Oh, stop pretending like you have never done this before. I see AT LEAST one person doing this at the grocery store every week. I have a silly theory (and Becca, tell me if your psychological studies agree with this) that because we grew up with food just appearing on the table (at least in my experience) without very much knowledge of how it got there or because we grew up being steered around in the grocery cart, not really paying attention to how the food was suddenly in bags in our car, that we feel this will be instinctive when we begin to cook for ourselves. We can just show up at the grocery store and it will just happen - we'll know exactly what to get and what to do. Hence, we go to the grocery store and wander aimlessly, buying too much, eating badly, and not having anything to make a meal out of.
How to solve it? Well, I know there are some of you who may be adverse to this but I promise you, I PROMISE YOU, that you will benefit from this, saving money and time and helping yourself cook better. We must organize ourselves.
George has asked this question, and I've had this conversation before with many people. First, what we must do, is figure out what we need in our pantry:
Step 1: Go through your refrigerator and cabinets and write down the items that you like to have every week. For Joe and I, this is Grape Juice, soup, roasted garlic bread, milk, eggs, etc. The things you love to eat every day.
Step 2: Let someone else do the rest of the work! Here I give you Rachael Ray's pantry list, which is what I used when stocking my kitchen in our apartment just months ago. And I'll give you a hint, I went through hers and crossed out half the stuff. Do NOT get the produce or the perishables, for example, unless it was on your own personal list and you eat carrots every day, like I do. It will only sit around and then spoil and make you mad. I found the spices very helpful though - it's nice when reading a recipe to say "oh allspice, I got that."
Step 3: Make your own list by combining the two. Here you will see the list Joe and I use for our house.
We have had to update it a number of times but the work at the beginning was worth it. I go through this list every week and check off what I need and add the things that aren't week-to-week. It's delightful, easy, and makes my life so much easier every week. And it only took about an hour of work one day.
Step 4: PLAN YOUR MEALS. This is definitely not as hard as it sounds - you can think of this when you're on your way to work or in the shower. Now, I know it's tough when you don't have an arsenal of recipes at your disposal like Mom did, but I am going to keep giving you my recipes here and I have some great resources for you to try:
You can enter ingredients in here and find a recipe that works around it. Like "chicken" and "scallions" and see what happens!
Let me show you how I do it for myself. You'll see it's not as hard as it looks.
I start by looking at the week: which days I need to plan for and which ones I don't. For example, this past week:
Monday - I would work late, so Joe would eat some leftovers
Tuesday - Joe would work late, so I made eggs and roasted asparagus.
Two dinners down already!
Wednesday - I would try one of my favorite recipes, parmesan cream sauce with peppered chicken.
Thursday - I have some ground beef and pork in the freezer leftover from my lasagna, so I would make some hamburgers.
Friday - Frozen pizza because DUH I don't even cook on Fridays.
Saturday - going to a party, so no dinner to make.
Week done! From there, you go through your recipes, make sure you have what you need, make your list, and you're on your way to a fast, easy trip to the grocery store. Three more tips, once you start to get the hang of it and, most importantly, when you get to know the layout of your grocery store.
1. Organize your list into the different departments of the store so that you are even more organized.
2. Give yourself a time limit. There are times when I'm walking down the aisle and I go "ooooooooh, look at all those breakfast bars. ooh, there are NEW ones. Maybe I should browse every single one and check the prices and nutrition facts COMPULSIVELY" and then it's an hour later and I've gotten nothing I needed. No, tell yourself "I will be IN the check-out line at 11:15" and when you get distracted look at your watch and make sure you can stick to your time.
3. Try walking just a little bit faster. I know this sounds goofy but frankly people are like SNAILS in the grocery store - steer around those slow-pokes, you have got other things to do!
I hope this helps, it sure helped me. Please share any other types of grocery store tips you've got!