veggies - I always have bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, dates, onion, garlic, shallots, and lemons on hand.
- Superfoods - I store chia seeds, hemp hearts, unsweetened coconut flakes, flax seed, goji berries, raw nuts, and superfood powders in clear glass jars on my counter, which encourages me to sprinkle them on top of smoothie bowls and salads. You can pick these up in bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods.
In the Freezer
- Frozen Fruits - Mixed berries, pineapple, bananas, and mangoes are perfect for smoothies.
- Raw Nuts & Seeds - I store extra almonds, walnuts, cashews, pepita seeds and sunflower seeds in the freezer, which helps prolong shelf life and frees up limited cabinet space.
In the Pantry
- Flax Crackers - Mary’s Gone Crackers are a personal favorite.
- Beans - Canned chickpeas and cannellini beans are my favorites.
- Flours, Grains, & Noodles - I stock a variety of gluten-free dried goods, including rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, brown rice noodles, buckwheat flour, and buckwheat noodles.
- Oils - I always have coconut oil, olive oil, a vegetable oil, and toasted sesame oil on hand.
- Spices - Beyond salt and pepper, I use garlic salt, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and cinnamon almost daily.
- Vinegars - I love Bragg’s Raw, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, rice vinegar, and white balsamic.
- Sweeteners - I use raw honey and maple syrup regularly.
- Tamari - A gluten-free soy sauce.
- Raw Almond Butter
Stocking my fridge was my first step toward changing how I ate at home. When I have tons of fresh produce and a stocked pantry, I realized how easy it was for me to make simple, delicious meals. Making a green smoothie or overnight oats every morning is a great way to start the day, and having chopped veggies and hummus in the fridge changed my post-work snacking routine. I continue to make small changes every week, which help me to make healthier choices every day.
Lily Kunin is the editor of the NYC-based food blog Clean Food Dirty City. Inspired by the chefs in her family as well as her friends who are looking for easy recipes, she creates meals that are simple, clean, and flavorful. Follow her blog on Instagram @cleanfooddirtycity.