Grocery shopping as an art form
Date: Jun 26th, 2006 7:23:02 pm - Subscribe

I know it sounds crazy, but I honestly do think of it as an art form. Of course, it helps that I love to shop for groceries!! All that food just waiting to be turned into something wonderful, it's just more than I can stand sometimes!! Ok, ok.....I know that's weird. I'm ok with being weird about certain aspects of my food life.

There are several methods I employ when shopping for groceries, and mind you, these are what I do and I certainly don't think anyone should be obsessive about shopping for food, but some habits can be modified to be simpler and more productive. I think grocery shopping is one of them. My biggest simplifier is lists. We all need lists to help us remember what our overworked brains tend to leave behind. I put a magnetized pad on the fridge, and when something runs out I quickly jot it down so I don't forget. I encourage the guys to do this too and they are really good at it. For one thing, when I make the master list, if it isn't on the 'quick list' and I don't notice it's out, it won't get purchased. It's a very simple concept. Then there can be no whining about it. I do a major shopping spree about once every three weeks, and do 'fill-in' visits in between. We budget a lot in our lives and make do without certain things to save money, but we never skimp on food. There is no point. When I am about to do a major trip, I will sit down with my recipe book and cooking magazines and make up dinner plans. I list all the items for meals on a list and take note of what ingredients I will need. This allows me to have ideas at the ready for meals, with ingredients on hand to make it work. If I don't do this, our meal times get really boring and repetitive, and then I see a lot of 'sad face' at the dinner table. Not fun. Once the dinner plan list is done, then I scour the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what needs replenishing. One thing I have learned about being able to cook a meal without too much fuss and planning ahead is to always, and I mean ALWAYS have a well stocked pantry. (this will be covered in another post)

So the scouring is done and I have a sheet of paper with lots of writing all over it, totally disorganized and messy because notes have come from everywhere. My last list is the working copy; I take that messy sheet and transfer items one by one onto a new list that is separated into categories and organized as to how the store is laid out. One column for dry goods, one column for produce, one for meats and one for dairy. Many many people enter the grocery store in the produce section and fill their carts there first, then walk the rest of the store to get everything else while their fresh stuff sits and languishes. I do the reverse. I enter the store at the opposite end and work towards the cold stuff so that it's still pretty cold by the time it gets home. It works for me. Each item is checked off my working list as it goes in the cart so I know that I have everything I need. I skip any aisles that have nothing in them I am looking for and a typical major shopping trip is done in about 45 minutes, including checking out. The organizational process may seem time consuming, but the amount of time I spend in making up the working list is well worth it because it makes for a much simpler meal time. I know what I have and know what I can make just by reading the meal list. I always have several quick, no-meat items on the list for those times when I don't think about dinner until late afternoon. And hardly anything I make takes more than an hour from start time to table, and often it takes less. And if there is ever a time when I've depleted the items from the meal list, I can turn to the well stocked pantry or some quick veggie burgers from the freezer and find something to throw together. Life is complicated enough without meal times being a huge headache. Yes, forethought to this process may seem daunting, but once you get the routine down it becomes a habit you won't be willing to compromise on again.
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