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Building a Smarter Grocery List

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we're talking about the weekly grocery list.


Behind every great home cook is a well stocked pantry and a smartly packed fridge. Everything sitting in the fridge has a purpose, or ideally many. A novice sees a fridge full of disparate elements, while a great home cook sees a myriad of options -- a web of culinary possibility.

Consider the Lemon.

Lemons + olive oil = salad dressing. Lemons are great for stuffing into roast chicken. You can sprinkle the zest on pasta, on crostini, on just about anything that could use a little bright bitterness. Squeeze lemons in fizzy water. A spritz of lemon juice keeps cut avocados green. Thus, lemons deserve a place on your grocery list every single time. 

Comparing Our Lists

When we first began, we thought this list would be straightforward: here's what you should buy every time you go to the grocery store. End of story. But after we all drew up our weekly 'must-buy' lists and put them side by side to compare, we realized it wasn't that simple. We buy what we buy every week for a variety of reasons -- most of them deeply connected to our history as home cooks, with a modicum of practicality thrown in for good measure. What did our mother always have in the fridge? What are our various dietary quirks? A favorite midnight nibble? 

The Definitive Grocery List

So, we can't actually give you one simple master list. However, we can help you think about what your always-buy list might look like by giving you a slightly annotated glimpse of ours.

Across the board, there were a few items that everyone at Food52 HQ included in their list:

Butter and/or olive oil 
Salad greens, kale
Fresh herbs (parsley especially came up a lot)
Cheese (from parmesan to soft cheeses)

Here are things that appeared on more than one list, but not all:

Dried pasta
Canned tomatoes
Nuts/nut butters 
Milk (soy or regular)
Fruit in season
Dried legumes and cereals

So, we've shown ours. What's on your list? What do you buy every week?

Photos by Nicole Franzen

Tags: how-to & diy

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