Q: What time is it?
A: Time for another AMAZING guest entry!
This one comes courtesy of Ms. Christina, and it is so good that I
can’t say anything because I have a fridge full of not one, not two but three kinds of Diet Coke and nothing else except condiments have not a single thing to add. Seriously, this is excellent and after reading, I have faith that I, too, can eventually grocery shop like a grown-up instead of my current strategy. Christina?
I offer this advice at the suggestion of my friends, who often say to me, “If you offered an adult education class called ‘how to grocery shop,’ I’d totally take it.” True story!
Like fine contributors to the site have already mentioned, start by planning out 2-3 meals you will make that week. This helps you save money, and eliminates the mid-week chant of WHAT IS FOR DINNER??. A budget and a plan are glorious things.
MAKE THE LISTS
Grocery list: make the list in order of departments: Produce, Aisles, Meat, Dairy, Frozen, Other (Sundries/Toiletries). Try to have ingredients, not just prepackaged foods, on the list. Shop the perimeter as often as possible.
Fridge list: jot down the 2-3 recipes you’re making that week. Or print out the recipes and tape them to fridge. Keep this list at home, on the fridge.
What’s been said here. Wear headphones. Do not be distracted by pretty or shiny things. You have a list. Don’t even go down aisles with things like candy or gallon jugs of wine, if candy or gallon jugs of wine are not on the list. Pretend those aisles do not exist.
When you reach the cashier, put your items on the belt in order. If you are wearing headphones, take them out at this point. That’s just good manners.
PUT AWAY THE GROCERIES
Do this when you get home, not an hour later. Make sure you rotate your stock—if there is a half-full container of cottage cheese in the fridge, place the new one behind the old one. Note things that need to be eaten before the new food.
Throw away things that you have stored in repurposed margarine containers. Better yet, get yourself some nice, clear Tupperware and stop using repurposed margarine containers for storage.
It helps if you set aside a few hours each week to prep; while this sounds hard, it just means that you make assembling meals as easy as possible for yourself later in the week, when you are tired and your feet hurt and every part of your body is screaming to order Chinese take-out.
Suggestions: Wash greens and herbs and store them in glasses of water or baggies (BONUS! A glass of herbs in water is like a bouquet of flowers for the fridge! Let it know you care). Dice onions, carrots, celery, and other study vegetables you might be using later in the week. Cut up bell peppers, carrots, or cucumbers for snacks. Unpack big packs of chicken breasts/other meats, setting aside some to cook in the week, and freezing others for long-term storage (put those on the list, if you have one).
If you know the week ahead is going to be particularly nuts, try to cook as many things as you can in bulk on your prep day. Grill multiple chicken breasts or pork tenderloins, or roast sweet potatoes. (Oven safety tip.) Make a batch of soup. These things will keep well and just need to be reheated during the week. Make quiche or banana bread and eat it for breakfast all week. Divvy up shit into Tupperware for bag lunches.
Some things won’t keep for more than a week, so make a short list of things that you need to pick up during quick on-the-way home runs. Romaine lettuce, for example, keeps well; fancy mesclun will get slimy.
If your “to-make” list includes items you know you won’t be needing until Thursday and might go limp or mushy, consider making a tiny mid-week trip. Set your phone alarm to remind you. Pick up staples (milk, eggs, cereal, gallon jug of wine) that you might have run out of mid-week.
DURING THE WEEK
Consult the fridge list. What are you supposed to be eating? What recipes did you plan to make? Follow the list.
If you are super-nerdy, like me, make a short list of things “on sale”—these things need to be consumed within a day or two. They might be leftovers, or soup that has been kicking around for a week already.
You are, of course, allowed to veto any food a) that is rotten or b) the mere sight of makes you want to scream because you have eaten roasted tomato soup for four straight days. (Consider freezing that soup for later in the month.) If you find yourself with too many leftovers to eat in a week, freeze those too. These make excellent lunches, and if you pack your lunch the night before, they will defrost overnight.
BECAUSE LIFE HAPPENS
Be realistic. If you had a dumb day, and honestly, you just need to go out and have a meal someone else cooked and maybe a cocktail, then let yourself do this.
Keep one or two packaged food items in the house, because you are human. Frozen pierogies are great for this, but so are frozen meals that come in a bag, or anything else that is easy to make.
All this might sound like a lot of effort and time. But it gets easier the more often you do it, and you make up the time spent listing/shopping/prepping during the week, when all you have to do is consult the fridge to see what’s for dinner. Then you can let a smug feeling of self-satisfaction wash over you. ADULTING!
Christina, you have my eternal admiration, and this new Award in Adulting: