Continued from Weekly Meal Planning: A How To....
Shopping. I HATE grocery shopping. Well-okay, maybe not. I hate shopping when I can't find what I need, or I'm in a hurry, or distracted. Sometimes it's really frustrating. Some weeks though, it's kinda fun. I feel very hunter/gatherer-like and I've gotten everything I need, my plan is working, and I know I'm going to go home and whip up SO much awesome tasty goodness for the week that Jake and Hubs will fall at my feet, worshiping my incredible culinary skills.
One thing readers have to know is that where I live, it's isolated. Groceries are expensive and the prices wildly fluctuate. One week you could pay $3 for a box of cereal, and the next week it's (no joke) a whopping $8. Same box. Is it dipped in gold, maybe? Some weeks we just go without, or when it's on sale I think ahead and buy two or three. Regardless though, I have some rules for myself when I shop. I follow them most of the time.
1. Only buy what is ON the list. I can subtract things from the list if I find they are too expensive, but I never ADD to the list. Stay away from temptation. Have a weakness for lip gloss? Don't even go NEAR that make-up section. I always ask myself if we really NEED what I'm getting.
2. Just say no. To Jake, that is. He always tries to talk me into buying more stuff. Kids will generally talk you into buying things you normally wouldn't. This week it was tonic water.
3. It's a one shot deal. Going to the store, that is...unless it's a crucial staple item, I don't go back for an entire week. If I run out of something we wait until the next grocery run. The only time I like to break this rule is if I'm buying a lot of fresh produce, because I want the veggies to be good, not limp stuff from sitting in the fridge.
4. Resist the urge to buy more produce then really needed. Mostly because we'll never eat it all, and it will just be thrown away. Might as well just toss cash into the garbage!
5. Use coupons and shop the sales! Where I live, we don't have coupons like I hear about in the USA. Oh sure, there's a few here and there but nothing like those deals at CVS where you can end up getting things for something like $.19. I'm so jealous.
Last week I was able to get about $10 off the grocery bill with coupons, and that was a LOT. If I notice something is dirt cheap, I buy a couple-plus I keep an eye on the clearance bins, because you never know what you might find. Bigger isn't always better, either; I usually have a calculator with me to figure out if the family size of something really is the better deal-and sometimes, it's not! Not just that but...would we really USE that much?
Instead of pre-portioned yogurts, crackers, etc we buy one container and split it up. You get more for your money that way.
6. Try the no-name brands. Some things I'd never buy no-name, because the quality isn't as good. On the other hand, there are some no-name items that are perfectly acceptable and I buy them on a regular basis. Things like dry pasta, flour, sugar, etc I go for no-name.
7. Making the time investment makes things easier in the long run.
After the shopping is done and everything is unloaded at home, I get down to work. Sunday, which is our family day for hiking and spending time together, is also my cooking day. I'll bake cookies, put on a pot of soup, or prep stuff for the upcoming week. That investment of time into prepping things makes dinner easy on week nights, and making lunches during the week a breeze! Plus, it's so much cheaper. Home made cookies, jam, and pasta sauces vs store bought not only taste better and are healthier, but wow! You get the savings, too!
For example, this is how a week might like:
Bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and zucchini bread for lunches.
Cook up the pizza sauce and prep the dough. Leave it in the fridge. Prep the veggies for the pizza.
-Tuesday: Beer Braised Beef...pulled from the freezer and mashed potatoes
-Wednesday: Ravioli bake..sauce pulled from the freezer, and salad
(prep the veggies for Thursday)
-Thursday: Asian peanut chicken wraps, raw veggies
I don't believe that cooking is really hard, per se but you know, I do believe that a lot of women my age have lost the art. They have been so used to just buying everything pre-made that they have forgotten (or maybe never learned) how to cook.
Cooking from scratch doesn't mean that you have to make everything from scratch. I never bake bread or make home made pasta because for me, the time investment isn't worth it. There is a happy medium though between making everything from scratch, and buying everything pre-made. I guess that one just has to find their own comfort zone.
What's your biggest grocery or meal planning obstacle? Is it organization, time, or just that you're not sure where to start? Let me know in the comments.