If there is one thing I didn’t expect about food blogging, it was the expense. Take for example my Gilmore Girls inspired day of eating. Not only did that day take it’s toll on my digestive system, it also hurt my wallet. Or my salmon nicoise adventure, and the $30 salmon filets. Ouch, that one really stung. As I am gearing up for lots of food and alcohol consumption, then even more food and alcohol writing, I decided it would be prudent to start exhibiting some skills of a functioning adult, read: budgeting.
Because many of the things I’m cooking or drinking require a trip to a speciality store, the costs can really add up. With that in mind, I have put together some tips and tricks (which are mostly just common sense, but shhhh…) to smart grocery shopping.
1) Plan Your Meals
Meal planning has become a buzz phrase, and synonymous with healthy eating, but it also makes good sense. We are all guilty of it: you get to the grocery store, look around the produce aisle and then say “hmmmm…what should I eat for dinner this week.” Then you end up piling produce, meats, and cheeses into your cart aimlessly. By the time you get to the register you have maybe compiled a few meals, but chances are you’ll still end up with a ton of waste.
I like to go to grocery shopping on Tuesday nights, which means on Monday night I’m typically scrolling through Pinterest, Cooking Light (my fave), and my other cookbooks for meal inspiration. Then I catalog what I’m going to make for the week: “Okay, Wednesday we’re having chicken and polenta, Thursday we’ll have sausage and peppers, Friday and Saturday nights we’ll go out to eat, but Saturday breakfast, I’ll make a frittata. Sunday I’ll make homemade pizzas, and Monday we’re going to have chicken caesar salads.” The next step brings me to point number 2.
2) Make a List
I never thought I was a really organized person until I started meal planning. I cannot lie…the way I write my grocery lists is a little neurotic. If in 100 years, archeologists dig up my grocery lists the only thing they’ll have to say is “Wow, that bitch was anal.”
I start with an ingredient list for each meal I plan to prepare. So let’s take my weekly plan for meals above:
- Chicken thighs
- Chicken stock
- Red onion
- Corn meal
- Hot Italian sausage
- Assorted bell peppers
- Yellow onion
- Crusty Bread
- Yellow onion
- Heavy Cream
- Naan bread
- Tomato Sauce
- Cheese blend
- Romaine lettuce
- Boneless chicken breasts
- Parmesan cheese
- Anchovy paste
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Bread for croutons
Judging me yet…? Oh, just you wait. Next, I take my list and break it down into sections like: Produce, Dairy, Meat, Inside aisles, etc. (See picture of a different, but similar grocery list below) This is also the time where I add on my staple items, or the things I know we will go through and I purchase every week, like milk, coffee, yogurt, sandwich meat, etc.
I add these items onto the list because it keeps me consistent, I won’t forget anything, and I stick to what’s on my list and only that. Which brings me to…
3) Stick to the List
Impulse purchases are another quick way to rack up a hefty bill. If you’ve planned everything out, and you know what you’re going to eat for the week, then there really shouldn’t be any surprises when you are pulling out your wallet. Here’s a few ways to ensure that you don’t stray too far from your intended purchases (a list within a list, I told you guys, I am a maverick):
- Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry – I have a really funny story involving a weed brownie, a grocery trip, and spending the equivalent of a month’s rent…but it wouldn’t be appropriate here. The point is…if you’re starving while you shop, everything is going to sound good to you. You’ll get home and wonder who the hell put pop tarts, cheese puffs, 13 frozen meals and a box of extra butter popcorn in your cart. Have a snack before you go, and save yourself $50, it’s that simple.
- When I find myself sliding off the rails and reaching for the chocolate, I often stop and ask myself “Is it healthy?” “Is it processed?” “Can I cross utilize it between meals?” Chances are, it’s not healthy, it is processed, and the cheesy garlic crackers cannot be served for breakfast lunch and dinner. Done…step away from the crackers. The wine aisle is the only exception to this rule…you can always always buy wine.
4) Shop Seasonally
It’s February, which means you should not be buying corn and tomatoes. When you buy produce that is out of season, it’s probably being shipped from another country making it way more expensive and way less delicious. Nothing tastes as good as a nectarine picked in June, or that first crisp pear in September. Lucky for all of you basic bitches, avocados are always in season, so no need to fret about that. (who am I kidding, avocado toast is delicious.)
Ok – so sticking to a plan and staying on budget isn’t brain surgery, but sometimes it helps to have a few basic ideas to keep you organized and on the money. Happy shopping!