Fun fact about me: I dislike shopping for anything other than houses and food. I’d take scouring Trulia.com over finding a pair of new jeans any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Wandering through my favorite grocery stores, seeing all that’s new and inspiring, is a form of relaxation for me.
But oh how the bubble can burst! The reality of meal planning and prep hits. The clock reminds me that I’m losing my window to tick through the list-in-hand. And all the people sharing the aisle are starting to cramp my style.
Even though I love to meander through the produce section and take my time looking over what’s fresh at the butcher counter, there are still some realities that can make the process of grocery shopping a pain. I keep this twice-weekly necessity pleasant and simple by sticking to a few guidelines:
Shop When Others Aren’t
The most common times for people to shop for groceries are weekdays around 5pm when most are leaving the office and weekend afternoons. Do yourself a huge favor and avoid a crowded grocery store wth resolve like you’ve never had before! Two things always happen to me when I find myself in grocery rush hour: I buy convenience food I don’t need just to “get it done” or I start to lose it and leave without getting what’s on my list. Either way is a loss.
Make a List and Stick to it
Your wallet will thank you. As someone who gets inspired by groceries often, a list keeps me focused and on budget. Then if I’ve covered my bases, I can make considerations for a new Paleo-friendly item or maybe a nice piece of seafood, which we all know can get expensive. There’s a flip side to this too. How frustrating it can be to unpack groceries and find that a few key ingredients are missing from your planned recipes! Sticking to the list and avoid ad-libbing will ensure your meals turn out as planned and recipes are successful.
Organize Your List
Few things annoy me the way realizing that I’ve glossed over an item that’s clear across the store, so this tip is a personal favorite. You tend to shop at the same stores, right? I imagine you’re fairly familiar with their layout — where to find the pantry items, whether you’ll hit produce or meat first, etc. Why not organize your list accordingly? Separate meat, produce, and pantry items out into columns. You’ll sail through the store without zig-zagging back and forth while ensuring the week’s recipes have all the required ingredients.
I actually keep a notepad in my kitchen and in my phone’s notes app with those categories written, so I can add to it as I go through the week. Then at the end of the week when I do meal planning, I’ll finish it off and hit the store.
Psssst… I include shopping guides in my new meal plans Dinner in 3, 2, 1! If you’re looking for a solid meal plan, mine uses an innovative method: 3 Fresh & Fast recipes that cook in about 30 minutes, 2 recipes that make great leftovers and 1 slow cooker recipe. Plans adapt based on schedules and servings required. It’s pretty snazzy.
Don’t Shop Only Once…and Yet Not More Than Twice
Avoid tackling the whole week’s grocery needs in one shot. Fresh food spoils frustratingly fast and buying too much at once often leads to waste. Don’t fall victim to the temptation to one-and-done your shopping needs. Instead split your week’s meals into two trips to the store. Meal planning helps a lot when it comes to divvying up the list.
Pick the recipes you want to make that week, decide which day each one will work best, then divide the ingredients accordingly. (PS: This is my approach to the shopping guidelines in Dinner in 3, 2, 1 Paleo Meal Plans.) Shop Sunday for meals you’ll prepare Sunday through Wednesday. Shop Wednesday for the food you’ll need to prep Thursday through Saturday. Your bases are covered, your meals will be complete, and you’ve only had to hit the store twice. Yeah!
Consider Online Shopping
This is a game changer. Grocery delivery is taking off! Look into local grocery stores that might offer this service and also be sure to check Amazon. I hear their delivery areas don’t cover everywhere, but where it’s available, people love it. If you find yourself with the Internet more available to you than a grocery cart these days, give online ordering a try and have it either delivered to your doorstep or scheduled for a pick up time that works best.