In the U.S., in high-cost metropolitan areas, the average household spends about $125 per week on groceries. After looking over our spending patterns by category in 2019, we spent about $40/week on groceries. Part of this is because we eat out, are traveling for work, and the fact that I get free Seamless from work. We’re also a two-person household with two people working full time with no kids. But I’d like to suggest that some of it is because we keep a pretty good pantry/freezer/refrigerator stock of staples that we like to use that are always on hand, whether that is rice, dried pastas, many types of beans, sauces (soy, fish, sesame, chili), spices, etc. Part of the reason people are paralyzed about cooking or doing more cooking is that they are intimidated by committing to too many different ingredients that they may or may not use in the future, whether it’s turmeric, white pepper, oregano, or something else. The key is to always invest in spices or products that you know you will use in the future and use a lot, and if you do not plan to use them a lot, make sure, if you can, to only buy a small quantity of it so that it either doesn’t go stale or rancid. If it may go stale, preserve the life of it by keeping it in the fridge or freezer. Or for things like rice or pasta, they will live on your shelf indefinitely.
Keeping a well-stocked pantry allows me to create meals from whatever I already have without going out to buy much. For example, last night, I made dan dan noodles with the frozen “fresh” noodles and ground turkey in my freezer, the sesame paste in my pantry that was still new and sealed, plus the soy sauces, sugar, and Sichuanese peppercorns I already had in my drawers. I also had a packet of preserved pickled Sichuanese pickles in my fridge, so I used that, as well. I felt pretty self-satisfied once the dish came together that I had made a full dish that would last three days with just what I had without needing to go out and buy anything extra.