Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hate Grocery Shopping? I did too.

Grocery variations
When I was a wee one, I used to enjoy going to the grocery store with my mom. I remember being bummed if I somehow missed out on a trip to Cub Foods.  (Anyone from Minnesota? Holla at yer girl.)  I enjoyed rolling through the store, anticipating the foods we were going to put into our cart next, and looking at all the different colors.  Grocery stores are wonderful for the senses.  They can also be murder for the pocketbook if you're not careful, because there are literally deals and sales at every turn and on every aisle.

As I got older, those sales often threw me for a loop. I was talking with a mom today at Stroller Strides and the infamous buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) deal came up.  What do you do with two, if you don't have the storage for it, or more importantly, don't even know how to use the ingredient?  Common sense says "skip it" but for some of us more sales-challenged people, it's hard to "pass up a good deal."

It is now much easier to avoid these temptations if I stick to my guns on two very simple reasons.
Want to know how?

How to love grocery shopping in 2 simple ways:

1. Have a meal plan.  
I'm using Plan-to-Eat now on a free trial subscription, and as I'm figuring it out I'm realizing I'm liking it quite a bit!  You plug in a recipe (either from a website or type it in), it mashes up all the ingredients for you and spits it into a shopping list.  It also lays it out on a calendar, which you can sync with iCal for Mac users.  I often grab recipes or menus from what I see on the internet, so using an online service for this just makes it a little bit easier. You can do the same thing with pen & paper, but what I like is that it grabs all the ingredients from your meal plan and organizes it by section of the grocery store. You can also edit your list if you already have those ingredients at home.  This could really cut down on planning and prep time for a busy mom.

2. Know what ingredients you tend to use, and what ingredients you always need to replenish.  
If there's a special stock-up sale on spices, butter, my favorite bread, or cheese (you name it), it's easy for me to justify the purchase. I will use these things.  But if there are special sales for dog food or cat litter, that's an obvious no-no (unless you're buying on behalf of someone else or donating to a special cause).  Or a type of food I've never really tried before, or a cereal I know my family probably wouldn't like ... unless you're feeling brazen, there's no need to feel like you must take advantage of the sale.  That's the store or the manufacturer trying to get YOU to buy THEIR food.  Just push your cart along and move on.  Sometimes, knowing what you need to have in your pantry requires a little research and prep-work.  I like following lists from certain websites or cookbooks that give you suggestions for what to stock in your pantry so you can make a meal almost anytime without having to run to the store.  It might also require almost knowing a few recipes by heart, at least, what ingredients are a part of it.

Photo Credit:
One of my favorite cookbooks, Everyday Paleo, lays out what you should keep on hand in order to cook paleo. If you're not sure what paleo is, in a nutshell, it's a whole foods based diet that avoids grains, dairy, and legumes, but puts lots of emphasis on grass-fed or pastured meats, nuts, fruits, veggies, and good fats.  Here's an example of how to stock your fridge or pantry with this kind of diet:

Not all my recipes are strictly paleo, but I think it's a good starting point for someone trying to clean up their diet or branch out a bit.  It's devoid of processed foods, which to me, is like Public Enemy #1 when it comes to healthy eating. If you can get the processed foods out of the way, you are making great strides in my book!

To branch out beyond that may require shopping at some places other than your typical grocery store (maybe a health foods store, or on - yes they sell groceries!, or through a food co-op). You can get fresh dairy, whole grains, bulk spices, farm fresh eggs, local or organic produce and more all through various co-ops in your area.  If you're local to South Florida contact me and I'll try to get you started, but and are just two places online you can start!

(Note: I have no affiliations to these websites, but I just know they help numerous people get their bearings when making the switch to real foods.)

Learning to enjoy grocery shopping also came along with learning to enjoy cooking and baking real foods. It is so much easier to shop when I know these foods are providing real nutrition for my family and are going towards our overall health.  Beforehand, when it was just a bunch of snacks or packaged foods, it really wasn't as fulfilling.
Now, for the most part, almost all the items I put in my cart serve a purpose, and because many of them are perishable, it encourages me to use them up before they go bad - which means more homemade cooking.

Man, I never thought I'd write a blog about grocery shopping, but here I just did it.

What has helped you become better at grocery shopping? How do you shop sales or the weekly ads? Do you only stick to your meal plan or do you veer off dependent on sales? Share below!

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