Into The Kitchen with Ellen Bennett: How to Grocery Shop

Hedley & Bennett

Welcome our brand new series Into The Kitchen! Stay tuned as founder Ellen Bennett dishes out some sensational tips, tricks, and hacks any home chef needs to feel confident and prepared for any cooking adventure.


Ah, grocery shopping, everyone’s favorite errand. Even if you love to cook, learning how to grocery shop on a budget while getting everything you need to create culinary masterpieces can be a challenge! 

Fortunately H&B’s founder and culinary superstar Ellen Bennet is here to help, with her guide to how to grocery shop for a month, making sure you’re stocking up on all the pantry essentials. Here’s a little breakdown of her recommended ingredients—plus the aprons you need to protect you from all those tasty treats you’re about to whip up.


How to Grocery Shop Healthy: Buy Your Vegetables

This is the choose your own adventure part of learning how to grocery shop for the week. Everyone has their own veggie preferences, so feel free to switch it up depending on what you’re cooking, but here’s how Ellen stocked her cart:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers (English and Persian)
  • Red onions
  • Scallions
  • Jalapenos
  • Celery
  • Lemons (regular and Meyer)
  • Shallots
  • Cilantro
  • Organic yellow potatoes 
  • Limes 
  • Ginger
  • Lettuce
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Radishes
  • Endive

  • As a new mom, Ellen’s in the process of learning how to grocery shop with a baby. By stocking up on a variety of fruits and veggies, she’s teaching her little one to eat the rainbow, while making sure the grownups also stay healthy, nourished, and fed.

    Take it to the Fridge: Shopping the Dairy Case 

    If you’re vegan and learning how to shop soy and egg free at grocery store, feel free to skip this section. Here are Ellen’s dairy essentials for the rest of us:

  • Parmigiano reggiano: A serious umami bomb, parmesan is so much more than a pasta topper. Use it to infuse an unexpected savory flavor  into your sauces, or add to any carb, from mashed potatoes to garlic bread. Pro tip: save those rinds to toss into your next batch of stock!

  • Greek yogurt: Combining the potent cooking energies of acid and fat, Greek Yogurt is the best in breakfast bowls. It’s also perfect for topping or stirring into any dish to infuse it with a complex rich flavor. And want a sneaky pro tip? Ellen often stits it into baked goods like cakes and banana breads to help them retain moisture. 

  • Almond milk: Even if you’re dairy free, milk is a kitchen must. Ellen likes almond for its versatility and rich flavor profile.

  • Eggs: An essential in cooking and baking, eggs are a must for all the non vegans in the house.

  • Cultured butter: It sounds fancy, but cultured butter is simply butter that’s been treated like yogurt or cheese, giving it a more complex flavor profile. Perfect for topping dishes to add richness, or making the best ever slice of buttered toast.

  • Queso fresco: Ellen’s Mexican background means that she grew up with queso fresco, whose mild, salty flavor makes it a perfect finishing cheese. It makes the best quesadillas you’ve ever had, and is a must for crumbling over a salad, taco, or grain bowl 

  • Go Nuts (for Nuts and Dried Fruit)

    Part of learning how to grocery shop efficiently is seeking out multi tasking ingredients, like nuts to add crunch and richness, or dried fruit, which is commonly used in Middle Eastern and European cuisines to add sweetness and intrigue. 

    Ellen loves nuts and dried fruit for adding complexity to everyday recipes. Like veggies, choosing your favorite nuts and dried fruits is a matter of following your heart, but here are her favorites:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans 
  • Pine nuts 
  • Hazelnuts
  • Dates
  • Cranberries 
  • Dried cherries 

  • Bonus Nuts:

  • Almond butter: for snacking on or making szechuan inspired cold noodle sauce 
  • Coconut water: for smoothies and sipping throughout the day

  • All of Oils:

    Like Ellen says in her video, standing in front of your grocery store’s great wall of oils can be overwhelming, especially if you’re learning how to grocery shop for one. Fortunately you really only need to have a few on hand to keep a well stocked pantry, here’s what she recommends:

  • Olive: An essential everyday oil, olive oil is perfect for anything that needs a special touch of herbal, slightly bitter flavor and isn’t cooked over high heat. Think pasta sauces, quick vegetable sautees, and cold applications like salad dressing.

  • Grapeseed: With a clean, neutral flavor, and much higher smoke point than olive oil, grapeseed is here for your hot times. It’s perfect for stir fries, frying eggs, and anything where you’re turning the burner past medium.

  • Avocado: Like grapeseed, avocado oil works over high heat, but it has a richer, buttery flavor that makes it well suited for dishes where the oil takes a starring role. It’s great for making sauces, using in baking, and drizzling over salads for a finishing touch

  • Sesame: While Ellen includes sesame as a bonus oil, it’s a must if you’re someone who likes to cook Asian cuisine. Even if you don’t, sesame has an awesome nutty flavor that makes it a salad dressing superstar.

  • Sour Superstars 

    A touch of acid is the finishing touch that will take your dishes from basic to pro level, so you know Ellen has essentials to recommend. Even if you’re learning how to grocery shop with roommates, vinegars are some of the most affordable pantry staples. Besides, a little acid goes a long way, so don’t be afraid to buy enough to share. 

  • Balsamic: A little sweet, a little sour, and totally delicious, complex balsamic make a perfect finishing vinegar to drizzle over the top of roasted meat, grilled fish, and even super ripe fruit.

  • Red wine: The staple vinegar of Mediterranean cuisine, red wine vinegar has the perfect light tang. It’s ideal for vinaigrettes, and works wonders to make quick pickles and marinades.

  • Apple cider: While many apple cider vinegar fans are here for the purported health benefits, it’s also a pantry must. Perfect for salad dressings, and adding a lightly sweet acidic finishing touch to savory dishes.

  • Sherry: With a rounded, complex flavor, sherry vinegar has a super rich acidity that adds a hidden depth to any dish. Use it in sauces, or add a few drops to finished dishes for pro kitchen flavor.

  • Grain Greatness

    A pantry must have, stocking up on a variety of staple grains will ensure you’re prepared for whatever culinary challenge life throws at you. Even if you’re discovering how to grocery shop for two, don’t be afraid to stock up—grains keep forever in a cool, dark pantry, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy them. Here are Ellen’s top grain picks:

  • White
  • Sushi 
  • Basmati
  • Brown
  • Quinoa
  • Farro
  • Pasta (Ellen likes bucatini, but pick your fave!) 

  • Umami Bombs 

    Known as the sixth taste, umami is that super savory delicious flavor that keeps you coming back for more. It can be built from many sources, from beef broth to miso paste, but here are Ellen’s favorite ways to add a dose of umami to your recipes:

  • Calvistrano olives
  • Capers
  • Caper berries
  • Mushrooms 
  • Peperoncini
  • Pickles
  • Soy sauce

  • Flavor Builders

    Last but not least, the flavor builders. These are the pantry essentials that Ellen stocks up on to add a final touch of deliciousness to her favorite recipes. This list may vary depending on your own personal flavor building preferences, but here’s Ellen’s list of flavor building superstars to stock up on:

  • Dijon mustard
  • Canned tomatoes (cherry)
  • Tomato paste
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna in oil
  • Honey
  • Chicken broth

  • So there you have it—Ellen Bennett’s essential guide for how to grocery shop! Take it along with you on your next trip to the store for an easy map to culinary success, and watch as your pantry becomes your happy place.