Reader’s Request: Grocery Shopping

by Holly on January 2, 2012

in grocery shop,healthy tips,reader's request

If there is one secret I’ve learned about how to eat healthy, it’s PREPARATION.

Preparation, preparation, preparation…I cannot stress this concept enough.

You know the days where I complain and moan about my crazy week on this here blog (here or here or here to name a few)? Like having to eat breakfast on the go and lunch out to eat and how am I ever going to make dinner, workout, blog, read my new Oprah magazine, wash five-day-old dishes, shave my legs, watch incessant amounts of How I Met Your Mother, PediEgg my feet and pick the leftover spinach out of my teeth all in one night?!?!

Those days usually occur during the weeks I don’t take time to adequately grocery shop or prep food in advance. And weeks I don’t shave, wash dishes or smile with my teeth.

But most of the time, when I do make the effort to plan ahead for the week, the foodie stars align and being able to eat healthfully comes quite naturally…dare I say even easily?

Step #1: The Pantry

The very first thing I do is check my refrigerator and pantry to see whether or not I have my top 5 pantry staples and other food staples on hand. Ezekiel bread, Greek yogurt, nut butter, milk, eggs, Earth Balance vegan butter, beans, pasta and/or other dried grains – these are my basic essentials. If they are there, awesome. If not, I immediately put them on the list.

Step #2: The Brainstorm

Next, I decide what meals I want to eat for the week based on what I already have on hand, what I am craving AND what recipes I want to feature on the blog. Since I am just a single gal still looking for Mr. Converse Shoes, this part is rather easy for me because (a) I am shopping for one, (b) I am not a picky eater and to me and (c) meal planning is FUN!

Step #3: The Menu

Make it. This menu outline happens to be mine for this week…

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa
Cinnamon Acorn Squash Pancakes (<- recipe to come!)
PB+B Toast

Amy’s canned soup
junk salads
veggie burger sandwiches

snacks/meal enhancers
Spicy Buffalo Hummus + veggies
trail mix (raw almonds + dried tropical fruit mix)
Wasa crackers + cream cheese
apples + oranges

Curried Apple Squash Soup (<- recipe to come!)
Italian Roasted Eggplant Pasta
veggie ravioli + carrot fries

Step #4: The List

Based on the menu (see above), I write down the master grocery list of items I need and keep it tightly in my hand. There’s NO losing the list. Losing the master list = #foodiefoul.

Step #5: The Grocery Shop

My total bill? All of this for just over $60.

Although, I will note I shop at my local co-op where nearly every product is natural and/or organic, so my grocery bill is usually higher than if I chose to shop at a regular supermarket. But since it’s just me eating all this food, it’s a financial decision that I have made a priority. Also, my $60 bill may also have included a large $5 apple, kale, lime + cucumber juice.

When I got home from the grocery store this morning, I roasted apples + squash…made the soup…put the soup in Tupperware containers…did some dishes…cut carrots…whipped up the hummus…organized my freezer…and packed my junk salad lunch for tomorrow.

But not before making + eating the acorn squash pancakes first.

Preparation is best accomplished with a satisfied appetite.

What is your best preparation and/or grocery shopping tip? As always, sharing is caring!


Jordan Lynn January 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I need to get back into the habit of menu planning, but when I was in the groove, I would make sure that the ingredients I bought I could use for multiple meals. Also, I used make a huge batches of stuff that I could eat for an entire week (like Indian food); a little monotonous, but it was cost effective and efficient. I echo your sentiment: “meal planning is fun!” :)

Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn January 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Aka, the five steps to recovery from junk food-ism.

Linda January 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Another great post!! Thank you! This is exactly what I need to do. I was good yesterday and I made a pot of black bean soup. I am trying to eat healthier lunches and save money by taking my lunch every day, but I am so bad about making the time on the weekends to PREPARE. Yes. I am a serious procrastinator. Maybe my resolution for this year should be to follow your 5-step plan to eating better…..and maybe that will also help me to get a little more organized! Boy do I wish we had a Trader Joe’s here!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table January 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Your haul looks a lot like mine this week!

When I meal plan I put it all on a spreadsheet. It keeps me from wasting my groceries or buying a lot of random stuff I don’t need. I also make several serving of things so I can take them to work for lunch. So far this week I’ve done a sweet potato lentil loaf and spinach shiitake miso soup. Cold weather = comfort food.

Please post those pancakes ASAP. :)

Ann January 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Awesome post.

I’m all about the menu-planning (except for that whole 2-3 week holiday lapse). I like to do my planning/shopping on Saturday, and then the cooking for the week on Sunday. 2-3 hours of cooking ensures I eat well for lunch and dinner for the entire week. Plus, since most recipes I try feed 4-6, I usually have a few servings left over to freeze in case of a crazy light cooking week. It might come across as monotonousness, but good food is good food. And if I was eating lunch out instead, given the limited options in my area, I would be eating 1 of 2-3 options anyway. At least cooking, I have more potential long-term variety because I don’t cook the same thing every week and am always looking for new things to try. And I’m with Linda, I so wish we had Trader Joe’s here too. I’ve been craving their rice pudding for months.

