Daily Archives: 03.24.2011

Navigating the Grocery Store

Kittens!  It was so much fun to read the method behind everyone’s meal planning madness (or total lack therof).

So the nitty-gritty.  In order to eat, you have to be willing to make it rain (or in our case…drizzle).

For starters, our budget is $60-$70 per week.  Some weeks we spend $70, some weeks we spend less than $60.  There’s no special incentive to spend less (beyond putting it into savings) and quite honestly, we’d be hard pressed to justify buying more than $70 of food for two people in a week.  As far as the cash register is concerned, it all comes down to what we’re out of and what “new” items we need to buy.

And I completely understand that to some, our system might seem a little bit…involved.  Or insane.  But we’ve managed to hone the entire process (meal planning and shopping) down to an hour and a half or two hours…Tops.

Science or Art?  Your call.

So what happens on Sundays in our house to make grocery shopping (and the feasting that ensues) a reasonable proposition?

Make very specific lists. If you were to look at my grocery list, it would have the stores we’re going to listed, as well as our list broken down by-store.  This keeps us from throwing random things in the cart, and helps me to ensure that we’re getting everything we need for that week’s meals.

Shop at multiple stores. I know that it works for us, because if we’re making the drive to TJ’s or ALDI (which is a weekly trip for us), we may as well hit the other because they’re only 1/4 mile apart.  Cub is only 1/4 mile away from our house, so it makes sense to go there last when we’re already on our way back.

Start with the cheapest place.  We ALWAYS begin with ALDI and try to get everything on that store’s list there, as well as anything else that’s up to snuff from the other lists.  Then we hit TJ’s, which is usually for bread and specialty items (dairy products, running snacks, soups, sauces and dressings) and finally Cub.  This helps to make sure that we’re buying as cheaply as possible.

Buy Staple Foods. By this, I don’t necessarily mean ACTUAL staple foods but rather, foods that are staples TO YOU.  Every week you will see Greek Yogurt/eggs/milk (if needed), Romaine, Apples, Bananas, Broccoli, Meat of the Week, Cheddar and Monterrey Jack Cheeses (in brick form), tomatoes, a lemon/a lime, bread (if needed – baguette, loaf, english muffins) sometimes an avocado on our grocery list.  We always eat those foods so it’s never a surprise.  And, it helps to simplify things when you’re trying to build breakfasts, on-the-go meals or side dishes.

Freeze your carbs. If you can’t do an entire baguette/loaf/english muffin package, freeze it (but with the baguette, make sure to saw it into easily removable segments first) and defrost slices/items as you go.  I don’t think that I’ve allowed ANY bread to sit on the counter for more than an hour since my days in the Sorority house.  We just can’t eat it fast enough.

Don’t buy brand name. This is a hugely easy one for us since the bulk of our shopping happens at ALDI and TJ’s, and they only carry store brands.  With brand-name goods, just remember that unless it is The Best, there’s probably no difference.

How do you navigate the grocery store?