How can you conveniently shop for food in the country? Try these 5 rural food shopping hacks to save time, save money, and save stress grocery shopping.
For those living in towns and cities, grocery shopping is a low-stress task.
Need milk? Just dash up to the local market or corner drug store and you’re all set.
But…what if the closest grocery store was 30 minutes, 45 minutes or even over an hour away?
Worse yet, what if you’re a food and wine snob, food purist, or have dietary restrictions or allergies?
Will the local mega superstore really cut the gluten-free mustard?
As anyone who lives in a rural setting will tell you, every trip to a reasonably populated area, be its purpose food-related or not, demands a grocery store run.
Luckily this is 2016. Unless you’re going for the full homesteader experience, you need not dig a root cellar, raise your own meat birds, or finance a refrigerated van for food transport.
In today’s post, we’ll share 5 rural food shopping hacks that will help you shop smart from wherever your country dreams may take you.
Rural Grocery Shopping Hack #1: Buy in Bulk and Plan Accordingly
When a trip to the grocery store means bringing along a lunch and filling up the gas tank, you’ve got to make it count.
This means buying as many non-perishable and freezable items in bulk as possible.
To make this easy, you need to adopt two crucial habits:
#1: Start meal planning: when you trade in big city life for a dirt road, your days of cooking on a complete whim are (somewhat) over.
If you want to shop smart you’ll need a solid meal plan, and from this meal plan you’ll create your grocery list for the month. Yes, the month….
#2: Start thinking in terms of months instead of days or weeks: If you plan to drive to town for grocery shopping once a month, or once every two months, a near-perfect grocery list is essential to your culinary happiness and sanity.
If the thought of making a one month grocery list evokes feelings of panic, take a deep breath (maybe grab a glass of wine) and go back to step 1: start meal planning.
From there you have two ways to map out your epic grocery list:
- Option 1: Use a meal planning app (find a top 5 list here)—these are great for recipe-followers and type-As.
- Option 2: Go through each day and jot down what you need to buy—recommended for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cooks and the tech-challenged.
Next, think staples (like milk, butter, salt, spices, dressings, etc.), toiletries, paper products, beverages, storage items, cleaning products, batteries, pet and/or baby supplies and boom! You’ve got your near-perfect one-month grocery list.
Rural Grocery Shopping Hack #2: Research the Best Price Club for your Family
Many people resist the price club…until they see their bill from bulk-buying at the grocery store. Ouch!
Price clubs were MADE for smart shopping city-slickers-turned-country-folk.
They have amazing variety, their membership prices are affordable ($40 and up annually) and you can expect to save at least 30 percent off grocery store prices.
Plus there’s one to fit every family’s lifestyle.
If you love organics, natural and specialty foods Costco is your best bet as they’ve just outranked Whole Foods Market as America’s #1 supplier of organics.
For more info on which price club is right for you, check out this comparison article.
Rural Grocery Shopping Hack #3: Learn Some Simple Food Preservation Basics
There are a LOT of ways to preserve perishable bulk foods through cooking, freezing or fermentation.
For example, if you have to buy eggs-by-the-2-dozen, why not bake up a couple quiches to freeze or make some homemade ice cream with the kids? Get more ideas for using up eggs here.
Find a rural dairy but not sure how to use up all that milk?
Why not use up a gallon by making yogurt? It’s as easy as boiling milk, stirring in a culture and letting it sit in a warmish place for 4-6 hours. Get step-by-step DIY yogurt tips here.
Lactofermentation is another smart way to preserve fresh vegetables without going to a lot of trouble. Learn all about it here.
Also, did you know shredded cheese freezes beautifully for future cooking (up to 6 months)? So don’t be afraid to stock up on a big bag or two of shredded cheese for pizzas, pastas, nachos, etc. Once it melts, you’ll never know the difference.
For more information on food preservation basics, visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Rural Grocery Shopping Hack #4: Give Online Food Shopping and Co-ops a Try
Unfortunately, grocery delivery is still a big-city thing.
But new and innovative online companies and co-ops offer customers low-prices, door-to-door delivery or convenient pick-up locations—no matter where you live.
Here are a few options:
1. www.thrivemarket.com is a 100% online price club for natural, non-GMO and organic foods. You pay a yearly membership fee to receive 25%-50% off retail prices. They offer your first month free, free shipping and deliver right to your door.
2. www.azurestandard.com is an online food and natural products co-op based in Oregon with distribution centers across the United States.
They offer everything you could want in a co-op: organic produce, dry goods, natural foods, bulk flours and grains, spices, herbal and homeopathic medicines, cleaning products, paper products, baby products, even soy-free chicken feed and other items for the farm.
They don’t offer home delivery, rather you and your co-op meet their truck at a predetermined time and destination. Learn all about joining, or starting up your own co-op at their website above.
3. www.amazon.com has a pretty impressive selection of mainstream, gourmet and natural foods delivered directly to your door. And yes, Prime benefits apply. Sign up for their auto ship program to save even more.
Rural Grocery Shopping Hack #5: Save Buku Bucks with an Extra Fridge or Freezer
Extra fridges and freezers save you BIG bucks by freeing up mores space for bulk items, and allowing you the freedom to buy meats in bulk.
An inexpensive, energy-efficient used fridge found on Craigslist or eBay will free up space for larger bulk items, while a chest freezer or upright freezer serves multiple purposes.
Many small farms or homesteads, for example, offer what’s called a “cow pool,” where customers buy in to one-quarter, half, or even a whole cow’s worth of grass-fed beef (for a bargain price).
Other farms will offer limited quantities of pasture-raised chickens or turkeys, seasonally. Therefore, if you have a big freezer you can buy up a bunch of naturally-raised birds for a great price.
Should you buy a chest freezer or an upright freezer?
Chest freezers are generally less expensive and more energy-efficient, but they take up a lot more floor space and are harder to organize.
An upright freezer makes foods easy to find and access and takes up less floor space, but they are more expensive and less energy efficient.
The only other thing to consider with your extra freezer is a back-up power source in case your area is prone to outages.
The bottom line:
Rural shopping, when done smartly, can ultimately lead to less time spent at the store, healthier meals and much cheaper grocery bills.
Follow our hacks, and you’ll enjoy more time relaxing on your beautiful property and less time worrying about picking up milk.
How do you shop smart outside the city? We’d love to hear your best rural grocery shopping hacks and tips in the comments section below.
For more of Chef Kristen Boye's tips on getting the ingredients you want in the country, read her article, How to Eat Like a Foodie in the Country.