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Make a List, Check it…Once, at Least…

June 11, 2010

One of the MHK’s readers, Mary, recently asked me to post about grocery shopping.  She wanted to know what method I use – do I plan a menu for the week, make a list and stick to it?  Or do I just go to the store and buy whatever looks good and let that determine the week’s menu?  Or do I just go to the store daily, depending on what I feel like making for dinner that night?

Obviously whatever method I use shouldn’t be the only method anyone uses, but I will say that mine does work well for me.  I do plan the week’s dinner menu in advance; I clip coupons from the Sunday paper, scour my cookbooks and recipe box and make a shopping list, and I stick to it (except for the inevitable item or two that I for some reason always ignore on the list and then have to make a second trip to the store).  I feel this works well for a few reasons – first, it helps to curb buying any “impulse” items, which are what usually add unnecessary expenses to the final bill.  Second, it saves me the headache of having to decide what to have for dinner each night.  I can certainly change the order of the week’s dinners if I want, like if I had planned on pasta for Tuesday but come Tuesday night I feel more like the chicken recipe I’d planned, no problem.  And third, I do love to go grocery shopping, but I don’t want to go more than once a week, so this method usually works for that.

Did you catch the first part of that last sentence?  Yes, I love to go grocery shopping.  I’m sure that has something to do with the fact that I love to cook, but I do know some cooks who don’t like the supermarket experience…and I know lots of people who do not cook and HATE to grocery shop.  But I actually find it stress-relieving (more so when I had no children).  I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the anticpation of making the meals for which I’m buying the food, maybe it’s the smell of the fresh produce, maybe it’s the 70’s pop and funk tunes raining down from the ceiling while I sniff out the perfect orange…or maybe it’s the fantasy I’ve had of being on Supermarket Sweep…whatever it is, I enjoy it.

There are a few downsides (for lack of a better word) to my method, granted.  If I buy fish, I have to cook it within a couple of days or it will go bad, so that’s one item I can’t spontaneously decide to push back to a later dinner during the week.  Produce obviously can also go bad quickly, so the same restriction applies.  And if on a Wednesday I really feel like making burgers and I hadn’t bought the necessary items, I do have to make a trip to the store and figure out which planned dinner to postpone.  But in general, I like my system and it’s usually pretty failsafe. 

So I hope that answers your question, Mary.  Thanks so much for reading, and happy shopping!  Enjoy.

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