I have mentioned before that I live in a rural area. I have two choices, I can either spend enormous amounts of fuel to go into town to the supermarket, or I can stock up, and make as many foods at home as possible reducing the amount I have to go to town for supplies. First, I sat down and thought about what foods I use most in our cooking, and what sends me to the supermarket. I also thought about what I could keep on hand, purchase in bulk and how I can preserve other items that spoil to reduce these trips. Planning out our meals is key. If I do not have ingredients on hand or have not purchased what I need we either go without, or make a trip. My goal is to avoid as many unplanned trips as possible, so planning is essential. I also admittedly do not enjoy going to the supermarket. I write out the meals I plan for the month, and all the ingredients I will need.
Several years ago our deep freezer went out. It had lasted a very long time. I was very thankful that I happened to go out to the garage and discovered that the compressor had frozen up. The contents thankfully were still frozen, however the freezer was not repairable. We had also used a large portion of the food that was stocked up in the freezer at that time. We transferred everything that was in there to our current freezer under our refrigerator unit and found that we had enough room for everything. At that time we decided to not purchase a new deep freeze unit. I thought we could get by with the small unit. This also meant we could not purchase meat in bulk, store large quantities of frozen produce or other goods. At first it was nice not having to check both freezers for items I needed and everything being inside the house. Then slowly I began to miss the convenience of bulk food storage. I have been thinking for the last year or so about purchasing a new deep freezer to store garden produce, meats and dairy. I have realized it will once again greatly enhance my ability to store food and reduce my need to go to the supermarket as often. As you read further, many of my bulk storage preservation uses involve a freezer, so I am looking forward to purchasing the unit and implementing increased food storage in our home. I am the most excited about staying away from the supermarket!!! :)
Dried Goods: I started a few years ago keeping dried beans, lentils, rice, flour, sugar, and other baking supplies in large containers in my pantry. These items kept in a tightly sealed container, in a dark cool location will stay preserved for a very long time. In an effort to both recycle, and acquire a tightly sealed container, I purchased empty icing buckets from our local bakery shop. They are food safe, seal very tightly, and keep out any moisture. Not only are they very affordable but I felt really good about re-purposing them! For smaller quantities I use glass canning jars and recycle the seals that have been previously used for canning. They are air tight for this purpose and work very well.
I feel that the solution I came up with for dry goods works very well. I might also mention to be sure to freeze any flours and beans from the supermarket for 24 hrs. in your freezer to kill off any larva. Once they are frozen for 24 hrs. the flour can be set out to achieve room temperature before storing in a sealed container. You want to avoid any condensation in your bulk containers.
Meat: We are having meat processed right now that will be stored in the new freezer. This will eliminate trips to town for any meals I prepare with meat. This will also reduce the cost of meat per pound. We have cut down on the amount of meat we use but we still enjoy eating meat in our diet.
Produce: Vegetables, how I wish I had my own garden produce, however since we planned a move and did not plant a garden last year, I suffice by purchasing frozen vegetables. It works well for now until I have my own. We consume a lot of vegetables so the ideal solution is either canned or frozen. Frozen vegetables are the freshest if purchasing from a supermarket as they are flash frozen as soon as they are picked.
Fruit: We are in town enough to pick up fresh fruits when we need them. My dh picks them up on his way home from work. I am still discovering ways to eat fruit without making desserts when they are not ideal for eating fresh. Fruits and vegetables are shipped so far before arriving to our stores they do not last long at home. Breakfast smoothies are a great way to use fruits :)
Dairy: I was surprised to learn many years ago that dairy goods can be frozen! I admittedly was quite apprehensive. However, slowly one thing at a time I tried it and it did work!!! I froze gallons of milk and both blocks of cheese, and shredded cheese and have had no problems in taste or consistency. I simply placed the milk in the refrigerator to thaw completely, gave it a shake and used it. Butter can be frozen as well. I have not frozen eggs, they keep rather well for a fairly long period of time in the refrigerator so I have not felt the need to freeze them.
I hope in some small way this will also help you in your efforts to reduce trips to the supermarket. It's such a relief to me to turn to my own pantry or freezer for what I need instead of getting in the car and heading to the supermarket. :)