Breakfast is another issue though. Being the anti-morning person (it takes me like 2 hours to stop walking into walls), I try to keep it simple with Greek yogurt and fruit, or some eggs and english muffins. Atkins protein shakes are great for those “oh hey, I just woke up and need to be out of the house in 3 minutes” days. Yes they’re processed and probably way to many chemicals, but it’s better than not consuming anything. Any tips to converting to a morning person?

Meredith @ DareYouTo January 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

You totally just inspired me to plan my menu for the week. Although the food shopping is done, I skimmed the kitchen, defrosted necessary items, figured out what will go when, and now I’ve got a plan, just like you :)

Thanks for setting such a good example!

Emily @ Relishments January 3, 2012 at 4:23 am

Great reminders and suggestions! I love menu planning, though I largely wish someone else would go to the store for me. One thing that I do is look through the local supermarket circulars and see if any of the staple items I use (pasta, broth, baking ingredients, etc) are on sale.

A note for Ann: I don’t have any suggestions for converting to a morning person, but perhaps you can cook ahead of time and then grab and go? I try to make a batch of muffins or a loaf of bread over the weekend that I can just grab as I walk out the door (and then eat at my desk before the work day officially starts). Hope that helps!

Nicole January 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

Great post! I always set aside at least an hour or 2 over the weekend to do weekly food prep. It makes grab and go lunches a no-brainer and makes for easy weeknight dinners.

Hillary January 3, 2012 at 7:13 am

I tackle my weekly meal planning in much the same way: make sure my pantry/fridge is stocked with the essentials, fill in the gaps, and spend a little time on Sunday prepping stuff that I know will be too much of a hassle any other day during the week. Once I get that out of the way, I know that I’ll be set to eat a whole mess of good stuff throughout the week!

Sarah@The Flying ONION January 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

What delicious finds! Love it. :D

I definitely need to make a weekly menu to keep me focused on the grocery list (although, sadly, I always end up losing this list during the week, which means I forget half the meals which I had planned on making in the first place…sigh.)

And I like to think in terms of buying one or two fish meals, one or two meat meals and plenty of vegetables. It’s a simple guide and makes the list super easy and quick to put together. Of course, having leftovers for lunch the next day is an essential part of it too! :D

Great post! :D

glidingcalm January 3, 2012 at 7:50 am

inspiring! :D

sarah @ sarah learns January 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

my number one tip is that if you don’t want to eat junk, don’t buy it!! my husband loves eating chips and dip with his lunch. but when i play nice wifey and buy it for him, i end up eating at least half (chips/dip are my weakness). so i had a gentle chat with him and asked if hummus & crackers would satisfy his chip+dip habit. he is wonderful and agreed and now i can keep the chippies and dippies out of the house…

Kimberly (Badger Girl) January 3, 2012 at 8:51 am

Great post! I love seeing how other people plan for the week.:)
I keep binders of magazine recipes I want to try (and sometimes modify) for quick perusing. Like you, we have our staples (eggs, ezekiel english muffins, frozen blueberries, almond milk, tofu, and multiple bags of spinach). We generally plan to 3-4 meals per week knowing that we will have leftovers. When I was trying to plan 5 meals a week, Manatee got irritated that he couldn’t eat more leftovers. :)
We have found that as long as we keep lean protein (chicken or tofu) in the house with makings of salad then we at least always have a back up plan.
We have also started Beachbody’s Shakeology which my husband will sub in for breakfast or lunch. That definitely helps too!

dana @ my little celebration January 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

That’s pretty much my method, too. Although I have an additional step of consulting meal ideas with the husband. But he’s pretty flexible so my ideas usually goes over well with him.

Another step is budgeting. If I don’t have any money left at the end of the month in my grocery budget, we make like cavemen and eat our bare essentials or whatever’s left over. It’s primal and adventurous and I kind of secretly love it. Plus, I’m cheap, so it works out : )

Jen January 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Preparation is both my best friend and my worst enemy when it comes to food. You’re right that it’s the single most important part of eating healthy food.

Katie January 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Oh my yes. I don’t know how people who don’t prep and plan just walk into the grocery store and load up their carts. I am so nerdy I make a little list/spreadsheet with menus and food items every week. It pays!

Ayah January 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Yes! Meal planning is a MUST for me. If I don’t figure it all out and make a list I will eat nothing but Kale Chips and pasta for every meal :)

Lindsay @ Lindsay's List January 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Apple, Kale, Lime and Cucumber?!?! Must try this!

Pure2raw twins January 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

great tips! I used to be so much better with making grocery lists and meal planning, now I just randomly throw things together and hope for the best, LOL

janetha January 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I love posts like this. I am such a creep and always look into grocery carts of strangers.

wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas January 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

Planning ahead is KEY KEY KEY to a successful week. Cooking ahead will make you your own best friend, too.

I think it’s also really helpful to plan meals around seasonal foods (for cost, availability and nutritional value) and get to know your local farmers and what they grow.

Christine @ Savoury Traveller January 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm

These are basically my steps as well – though I also include the question of specials/deals at my produce market or grocery store and work around them. It’s hard to explain to people that it can be easy and rewarding to eat this way unless they try it! Geez, I feel like I can hear my parents in my head “failing to plan is planning to fail” but dare I say THEY WERE RIGHT!

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