Look for my “Let’s Get Organized” posts on the 1st Tuesday of the month. You can find previous months HERE.
If there is one chore I’m not super fond of, it’s grocery shopping. I would be forever grateful if the ingredients I needed would just plop themselves into my fridge (wasn’t there a ride at Epcot that promised this would happen?!). I am not one of those people that loves to peruse the market or store, figuring out what’s fresh and looks great for dinner that night. Firstly, because I usually have the kids with me, and even on their best behavior, I’m only going to subject them to so much time confined in the stroller. Secondly, aside from basic things like tacos or steak, I generally follow a recipe and I simply don’t have the mental capacity to remember all the ingredients I need for a dish. Aside from the logistics of actually getting to the store, there’s also an art to grocery shopping so that you leave with just the right amount of food. Buy too much, and food is bound to spoil. Buy too little and you will inevitably be met with the innocent (yet irksome), “what do you mean we don’t have anymore cereal/bacon/beer/etc.” from your well meaning husband.
After many failed attempts at streamlining this process, I’ve finally found a system that works for our family, and we have adhered to it pretty religiously for the past year. The outline is this: divide shopping up between 2 days, know what staples we need, and have a menu plan set-up so that we know exactly what’s going down the coming week. The major crux of this is a shared grocery list that is always on the same spot on our fridge, and is the be-all-end-all for what I buy that week (hubby knows not to even bother verbally telling me he needs something, but just marks it on the list). Here’s the breakdown:
- Menu Plan First – I don’t even know if this needs an explanation, but it’s really important to know what you plan on cooking and how your week is shaking out before you head to the grocery store. This is a post I did on Menu Planning.
- Set Aside Time to Shop – If you want to avoid those last minute runs to the store for milk, having a plan of how often and when you are going to do your shopping is really helpful. I find that I need to shop twice a week. I tried doing once, but found that most meat (and especially fish) would spoil before I was able to use it. I break it down so that one day I get staple items for the week (all breakfast & lunch items included) and a few days worth of dinners, and then then the next time is a quicker trip for just the remaining days dinner needs. This plan works great because I anticipate that one trip is going to take some time, while the second visit will be a quick pop in and can easily be made with the kids in tow.
- Buy Non-Perishables Online – I am obsessed with soap.com. Seriously I have no idea what I would do without them (I really could go on and on about how amazing their service and offerings are). Even if you drive a big SUV, sometimes getting the toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, diapers, etc. delivered to the house can make things so much easier.
- Have a Staple Grocery List – And this, ladies and gentleman, is the real key to streamlining your grocery buying experience. Making a list of what your staples are, then keeping it in a centralized location where your whole family can use it, will make your life so much easier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scanned through my list and realized that I had totally forgotten that we needed more brown sugar or mustard or some other random item. You can either print your list, laminate it, and use a dry erase marker to mark the items you need, or you can print off a new one each week (the more convenient option if you want to be able to throw it in your purse). You can divide the list into categories (dairy, fresh fruits & veggies, frozen, etc.) then organize it so that it flows with the general direction you go through the grocery store. Alphabetizing the items makes it easy to find what you are looking for. I also leave space at the bottom and end of each category to write in items that I need for specific recipes that week. Here is a copy of mine to get you started:
Hope this helps you keep your fridge and pantry stocked! Do you have any secrets to making the grocery shopping process less painful?