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An Argument for Grocery Shopping Without — Gasp! — a List or a Plan

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Credit: Jade Zhu

Name: Jade Zhu
Location: Boston, MA
Age: 23
Number of people in household: 1
Occupation: Research Associate at a food startup
Where you shopped: Star Market®

Grocery hauls aren’t just what you fill your cart with: They’re also the possibilities that spring from a single trip to the store. Inside all those shopping bags are potlucks with friends, family game nights, comfort meals when we need them most, and nutritious starts to the school day. So we don’t only want to know what ingredients folks are buying — we also want to know what moments they’re making with them.

Jade Zhu takes a very old-school approach to grocery shopping: She doesn’t keep a shopping list, and she definitely doesn’t meal plan. “I tend to grocery shop a little bit every other day throughout the week rather than doing all my shopping on one day,” she says. “I buy groceries on an as-needed basis rather than planning out specific recipes for the week.”

Jade’s spontaneous approach to eating is a result of her job at a food startup, her commitment to reducing food waste, and her unpredictable schedule. Thankfully, her local Star Market® makes it easy to drop in and find what she needs. Here’s how she does it.

Credit: Jade Zhu

What’s your grocery strategy?

Do you ever dig through the tortillas or the cream cheese to make sure you’re buying the one with the latest possible expiration date? Well, Jade does the exact opposite. “I like to stroll and browse grocery stores for fun and buy whatever is on sale. Or even better, if they have produce that is about to go bad, then I’ll buy that!” she says. “Then I can help reduce food waste, and it forces me to think creatively and try out new dishes.”

How do you meal plan?

The plan is: There is no plan. “I do not meal plan. I like to remain flexible unless there is something I am specifically craving,” Jade says. She may not meal plan to a T, but she does plan ahead in her own way: “I will keep larger batches of meal components and snacks in the freezer for throwing together something quick.”

Burrata with Roasted Eggplant and Balsamic: A Restaurant Dish Recreated for Dinner at Home

Jade may not keep a traditional grocery list, but she does regularly challenge herself to recreate restaurant dishes at home. It’s a moment for her to express her creativity in the kitchen. Her Burrata with Roasted Eggplant and Balsamic is her version of something she and her boyfriend tried at a bakery once.

Credit: Jade Zhu

Clam Chawanmushi with Shiitake Kabocha Salad: Weekend Lunch Project

Speaking of recreating meals, Jade also enjoys setting aside an afternoon to craft beloved dishes her mom prepared for her as a kid. It takes a while to steam the eggs for this Clam Chawanmushi, but the flavor is well worth it. “When I eat Japanese food, I feel very peaceful,” she says. “Sometimes it’s nice to take it slow and let it stew.”

Credit: Jade Zhu

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gochujang Whipped Butter and Anchovies on Toast: Weekend Brunch

The name of this recipe is a gift that keeps on giving and getting more delicious with every word. You may never have thought to combine Brussels sprouts, gochujang, butter, and tinned fish on toast, but that’s how Jade’s brain works — especially when she has time on the weekend to take stock of her supply and whip up brunch accordingly.

Credit: Jade Zhu

Yogurt Bowl with Strawberries, Mixed Nut Butter, and Healthy Homemade Chocolate Cookies: Pre-Rock Climbing Snack

Jade isn’t big on food rituals, but there is one she returns to often: fueling up with a yogurt bowl and healthy homemade chocolate cookies before rock climbing. “I eat a lot of savory things, so sometimes, I crave something sweeter,” she says. She looks forward to this light, refreshing, and energizing treat before her climbs.

Credit: Jade Zhu

Air Fryer Tonkatsu with Shredded Cabbage, Rice, and Pickles: Dinner Challenge Inspired by What’s on Sale

Remember when we said that Jade actively seeks out grocery items that are about to expire? It’s a reoccurring theme in her kitchen, and she enjoys challenging herself to make dinner with whatever’s “asking to be bought” at the store. This Air Fryer Tonkatsu is a perfect example of what happens when she decides it’s one of those nights. The result? A picture-perfect dinner to add to her repertoire.