Secrets to Stress-Free Grocery Shopping

Secrets to Stress-Free Grocery Shopping
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Secrets to Stress-Free Grocery Shopping

Learn which aisle to avoid, what you should fill ice cube trays with instead of water and more shopping tips and storage tricks from food expert Aida Mollenkamp.

Buy what's in season.

Having grown up in California, Mollenkamp admits to being inspired by seasonality. "Our lack of seasonality makes me hyper sensitive to when something new comes into season," she explains.

Often in-season produce is on sale or less expensive than when it is off-season. In the grocery store, "I first look to the ingredients that are in-season and try to put them on a plate in a way that really makes them shine."

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Talk to grocery store employees.

If you aren't sure if a fruit or veggie is in-season, just ask. "I think what has been lost in grocery shopping these days is we forget to actually ask the people who work there for their help," admits Mollenkamp.

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Stop in the Dairy aisle.

The produce aisle and the dairy aisle should be your first two stops in the grocery store.

Mollenkamp particularly loves working with cheese. "I think each cheese has a different expression, and I like that with one ingredient you get a lot more flavor added to a dish," she explains.

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Grab dairy staples.

Buy items like Greek yogurt, cheese, milk and eggs. "Even when you think you have nothing in your fridge, if you have those staples, you can make a meal whether it is a quick pasta dish, a breakfast for dinner egg scramble or something a little more elegant," advises Mollenkamp.

Use greek yogurt to make soups like Mollenkamp's Chilled Avocado Soup with Cashew-Avocado Spread.

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Organize Your Grocery List.

"Organize lists based on produce, dairy, frozen, whatever," offers Aida. "I organize it based on the sections of the store because I find that that makes my trip to the market that much easier."

Since many shoppers are tired and hungry, "having that list keeps you from going and buying a huge tin of cheese puffs or something you might regret later on."

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Save Room for adventure.

Try to buy one new food item each time you go to the store. It could be as adventurous as chia seeds or simply a type of cheese you've never tried. "I think that [buying one new food item on each trip] helps you stay inspired in the kitchen," Mollenkamp says.

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Teach an old dog new tricks.

You need not only get creative with new ingredients; try experimenting with standard ingredients as well. Mollenkamp recently created a sour cream horseradish sauce for grilled flank steak, transforming sour cream into a delicious sauce.

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Shop often.

"I encourage people to go more than once a week," she explains. "You can go once a week to get the things that you are know are staples for your pantry, your refrigerator and your freezer and then a couple times a week to get whatever ingredients you need to keep a little bit fresher." Seafood and certain greens fall into this category and should be used within 48 hours.

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Get Serious about storage.

Many people do not store their groceries correctly. Try lining your produce drawers with damp paper towels and filling it with greens that you have already cleaned.

Another great tip is to take some time after you go to the store to clean, chop and dice. "It allows food to stay fresher longer, and you can cook faster and more enjoyably because all you're doing is cooking not prepping," explains Mollenkamp.

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Try Kefir.

One of Mollenkamp's secret ingredients is kefir. She uses the nutritious dairy product in smoothies, cold soups and baked goods.

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Avoid the snack aisle.

"Everywhere else there is something you can benefit from in cooking meals," Mollenkamp says.

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Utilize Your Freezer.

As more people are shopping at big box stores and buying in bulk, freezing food becomes more important and helps minimize waste. Chicken freezes well for up to six months and milk or buttermilk freezes for three months.

Mollenkamp recommends filling ice cube trays with extra milk or buttermilk. Then you can pop a few cubes out for a smoothie or easily remove a cube to thaw.

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Buy frozen produce.

Out-of-season fruits and veggies are great to buy frozen. "The freezer aisle allows you to take a vacation to another season," Mollenkamp explains.

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Cooking Channel star Aida Mollenkamp came into the culinary world through a "happy accident," as she calls it. The one-time ballerina turned to cooking after she injured her ACL at a young age. "I couldn't figure out a way to express myself artistically while I was on crutches and realized that cooking could be it," she explains. Her interest in the culinary arts eventually led her Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Le Cordon Bleu Paris and a gig as Food Editor at CHOW magazine.

Today, the former editor hosts two cooking shows on the Cooking Channel, Ask Aida and foodCrafters, and a cookbook full of kitchen secrets, Keys To The Kitchen.

Recently Aida joined forces with The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) with whom she strives to help people get excited about grocery shopping again and find inspiration in their trips to the store.

Now, Mollenkamp shares her grocery shopping secrets and inspirations with us. Check out the slideshow above to learn which aisle to avoid, what you should fill ice cube trays with instead of water and more shopping tips and storage tricks.

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