FROM SOUP TO NUTS
As the weather starts to change from hot to cold, it's a good idea to change your home-cooking menu to reflect seasonal dishes and availability. From end-of-summer sales on items that will last until next year to inexpensive ingredients that come in handy throughout the fall, there are plenty of opportunities to stock up on grocery store essentials. Turning to seasonal produce is another way to spend thoughtfully while creating satisfying meals that are full of nutrients and flavor. Here are 50 things to put on your grocery list this fall, along with some ideas on how to use the lesser-known items.
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Come autumn, fresh pumpkins pop up in patches and supermarkets across the country. The orange gourds are inexpensive and versatile. They can be used in savory or sweet dishes and double as decorations, whether displayed in a simple seasonal arrangement or carved into elaborate jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween.
Related: 13 Things to Do With Leftover Pumpkin Guts
In addition to the typical butternut and spaghetti squashes, heirloom species are offered in many markets these days. Cheap, healthy, and versatile, all varieties of squash can be used to make sweet and savory dishes from soups to pies.
STORAGE CONTAINERS AND BAGS
Fall is soup season, and a big pot provides a lot of leftovers. After eating the same soup for several days, it can be tempting to toss the last few servings and make something different. Having bags or containers on hand makes it easy to put single servings in the freezer for later.
This iconic American fruit is in season in the fall. Stock up on apples for an inexpensive and nutritious snack when a sweet craving hits -- maybe by making a day of going apple-picking at a nearby farm or orchard.
Juicy pears make a satisfying snack on their own and can be used in seasonal dishes in a variety of ways, from cut up in salads to poached in leftover wine. There are about 10 common varieties of pears sold across the United States; try them all to keep from getting bored.
This many-seeded fruit has a short season in which prices drop and it reaches the peak of ripeness. While pomegranate juice is popular, the fruit offers more flavor and nutrition (and possibly an aphrodisiac effect).
Roasting whole birds and large cuts of meat is a popular method of cold-weather cooking. Buy a large spool of butcher twine at the beginning of the season to ensure there will be some on hand all season long.
As the weather cools, beets start to draw more nutrients from the soil. Whether enjoyed raw, roasted, or boiled, beets add an earthy sweetness to any meal. They can also be used as a source for all-natural dye.
These leafy green members of the cabbage family have gotten a bad rap. But when caramelized by sautéing, roasting, or frying, Brussels sprouts take on a subtle sweetness and umami characteristic that is undeniably satisfying.
Aside from being healthy, cabbage is a cheap way to add bulk or filler to almost any dish, from salads and soups to stir fries. Heads of cabbage keep well; in the old days, people would stock up in fall to have enough for the winter.
This once neglected root vegetable, the underground part of unharvested celery, has become trendy. Rather than spending a small fortune at a restaurant for a soup or side dish made with celery root, or celeriac, make it at home. Celery root cooks a lot like a potato. The blog Six Burner Sue has 10 serving suggestions.
The garlic harvest happens in early fall, which floods markets with ripe and piquant bulbs and makes it a good time of year to stock up, especially for those with a cool and dry basement or cellar for storage. This allows for fresh-tasting garlic right up until next year.
Sweeter than candy, these bright orange-red fruits have a unique soft and creamy texture. Persimmons can be eaten at any stage of ripeness but are at their best as they turn bright and deep red and are very soft to the touch. The Kitchn has 10 recipes (and some tips) for using the fruit.
Quinces were as popular as apples and pears once upon a time. The fruit has a floral aroma and a slightly lemony, tart flavor, which makes it ideal for mixing with sweet apples for pies or jams. Look to the Organic Authority for other ways to use it.
Sweet potatoes hit their peak just as the weather starts to cool, so they are rich in flavor and nutrition in autumn. Bake them into a pie with mini marshmallows for a sweet treat, or season them with curry spice for a warming meal.
Crunchy, low-calorie, and colorful, radishes can add considerable bulk and texture to a variety of dishes for very low cost. They are so inexpensive that they can even be used as garnishes and not eaten at all.
Fennel is loved for a peppery, anise-like flavor, which turns more mild when cooked. It adds depth of flavor to any dish that calls for roasted vegetables and can be consumed raw as a crunchy and pungent crudité. The fronds on the top can be used as fresh herbs.
Grapes are generally harvested in mid- to late September, which means fall is the time to explore unique varieties beyond typical table grapes. Ripe grapes are delicate and spoil quickly, so it's best to buy them when you are ready to eat them.
Seldom seen in the spring and summer, parsnips look like white carrots and have a starchier texture and slightly sweeter, earthy flavor. They can be added to any vegetable medley or mashed into a sweet pastry filling. The BBC's Good Food offers a list of parsnip cooking ideas (with just a few lapses into the metric system).
A rutabaga is essentially a large turnip. These big, starchy root vegetables are hearty and stay fresh for a long time when stored in a cool, dry place. They can be used in place of or alongside potatoes to bulk up a dish and diversify its nutrition and flavor.
Fresh citrus starts appearing on grocery store shelves in autumn, which means it's time to indulge in tangelos and grapefruits again. The burst of vitamins can help bodies stay in good health as the variety of fresh vegetables decreases after summer.
Grocery stores lower prices on paper goods such as cups and napkins after the summer barbecue season to make room on the shelf for incoming seasonal goods. Take advantage of these sales to save money and be prepared for holiday parties.
