A MUM-OF-SIX has revealed she only does the food shop every THREE weeks – so how does she keep everything fresh?
Amy Lynn Cross and husband Michel, an engineer, both 45 from Washington, US, are parents to daughters Jewel, 21, Sydney, 20, and four foster kids under seven.
Although Jewel lives elsewhere, Amy cooks family meals for seven and manages to spend just $275 (£200) every three weeks thanks to her clever planning.
She uses hacks like soaking fresh produce in vinegar water, batch cooking and utilising freezer space.
Amy, who runs her own housekeeping company, has always been super organised. But it was only in January 2020 that she decided to turn her skills to cutting back on the family food shop.
When their fridge broke and they had to buy a new one, Amy realised she needed a better technique.
“We sat down and really went over our budget,” she says. “We were going to the store all the time, wasting food and never seemed like we had what we needed on hand.
“We live right across the street from three grocery stores and Costco so it was easy to just run across the street.
“When we decided our budget, I started working on building a longer-term pantry, stocking our freezer.
“I would call our pantry a homestead pantry – we stock single ingredient items so I can make anything from scratch.”
The family changed the way they eat three years ago, when Sydney was diagnosed with a 2.5-inch breast tumour at 17.
Amy says: “Being a mama with a daughter who is facing a tumour and not knowing if she had cancer makes you change everything in your home.
“I had grown up on a farm and have always had a garden but it made me really look at every item we brought into our home that was safe and healthy.
“This is when we switched the entire family to organic and really started paying attention to the quality of what we were eating.
“She is 20 now, healthy and starting her third year of college at Washington State University, but it forever changed our family.”
We ate the blueberries at eight weeks in a smoothie, with no mould on them
Amy Lynn Cross
Amy’s focus changed to buying fresh, seasonal and organic produce.
Mum adds: “I buy produce in season and organic if possible, wash in vinegar water when I bring it home, then make sure it is completely dry before storing it away.
“I believe washing it in vinegar water kills off the mould spores that are on produce when we buy it.
“With berries and greens, I put a piece of paper towel at the bottom of the airtight container to collect the moisture.
“I store almost everything in mason jars or Pyrex glass containers with airtight lids.
“Since we switched to glass containers instead of plastic, we have noticed that produce lasts much longer.
“Other items like asparagus and green onions I store in water like you would flowers and add water every few days.
“I have blueberries that I bought for Memorial Day Weekend (May 29) and we finally ate them July 21.
“I had them in my fridge marked with the date and not to eat so we could see how long they lasted.
“Six weeks was still prime but we still ate them at eight weeks in a smoothie, with no mould on them.”
And Amy says her system means she doesn’t spend ages planning the food shop.
She adds: “Surprisingly, I don’t spend much time at all planning – maybe five minutes a week.
“I buy the same staples for produce so I always know what I have on hand and in our freezers, we have a year’s worth of meat.
“Every couple of days. I will look in the fridge and see if anything needs to be used up sooner, like if I have peppers that are starting to wrinkle, I know that I will want to do something with them in the next week.”
Surprisingly, I don’t spend much time at all planning – maybe five minutes a week
Amy Lynn Cross
Then every three weeks, Amy heads to the shops.
She says: “By staying out of the stores and not mindlessly putting things in my cart, I was able to save up to buy half a beef and organic chicken/pork from farmers.
“If there is something that is on my list and is shelf-stable or can go in the freezer, I try to buy a year’s quantity of it at a time, like 5lbs of salt instead of 4oz.
“I recently bought 11lbs of honey. These are two items that basically never expire.
“I spend about an hour every three weeks doing the shopping but I will drive a bit to go to my favourite shops which are 20-30 minutes away.
“Since I don’t go very often, it isn’t a big deal.
“The evening after I go shopping, I do spend about an hour washing produce then they lay out to dry for three to five hours before I put them away.”
Amy also depends on batch cooking and her trusty freezer.
She says: “My goal always is to do two meals a week that are larger and that I can throw at least one meal in the freezer, then I always have a rotation of meals I can pull from the freezer on a busy night.”
Amy wants to inspire others and details her method on her blog The Cross Legacy.
She adds: “Anyone can dedicate a couple of hours once a month to prepping produce.
“If you know that to spend that energy one day a month and your family will have healthy snack and easy meals for weeks, it is worth it.
“It is not that much time at the actual grocery store or even planning – it is the one evening a month of washing and making sure everything is dry before you put it away.
“It is looking in your fridge every couple of days and making a plan for what needs to be used up or changing the form of how it is stored.
“Getting glass containers can seem expensive but you can start slow.
“I just bought two containers on amazon that are huge but they were almost $30 (£21), but I know I will use them for years.”