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How do we maximize our time at the grocery store? How do I stick to my list on my iPhone? How do I not get lost in the frozen foods aisle?
It all comes down to planning! There are several measures you can take to ensure you’re getting the most out of your next grocery trip.
If you’re anything like me when I grocery shop without a list, I buy in excess. I buy now, plan later mentality. In doing this, I end up buying produce that I never cook, snacks I don’t need, and pantry staples I already have stocked.
You know the routine! You walk into the produce aisle, the avocados catch your eye and you instinctively think - now that's a healthy purchase - and proceed to find 6 of the ripest avocados on display! And what happens next, the avocados sit in your kitchen and inevitably go bad because you forgot the limes, cilantro, and jalapeños, and you never really intended to make mom’s homemade guacamole with them anyway.
To get the most out of your grocery list, you have to plan ahead! Before you make the trip, start thinking about what is on the menu for the week, and prepare a list. We’ve established how meal prepping is crucial for saving time, money, and avoiding excess calories. So too is the menu prepping process.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and easy tips to help you prepare both a weekly menu and a grocery list before your next trip to the grocery store:
1. How many homemade meals do you plan to eat next week?
I typically plan to eat at least 10 homemade meals at home each week (lunch and dinner for 5 days). With a couple of meals left for takeout and/or those delicious frozen Gyoza.
2. Plan 1-3 protein options for your week.
*Pro-tip: buy your proteins in bulk (not the same as hoarding), and keep what you don’t plan on using in the freezer.
Wild-caught salmon and shrimp from the freezer section at stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods are considerably cheaper than the pre-thawed fish at the counter. Sometimes even up to $5 cheaper per pound. That’s remarkable considering the fish at the counter is often frozen before being displayed. Do you want to pay extra to have someone thaw your fish for you? I know I don’t.
2. What meals and dishes will you be cooking this week, and what groceries do you need for those meals?
In addition to preparing 1-3 proteins, I like to have 2-3 vegetables, 1-2 sauces, and a starch prepared for the week. Then, I can mix and match as I go as opposed to having complete set recipes for the week. A great question to ask yourself is what are you going to actually want to cook, taking both time and nutrition into consideration?
With these set items you can mix and match: Salmon with pesto and brussels sprouts, or shrimp with carrot puree and broccoli and rice, or salmon salad with carrot puree and broccoli, etc.
3. What fridge or pantry staples am I running low on?
Eggs, olive oil, spinach, rice, pasta, etc. By knowing what you need in this category you will avoid the “Hmm, I think I have olive oil. Oh, I’ll get more just in case”, a perfect example of an overbuying mistake.
4. Figure out if you’re going to make room for snacks, and how many:
I find that planning how many snacks I want for the week helps me avoid buying the whole store. Going in with a plan of the specific snacks you want is even better. Telling yourself to get chips and hummus, and other healthy and delicious snacks you will actually eat, like Ayoba Droewors beef sticks.
5. Finally, ask yourself, are there any other essentials items I need before I grab my keys and head to the store?
Toilet paper aside, what else do you need? A great way to do this is to walk around your home and check to see what essential items your are low on - like laundry detergent, dish soap, hand soap, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. Avoid multiple trips to multiple store by planning ahead and picking up necessities while you grocery shop.
Hopefully, this is guide will help you plan for your next grocery trip for essential foods and household items. A guide that will help you navigate the grocery store in confidence due to well thought out preparation.
For more cooking and grocery tips follow @carsonsweezy