How Things Used to Be
When Jason and I got married almost 5 years ago, I started grocery shopping the way mom had done. You go, and you pick up the Regulars. What are the Regulars? Well, we had a pretty normal rotation of meals growing up, and my mom knew that she would use up a certain list of ingredients within a few weeks. Mom had this list entirely in her head, along with the list of Regulars.
So that's what I did! I went to the store and bought my version of the Regulars. But then I started getting into problems. What if I used up all my tomato sauce in one recipe, and then had none left for a different recipe later in the week? What if I had all the stuff needed to make meatloaf except for the main ingredient, the meat? lol. And the worst happened at the end of the grocery cycle.
I would be down to a pantry full of odd fellows. Breadcrumbs, peanut butter, olives... tell me how many recipes you can think of with that lovely trio! (unless of course you are thinking of the delicious Peanut butter Olive Bread crumb casserole!)
As my mentor Gordon would say,
Something had to change. I wanted to get out of my repulsive recipe rotation rut and regroup, round up new recipes that required reasonable ingredients (a lot of r's just happened there). I needed to get reorganized. I needed to get my "s" together!
Last week I shared how I stopped dreading to cook dinner by making a simple meal plan each week. This is how I stopped dreading (and actually started enjoying, gasp!) grocery shopping, and turned the experience from stressful to easy!
Making Ze Plan
This is the easy part! Yesss. I peruse my recipes for 15 minutes each week and pick out the meals I want to make for the week. I've written a whole lot more about how I make that part easier!
Once I know what I'll be cooking, I look at each recipe and write down all the ingredients they call for. This forms the backbone of my weekly shopping list. No more missing main ingredients! After that I add my version of the Regulars- milk, cereal, fruit, etc., tuff we normally eat for breakfasts, lunches, and side dishes.
You could also plan out your meals out 2 weeks at a time, or 2 days at a time. I've found for our family, if I try to buy produce or perishables too far in advance, they'll go bad by the time we get around to eating them. Any shorter than a week, and I feel like I'm running to the store every couple days. Do what works for you!
Making Ze Trip
If you have a monthly food budget like I do, you know where we shop has a lot to do with how much we spend. Some people like to buy certain things at certain stores to try to get the best price, which is great! Warehouse stores like Costco are also great ways to buy in bulk and save. With just 2.5 mouths to feed, our family's still too small to make a warehouse store worth it quite yet, but I know someday soon it will.
Me, I'm a one stop shop kind of girl. With an active (and loud!) almost 2 year old, this mama has just enough mental strength for one grocery store per week.
I shop at Stater Bros', a low priced So Cal chain, and Sprouts for specialty items Stater's doesn't carry. I try not to get tempted into just grabbing "a few things" at places like Target or popping into Albertson's just up the street, 'cause I know I'll end up paying more for the same item. It's better if I'm prepared and get what I need at the best price!
Making Ze Money Stretch
(without ending up with a closet full of mustard)
You've probably seen Extreme Couponing. If not, it's basically women running around stores, going on shopping sprees where they walk out with shopping carts full of stuff for pennies.
I'm no extreme couponer, actually I'm what you could call an extremely casual couponer. If a good one walks across my path, great, I'll take it! But on the whole, I'm not sold (eh eh, nice one Alyssa!) on the intense use of grocery shopping coupons for several reasons. Here's my beef-
- A name brand item bought with a coupon may still end up costing more than a generic brand item, or bulk packaged item using no coupon.
- The grocery store you use the coupon at greatly influences the end savings. A speciality store will have much higher prices for say milk, than a budget grocery store, or warehouse store like Costco.
- Coupon foods can be pretty unhealthy. Mainly prepackaged or processed foods, and almost never fresh produce, fresh meats, and staples like rice and beans. If you want to buy more healthy foods, you are usually out of luck coupon wise. (I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this. If you've found out different, please leave me a comment! :)
One Sweet Thing
I do. I treat myself! :) I realize this could turn into a really bad habit of feeling like I deserve a food treat whenever I go to the grocery store. But the way I see it I'm limiting myself to one non list, non needed, likely non healthy item so that I don't go crazy piling on the junk! I make myself stick to my list as much as I can, and if I see something that is my craving of the hour I'll tell myself, "ok, Alyssa that's your one thing" and I may have to put back the box of Oreos, or Twinkies, or Pickled Okra (I realize they may look like slugs, but they taste delicious!) that was already in my cart.
Reusable Bags, Not just Saving the Planet Anymore
I discovered this trick while attempting to like, help out the environment, or whatever. But, turns out there's an even better reason for using them than saving the environment, they are time savers!!
I bought these XL plastic totes from Albertson's a few months ago. They are 16" long by 14" high, much bigger and sturdier than other reusable mesh bags I've bought. I was in for a pleasant shock when I used these for a grocery trip, and all my food fit into these 3 bags!! Instead of making 4-5 trips back and forth from the car using the traditional plastic grocery bags, I can usually make it in 1!
That's how I roll, from start to finish. It's definitely a work in progress, but it's working way better than my old ways. What about you, how do you go about it? Same, different? Let's keep the conversation going, I'd love to get your tips in a comment!
Thanks for reading :) and have a great week!
Hang out with me on Fb and Twitter during the weekend!
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