Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shopping Tips 101

Any tips that I might be mentioning here is simply what I have learned from my own personal experience. With that said, results may vary. Hahaha. Anyway, I thought I might pass this tid-bit of "insight" on to you gals out there:

Before you create any meal plan and/or shopping list, make a list of what you already have. Go and raid that freezer of yours, your pantry, your fridge, even your food storage (check to see if anything needs to be rotated). During the process you'll find things that have expired, are frost bitten, or are too high in carbohydrates (shout out to Abs!)! Whatever your reasons for throwing out any unwanted food, get it done as Step 1.

Step 2: Write down everything that you have. Organize your list so it's easy to follow and manage. I like to group things by produce (divided into fruits and veggies), dairy, canned, grains, spices, and meat. Keep this list on hand and during the month or weeks to follow cross out what you have used so that it is always up to date.

Step 3: Scour through any cookbooks, magazines, recipes, etc. to find meals that will help you use what you already have. There's no sense in going to Costco and buying a case of olives if you already have 5 cans at home (unless you're an olive-eating banshee)! And I know of at least 3 recipes off the top of my head that ask for olives... make sure all your meal options are known!

Step 4: Fill up the rest of your month with meals that you want to try and that don't necessarily have the ingredients you already have. A note of caution: if you are trying to save money (like me, which is the whole reason I started this process), only allow yourself to get "fancy" ingredients enough for 1-2 experimental meals per month. If a recipe for Asian Short Ribs calls for a can of plum sauce, then by all means get it! But in case you're not such a big fan upon devouring said meal, then you've only "wasted" your money on one meal, not five.

Another thing worth mentioning is to keep the majority of your meals simple. Recipes that call for basic ingredients and basic preparation/creation will most likely taste good and be less stressful to make. The reason I never display how much preparation my recipes take is because it varies for each person. Get comfortable with your style of cooking. For example, I know that Rachel Ray's recipes range from somewhat easy to somewhat complex and what only takes her a half hour to make takes me an hour to make. So instead of using what someone else says as preparation time, read through the entire recipe and visualize (sounds cheesy, I know) how long it will take you. If you get stressed just reading it, then don't do it.

Step 5: go shopping! Only get what is on your list. While you're creating your list in the first place, make sure to think of everything that you need and might need. Then, when you're actually shopping you won't be tempted to get those specialty sale items; because if your list didn't call for them in the first place and you don't really need them, then you aren't really saving any money, even though it's on sale, are you?! Also, if you're trying to eat healthy, steer clear of the isles unless your list calls for a trip down one. Shop around the outside of the grocery store, where everything is fresh and de-junkified.

Hope this helps! It's made a difference for us, that's for sure! One more thing: I usually make two shopping lists. One for Costco and one for the nearby grocery store. I buy things like chicken -and cans of olives- in bulk because I actually save a lot of money. But be careful at such warehouse stores too. You'll be tempted to buy a lot of things that you don't necessarily need and they might not be a huge savings in the first place. So you might want to write down how much things costs per oz. at your next grocery excursion, and then when you show up at Sam's Club or wherever, you can compare prices and make sure you're getting the best deal.

Good luck ladies and be sure to let me know if you're interested in my Opinion Poll (previous post). It'll take some work to get it up and running, so the more of you that are interested, the better -it'll be worth it for me! And make sure to let me know what's worked for you in the "kitchen stadium!"


Anonymous said...

Where have you been all of my married life? I feel like I'm more efficient and saving money already!

Anonymous said...

So Beth, I love this little blog you've come up with. I have to say that I will probably reference it to add some more variety to my dinners...although in reality Scot wishes I had a few more staple dishes, but what fun is it to always be cooking the same thing?! None if you ask me!