Make a smarter Grocery List
Stop standing in the middle of the grocery store pretending like you know what’s up. We see you.
The lonely jar of salsa in the fridge and random bag of granola in your pantry are staring at you.
This is embarrassing, Susan. This kitchen is a joke. You should be ashamed.
Okay, relax. It’s not that bad. Except when it is. And our kitchens look like a damn frat house. But the only way out of the mess we created is through. So to the grocery store we go.
We’ve all been there. Standing in the middle of the produce section, surrounded by random green things, apples of all shapes and sizes, and questionable vegetables that you genuinely don’t know the name for, staring at your cart with your thinking face on wondering why the only things within are a bag of a new “cake batter” flavored popcorn and a cheese that happened to be out as a sample that you know is just to die for.
So you search desperately for more free samples hoping to buy some time and snack your way around the store, killing two birds with one stone.
After all, you’re only human and that cheese IS to die for.
Grocery stores can be daunting. And overwhelming. And hell let’s just say it, a pain in the ass.
Many of us probably hate to do it. But. Ya know what, Susan? Sometimes you gotta put your big boy pants on , plan ahead, and get the job done. (Don’t ask me why it’s Susan just play along, alright?)
It’s time for a plan. We love plans. They make us feel in control of life and give us something to work on. We set plans to make plans and know those plans will turn into other plans. Until eventually we start all over because amidst the planning, no action was actually taken and we forgot what we were doing altogether.
Well, I’ve taken it upon myself to selfishly lay out some rules that I follow that might help you navigate your grocery list and grocery shopping.
Consider these some friendly guidelines. As long as you feel the list you create and the food you return from the store with follow these guidelines, then I would like to think the week ahead on the food front is off to a good start.
The intention behind these guidelines is to put into practice many things we already know. At the end of the day, be organized and be simple. Carve out some time over the weekend to gather and organize your thoughts, the week ahead, and the inevitable cravings. Take this time to plan so that next week it won’t take as long. And then the following week will be even faster.
As someone who despises most forms of shopping, efficiency is key for me. While I do love to cook and buy food, I hate the crowds, lines, small talk, and rude people as much as the next person. But with planning and consistency, putting into you can become the grocery store wizard of your dreams bee-lining through the store feeling confident that you are grabbing everything you need to have a healthy and satisfying week ahead.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Here we go:
Have a plan. Remember your goals.
- Duh, right?
- Don’t venture into uncharted territory with a “wing it” mentality. We want to be smarter shoppers. So let’s do everything we can not to set ourselves up to fail. That’s just embarrassing and you only have yourself to blame.
- Prior to going to the store, organize your life. Think about your week ahead. Is there work travel? Are you home daily? Can you come home for lunch? Any client dinners or working lunches? How many breakfasts/lunches/snacks do I need to have daily? When I get home will I have time to cook or should I have some things prepared in bulk ahead of time?
- Organize, prioritize, and remember the life you want to lead and the way you want to feel.
- Make a list. Stick to it.
Shop the perimeter
- You’ve probably heard this before and it’s very true.
- Along the perimeter exists the fresh produce, meats, seafood, and proteins, dairy, and frozen items not far away.
- The only things I buy from the aisles are typically:
- Cooking oils
- Nut butters/nuts and seeds
- (minimal) gluten free grains, pastas, oats
- Pasta sauces and vinegars
Organize your list by grocery store section
- Fresh produce to be used that day and within the first few days of the week (you can throw quickly sautéed greens or any and all vegetables into ANY meal)
- Meats and proteins
- Chicken, beef, seafood, eggs
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Almond milk
- Coffee creamer
- Frozen foods
- Frozen veggies
- Frozen fruit for smoothies and to snack on
- Pantry staples and dry goods
- Cooking oils
- Gluten free oats and granolas
- Quinoa or other grains
- Dried pasta – there are a lot of great chickpea and lentil pastas now like Banza that are high in protein and gluten free
- Canned tomatoes and pasta sauces – Roa is my favorite hands down. Great ingredients.
- Dry items (non-food)
- Paper towels, TP, foil, lunch bags, tissues, dish soap, etc.
Think timely. Think Seasonally.
- Fresh produce will last you a few days max. These are the things we will cook up with our eggs or throw together in a huge salad for lunch or dinners. If you’re traveling 4 out of the 5 days, let’s not buy food just to let it rot. Rude.
- Fruit is a great snack when thrown in with plain yogurt and a little bit of honey. Apples last a long time and are great on a counter top.
- Eat what is in season. Buy what is on sale. Don’t be a hero and insist on making the most complicated recipe with the spices you’ve never heard of. See what is freshest and in season and adjust your food based on that.
- Meat should be cooked within a few days. And great to buy in bulk. Cook a pound of chicken now as a component to have for meals throughout the week and freeze a pound for next week or later in the week to thaw
- Get enough to know you could throw together meals without having to make a grocery run or eat out for at least 4 days. Maybe by Thursday and the weekend you hit up the store for some random things
Lastly, after your shopping trip, think about eye appeal
- Make your food look good.
- Wait, what?
- It’s not enough to buy the good stuff. Cook and prepare it in a way that will make you want to eat it.
- Keep apples, oranges, bananas on the counter top to reach for. Shiny apple yay! Shitty box of questionable crackers, boooo.
- Make a big bowl of a quinoa salad to be eaten throughout the week
- Cook a big batch of chicken to be thrown onto the quinoa salads or into a quick skillet dinner of any frozen veggies, garlic, onions, splash of balsamic, maybe a spoonful of store bought pesto. And some gluten free noodles underneath. Boom.
Once you remember some general guidelines, build the greatest and most specific and robust grocery list you can. Find maybe two recipes you can make in bulk and make ahead of time to have on hand throughout the week. Remember that during the week your goal with food is simply to fuel your days and help you stick to your goals.
Know that it’s okay to eat generally the same things every day. In fact, eating the same types of foods daily (assuming they are nutritious, whole food options) will help you remain consistent and accountable, keeping you on the healthy living track.
As you start to build these smarter lists and think about grocery shopping differently, remember that everything is a process and the only way out is through.
The only way out is through.
Say you take your time, find your recipes, craft your list, and execute everything on time and on budget.
Then Wednesday comes and you have nothing left in your fridge.
But did the world end? No. And guess what? Good. Now you know better for next week.
Maybe you underestimate how much you need to prepare in advance. Maybe you get over excited and buy too much and have fresh produce that goes bad or you only cooked up your chicken but the ground beef is not past it’s “sell by” date.
Well, guess what ladies and gents, that’s how you learn. By failing and trying again. By trying something, tweaking it, learning from it, repeating what worked and fixing what didn’t.
It sounds silly, but every part of life is a game. And sometimes we lose. But the only way to get better is to keep trying. So learn from the grocery hauls that didn’t quite meet your needs. Get good at identifying the areas in your day that you fall short on the food front. Recognize when your body is truly hungry and know when to just get more water instead.
And, please. Let’s not waste food. Beautiful produce that is left to rot in the fridge drives me completely bananas. (You see what I did there? I’ll be here all week.)
Now go to the store, your kitchen is embarrassing.