Grocery shopping is a necessary activity whether you cook or not. Unless you eat out all the time (expensive), or retain your own private chef (lucky), grocery shopping is something we all have to face. I thought I’d share what I do in preparation for my weekly trip to the grocery. It works for me, maybe it will work for you too?
1. Every week hang a preprinted grocery list on the front of your refrigerator. When you run out of a staple, circle that item on the grocery list so your brain doesn’t forget. Use this same list when you make your weekly menu. (Note about my preprinted grocery list: The order of the ingredients matches the aisles of the grocery store where I shop. The food isn’t organized in specific categories. In my grocery store the toilet paper and paper towels are not in the same aisle as the napkins, so on my list they are in different aisles, rather than in a section headed “Paper Goods”. My list also contains mostly ingredients, not many processed or ready-to-eat foods. For these reasons you may need to customize the list. Let me know if you see anything I need to add to the list.)
2. One the day before you head to the supermarket gather the following tools: the preprinted grocery list that’s hanging on your refrigerator, weekly bones of our menu guide, weekly ads for your supermarket, a copy of your calendar, and your favorite writing instrument.
3. Using my suggested “bones of our menu” (or write your own), make and take the time to create a complete menu that includes all the food you’ll need during the upcoming week: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and if necessary, party food, special occasion meals, or food for a potluck at work. (Yes, you might have to make time. Even if you have to get up from reading this blog – go make some time to write your menu.) Make the menu as complete as possible. Having on hand all the food you’ll need for the upcoming week depends on the thoroughness of this menu. If you’re preparing a new recipe (and I limit myself to one, at the most two, new recipes a week), include all ingredients you need to buy. Try to remember to ask the others who live with you if there’s anything they know you need. It’s quite possible someone has emptied the peanut butter jar and you haven’t noticed.
4. Glance through the weekly ad for your supermarket and if pork tenderloin or chicken breasts are on sale, work those into the menu. Take advantage of 10/$10 specials, but only buy 1 or 2 at $1.00/each. Saving money at the grocery is a lot like painting – it’s 3/5 preparation. Prepare a thorough list and know what you’re going to buy, and by all means, know what’s on sale. Use coupons for items you normally purchase. Try not to let coupons lure you into spending money on something you don’t typically buy or need – the latest gummy fruit rope or the newest Pop-Tart for example.
5. Next step, shopping. We’ll cover that process on another day. Don’t forget to download the grocery list to help you get started.