With grilling season drawing to a close, stores reduce prices on charcoal to move it out. Homeowners with a garage or shed to store it in should grab a few bags for the first cookout next year, or even a wintertime barbecue.
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Fall is the time to stock up on grilling accessories at significantly reduced prices. A new pair of tongs or grill grate is perfectly fine sitting in the package until next spring.
Metal and wooden skewers go on sale after grilling season and before the holidays, when they are used for appetizers and party foods. These handy items take up very little space, so go ahead and stock up.
CANNED PUMPKIN AND SQUASH
While roasting fresh pumpkin and squash typically yields a deeper flavor, there's no denying the convenience of using canned pumpkin for easy baking. Many grocery stores carry this product only seasonally, and may even sell out.
Even more than pumpkin itself, the spices associated with it -- cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove -- are irresistible in the fall. With these on hand, you can make pumpkin-spiced anything at home instead of overspending on gimmicky products.
Take cool-weather baking to the next level with the small addition of extracts and essences. Armed with the basics, such as vanilla, almond, and lemon, cooks can make a variety of confections and pastries without a lot of expensive specialty ingredients.
The holidays on the horizon bring guests and plenty of baking, whether it's cupcakes for a Halloween party or a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Buying sugar in bulk, both white and brown, will ensure the kitchen is well stocked for the least amount of money in the long run.
The chilly autumn is a good time to stay inside and practice breadmaking or perfect a cookie recipe. Flour can also thicken sauces for hearty meals. Buy flour in bulk to get the lowest price and have a ready supply throughout the season.
Related: 10 Pantry and Freezer Staples to Buy in Bulk
There are few things more relaxing than cozying up with a good cup of tea on a cold autumn night. Splurge on a few different flavors, caffeinated and not, to have an inexpensive indulgence within reach at any time.
From coffee creamer and yogurt to Pop-Tarts and cereal, it seems like every brand is releasing a pumpkin-flavored version for fall. Taste a few that pique your interest to get seasonal inspiration for your own culinary ventures.
Oats are healthy, cheap, and versatile. A warm batch of oatmeal is an efficient way to feed a crowd on a fall morning, and a fresh batch of oatmeal cookies is a simple and easy treat to mix up for company.
Roasted nuts make a healthy and hearty snack, especially during cool weather. Buying nuts in bulk can reduce the overall cost, and storing them in the fridge or freezer keeps them fresh throughout the winter.
Even those who don't spend much time in the kitchen find themselves staying in to cook at home in cold weather. Rather than buying small sizes of a favorite cooking oil, invest in a large container when it goes on sale to reduce the overall price.
It's not fun to have to run out to the store in chilly weather to restock something as basic as salt or pepper. Fill the cupboard with enough essential spices, such as dried herbs, chili powder, and garlic powder, to last a few months.
Necessities such as baking soda and baking powder go on sale in preparation for a long holiday season of freshly made treats. Replenish these ingredients to make sure they are fresh for holiday cakes, cookies, and pies.
Between Halloween parties and unexpected company during the holidays, there will likely be a few guests coming through. Keep some cookies in the pantry so there's always something to put out when they arrive.
CANNED OR BOXED TOMATOES
Sadly, tomato season is over, and the fresh tomatoes available during fall and winter just aren't the same. Replace them with high-quality canned or boxed tomatoes in favorite recipes for maximum flavor.
A warming spice, ginger is particularly crave-worthy when the weather starts to cool. This natural stomach settler is also good to have on hand when someone overindulges in candies or a holiday feast.
As temperatures drop, add a little heat to your food. It's a good time to experiment with spicy recipes and find a favorite type of hot sauce.
JAM OR JELLY
Keeping a jar of jam or jelly on hand is a baker's secret. These sweet, fruit-based condiments can transform a basic sugar cookie recipe into something unique and impressive, or be the star ingredient in a layer cake.
The variety of fresh vegetables is starting to disappear from supermarket shelves, but it's still important to keep vegetables on hand to incorporate into a healthy diet. Inexpensive bags of frozen vegetables make it easy to add nutrition to many dishes.
When the fresh, inexpensive herbs of summer have faded away, herbs become scarce and pricey. Picking up a few tubes of preserved herbs in squeezable form is an efficient way to work fresh flavor into fall dishes without relying on out-of-season produce.
VANILLA ICE CREAM
Creative ice cream flavors such as peach and watermelon will be back next summer. For now, keep a stash of vanilla ice cream in the freezer for topping warm brownies or pie.
Inexpensive and nonperishable, dried pasta is a cool-weather staple. In a matter of minutes, a box of pasta can be transformed into a warm, satisfying dish for a crowd. Don't forget to keep a jar of a favorite sauce on hand too.
With cold and flu season in full force, it's a good idea to keep a can or two of soup around. While homemade soup is always best, the convenience of canned can be hugely helpful during a busy time of year.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
As fresh lettuce and other green vegetables start to diminish for the year, it's important to keep leafy greens in your diet. Dark leafy greens such as kale are hearty and survive into the fall, offering an excellent and delicious source of nutrition.
Beans are incredibly cheap, nutritious, and versatile. Since they go so well in soups and stews, there are plenty of opportunities to use them in the fall. Dried beans can be stored more efficiently and have a better flavor and texture when cooked.