I do my grocery shopping once a week. Because my little people are both under 2 years old, I have to be organized in advance since my time in the store is limited. Back in the day before kids, I would text my husband at four thirty and say “what do you want for dinner?” Then I would run to the store, buy ingredients for that night, and cook when I got home from work. Or, we would get home and decide to go out to dinner. Why? Because it was a Tuesday, we were DINKS (dual income no kids), and we had nothing better to do! I know my sister used to be jealous of our freedom. Jokes on me now! We are now planning meals a whole week in advance, spending more on diapers and formula than is imaginable, and dinner dates are planned many days in advance.
To make my grocery trip easy and actually enjoyable, here are the rules I follow:
- Write your list out as you would visualize walking through the store. My list is organized based on sections of the store. That way I am never back tracking to somewhere I have already been.
- Pick three meals at home per week and plan them in advance. I figure I cook about three dinners during the week. We go out on a date usually on Friday or Saturday, order pizza one night, and eat a big family dinner on Sunday. During the week I figure one night Isaac will have a work dinner, and one night we will eat at my sister’s or do something low key like soup I have in the freezer. Planning three good meals at our house ensures we eat healthy and together as a family, while not over planning and having lots of leftovers which my husband hates.
- At the bottom of my grocery list, I write out items in my pantry I assume I have. Then before I go to the store, I do a run through and make sure I do have them on hand. My pet peeve is assuming I have something like olive oil and then get home and realize I have to run out again.
- I plan out meals that are easy for a weeknight. Easy means relatively fast and involving variety so my husband doesnt get sick of eating Italian every night. It also means using the meat or fish that is fresh early on in the week. If I make salmon, chicken soup, and gourmet mac n cheese, I serve salmon on the day I buy it. The soup I would make during nap time the day before we eat it for dinner, and the mac n cheese I have in case we want to invite people over last minute. Since the recipe serves 8 and is made in a nine by thirteen pan, there is more than enough mac n cheese to go around!
- I keep the weeknight side simple. This is not the time I choose to make scalloped potatoes or a soufle. We eat lots of fresh salads and roasted vegetables because they are simple to make, healthy, and don’t take much time to prep.
- Let the store help you. Grocery stores now have amazing salad bars, fruit bars, fresh squeezed juice, and pre cut cheese plates! Know your time limit and don’t stress about making a pre made salad or buying cheese already grated. If it will save you time and get dinner to your family then do it.
- Go frozen. I love buying frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, whole grain dinner rolls, sweet potato fries, and even garlic bread (which I am sure has lots of preservatives and bad things but we still eat). Having frozen food helps you have dinner options in no time.
- Think ahead for the booze. If you are going to have pasta, salad, and garlic bread, then you will probably want a red table wine to go along with it! Or maybe it’s just Isaac and me that like wine with dinner even on a Monday night! I buy decent but not over the top wine for the week on my big shopping trip. The wine we get from the two wine clubs we have joined we usually save for fun dinners with friends or weekend occasions.
- Look through your fridge before you make your list. I do an inventory check before I make my meal plans for the week. If I have onion, garlic, and cream in my fridge, I will likely make one meal a simple pasta dish with a garlic cream sauce. I try to use up ingredients before they go bad. I am not perfect though and almost always end up throwing stuff out at the end of the week.
- Pick meals you are familiar with & try some new ones. I like making meals I have made before. However, if I always make the same thing, I find myself uninspired and bored. I scour food magazines and food blogs all the time, so I try new recipes too. If I make three home cooked dinners during the week, I would usually try one new one.