Full confession No. 1: I do not make just one trip a week to the grocery store. My husband and I shop Findlay Market on Saturdays to pick up fresh food: meats, eggs, cheeses, fresh pasta and veggies. I might also visit another farmers market at some point during the week to explore what’s available locally. And then I’ll hit a conventional grocery for staples: milk, cereal and the like.
Full confession No. 2: I like food shopping. It’s part of my job, particularly when I’m preparing for a cooking class or video shoot or testing recipes.
But lots of people 1) don’t have time to shop and 2) don’t love it. If that’s you, then here are some tips for planning meals and grocery trips.
Develop a library of go-to dishes.
These are recipes your family loves that you can make without much effort. One of my go-to dishes is quick-sautéed breaded chicken cutlets over a salad of lettuce or arugula with lemony dressing. Keep pantry ingredients for these recipes on hand, purchasing any fresh items weekly. Choose at least five recipes as your “go-tos” and rotate them into your plan once a week.
Plan the week.
Designate a grocery-shopping day and build it into your routine. A day or two before your shopping day, take about 30 minutes to plan meals for the upcoming week. Here’s a way to break down your weekly menu plan:
- One big-batch dish you can eat twice during the week: Think soup or chili or casserole; make these on Saturday or Sunday, when you have a bit more time to cook.
- One superfast dinner: Plan one meal you can get on the table quickly, like a frittata, or spaghetti with prepared sauce and butcher-shop meatballs.
- One go-to meal: Plan at least one of your standard recipes.
- One designated leftover meal: Grill steak one night; have steak salad another. Roast chicken and vegetables one night; toss leftover chicken and veggies with pasta another.
- One Friday favorite: Make Friday night’s dinner something everyone looks forward to every week. Maybe it’s taco night or pizza night.
Enlist your family.
When you include your kids or spouse/partner in meal planning, they’re less likely to grumble about what’s for dinner. Getting kids involved in choosing and preparing meals is a great way to teach them about healthy food choices and equip them with valuable life skills.
Make a list.
Note every ingredient you’ll need for your weekly menu plan. The more thorough your list, the fewer trips you’ll make to the store.
Use an app.
Scout the options available in the iTunes or Android app stores. There are many grocery list apps available (I’ve been using Shopper forever). You’ll find a host of free grocery list apps, and paid versions that have bells and whistles. Some apps sync with your grocery loyalty card, others offer coupons and show deals, and some let you share lists with others. It may take some experimenting to find the one that’s best for you. Or give one of the online ordering systems, like Kroger’s ClickList or Remke’s Mobile Markets, a try.
Keep essentials on hand.
Account for ingredients you’ll use regularly in your go-to recipes, and also think of items you can use to make superfast meals, like canned whole tomatoes, pasta, eggs, beans and salad greens. Stock up on these staples, replenishing them regularly. Here’s a list of pantry essentials that will make cooking easier.
Stick with a store.
Shopping goes more quickly when you know the layout of the store and where to find everything on your list. Divide your list by department or aisle, and you’ll streamline your shopping trip and avoid the temptation that comes when you wander aimlessly through the store (oh, hello, chocolate chip cookies!).
Investing a few minutes every week to create your meal plan and organize your shopping list pays big dividends, saving you time when you grocery shop and making it easier to get dinner on the table.