Grocery Shopping and Other Things that Suck

It happens pretty much every time I’m at the grocery store.  I get to the checkout and suddenly remember my re-usable bags.  They’re safely put away in my kitchen, nowhere to be seen.  So when the cashier asks if I need bags today, I bite back my shame and tell her that yes, yes I do.

I don’t know what it is.  I’m usually pretty adept at picking up new habits but occasionally there’s one that just refuses to budge.  Thank God I’d never taken up drugs as a wild teenager.  Still, every time I finish unloading my groceries and look around my kitchen, strewn with plastic like a large, planet-hating parade just blew through, I cringe.  Following procedure, I then vow to myself that it won’t happen again.

Sometimes, they make it to the trunk of my car.  And there they, along with the football and picnic blanket, await better days.

Actually, this is exactly how Grocery Stores make me feel.

I think the problem is scheduling.  Half of my grocery trips occur under a “Oh hey, while we’re out let’s get milk” pretense.  We are not planners in my house.  I’ve made chili only to have all my meat browned and cans open only to discover that I’m out of chili pepper.  I wish I was more organized.  I’ve tried meal plans only to run out of steam after a couple weeks.  I’m dreading the inevitable day when some teacher will tell me my children are malnourished because I’ve fed them nothing but noodles for weeks.  I have no idea how my Mother fed us balanced meals consistently throughout my childhood.  There were six of us total, and somehow we all got our veggies.

But it’s crunch time now:  The school year is ending, my husband’s savings are starting to dry up and we’re down to just my meager income.  Groceries are something I have to get under control.

So I am going to give it another shot.  The other day I sat down and created a new meal plan, adapting my earlier version to be lighter on the meat.  Don’t get me wrong, we love meat in this house… but it’s expensive.  And besides it’s becoming common knowledge that we need to cut back on meat, especially beef, for both health and environmental reasons.

So here’s my grocery-management tips.  These things all work, but only if you can stick to them.  As the title of this blog suggests, I am lazy.

1) Create a meal plan.
Try to write down 14 meals you can make.  Or just as many as you can.  I use 14 because it gives me a two week rotation I can cycle through and only eat the same meal roughly twice a month.  If you can’t do this, start smaller and work your way up as you accumulate recipes.

2) Create a master shopping list.
Go through the meals you just wrote down, and write out everything you need to make them.  I like to make a note of how many meals I need each item for so I know how much to buy…for example, Tomato Sauce: 3 days.

3) Keep track of what you have.
I have a small whiteboard on my fridge: when something runs out or is getting low, it gets written on the board.  Once my two week meal plan is up, I copy this list and hit the store!  In a perfect world of course.  My house is full of brothers who find this system a little too complex.

As far as rationing our meat goes, I am limiting red meat to once a week, chicken to three times a week, and including three vegetarian meals a week.  At first I thought this was going to be a pain, but when I sat down to look at it, I realized that it’s actually really easy to just make a spaghetti sauce with chopped veggies and ax the ground beef.  Chili and stir-fries are easily done with chicken, if not just veggies, instead.  I’m also experimenting with chickpeas.

My husband and I did the first shop of this new plan yesterday.  I am proud to say that we remembered two bags!  We needed more, but it’s a start.  We also needed a loonie for the cart, but hey, what are biceps for if not hauling baskets around the grocery store?

Anyways, it’s a step in the right direction.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amanda on March 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Great idea Emily! It is actually pretty easy to cut out meat at home. Carl who is a meat eater doesn’t eat much meat at all anymore, maybe once a week. He keeps buying it and putting it in the freezer but I do all the cooking and it patiently waits for him in its sub zero home.

    We like to cook:
    – vegetarian lasagna
    -vegetarian spagetti
    -soup and quesadillas
    -veggie chilli and corn bread
    -homemade mac and cheese
    -Mushroom and cheese casserole
    -pasta and pesto
    -Veggie/meat burgers and fries and salad
    -chickpea curry
    -chicken stew

    We have recently started buying cookie and brownie mixes for a treat instead of buying them in the store to save some cash. We still spend about $150 a week, a shock compared to my former single person budget of $50-60.


    • Awesome ideas! I made chickpea curry last night…I liked it, James was so-so on it. I wonder if I can marinate the chickpeas so they pick up a little more flavour?

      I also did tortellini with just olive oil and herbs the other night. It was really good! I am excited to get some fresh herbs from my container garden this summer and make infusions and herb butters now!


      • Posted by Camille Steeves on March 31, 2011 at 4:45 AM

        hey another good one to make chickpeas tastier is quinoa salad. it is cheapest to get the quinoa from costco but it is so tasty and filling 🙂

      • I do love quinoa! I like to make quinoa salad with lemon juice, tomatoes and avocados…delicious, and SO filling!

  2. Posted by Lorraine on March 31, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    Oh oh oh!!! So I have the luck of having an awesome fiancee who knows how to cook lentils, beans and such 😀

    Now I’ve meant to share these recipes…but then I thought that they had magical Indian spices in them that would be too difficult/expensive to be practical. But it turns out that they are just ordinary spices with fancy Indian names ;-P

    So once I get the translations I’ll pass them over! Including this awesome one with Black and Kidney Beans which tastes like a very delicious (possibly meaty!) chili! And the black beans kinda make it look meaty. You could definitely use it to make Sloppy Joe’s that I think your house full of men will approve of(And if you get the beans dry then soak them over night, it’ll cost like 1$ for all the beans you need!)

    Oh and I have an awesome super super simple Tuna Casserole recipe if you’re interested…note: Tuna seems a lot cheaper at Costco for some reason

    PS. Please feel free to pester me for the recipes as my good recipe sharing intentions are similar to your bringing the good bag to the store intentions. I really want too….but I sometimes forget!!!


    • Haha Lorraine you always make me smile! I have totally found that when researching recipes, Indian food always intimidates me for exactly that reason. I totally love coriander now though!

      Great tip on the beans! Dry bulk food is always so cheap, it just takes planning…which I am bad at :p


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