Thursday, August 27, 2009
Once-a-Month Shopping: How?
In my last post on this subject, I told you why we shop once a month for the majority of our groceries. Another question my Facebook friends had was, "How do you prepare to buy a whole month's worth of groceries?"
There are probably more efficient ways to do this, but I've developed my own system that works well for us. One friend commented that I sound very disciplined; I assured her that I am not disciplined at all. Many months I am rushing around the day before our shopping trip making my lists and checking what we have in the pantry and freezer. I hate doing it that way, and every month I say I'm not going to do it that way the next month. Every now and then, I'll keep my word to myself, but more often than not, I'm still rushing around the day before. So I have a routine, and that routine is rush! LOL However, I will tell you today what my ideal method is instead of my usual routine, ok? I like to do this over the course of several days.
First thing is to inventory my pantry and freezer. Usually this is just a quick glance in the pantry to see what I have still in there from my last trip - things like tomato sauce, pizza sauce and other canned goods, pasta and rice, cereal, and snacks. Then I'll check the freezer for my cheese stash. We use lots of cheese, so I buy it already shredded at Costco. I also check the freezer for turkey sausage, hot dogs, bacon and other meats I buy down there. You can find pantry and freezer inventory sheets all over the internet; here's one for the freezer and one for the pantry that I've used before. I don't use one every month, but occasionally I'll print one out just to have a complete list of what I have in there.
After seeing what I have left from last month, I make a menu of main meals to make from these ingredients, spreading them out over the month. I write these on a blank menu that I print off the computer; I use this one, for no particular reason. These meals are just the main dish of the main meal of the day, not a complete menu for each meal. Then I fill in our favorite meals, again spreading them through the month. Some of our meals are standards; for example, we eat homemade pizza almost every Friday night. So I fill in Fridays with "Pizza" followed by whatever kind I want to make that week in an effort to not have pepperoni three weeks in a row! My Sunday meals are usually made in the crockpot, so I fill those in fairly easily. As I fill in the meals, most of my calendar will fill up, but there will still be some gaps. I try to fill those days with new recipes or something I've tried before that we haven't had in a long time. I have a stash of old Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazines that I use to find new recipes, as well as recipes I've found on blogs. Sometimes I'll hit a brick wall or nothing sounds good, so I go look at my master list of our favorite meals to see if there's something I'm just not thinking of. I do not keep all these meal ideas in my head!
After making my menu, it's time to print out my master grocery list. This is simply a list of the items I most frequently buy (compiled over a few weeks from my handwritten grocery lists years ago), arranged by category. It's nothing fancy - just a list formatted into columns in Word. Here's one similar to mine, although I don't have the check boxes and lines on mine - very basic! I have everything on this list from cleaners and toiletries to canned goods, frozen foods, and produce. I go through my menu and use an orange highlighter to mark needed ingredients on the grocery list, then pencil in how many of each item I need beside the item; for example, Cereal - 4 means I need 4 boxes of cereal - not brain surgery here! I also write down anything extra I need or any specific items I need. For example, Wes needed me to pick up AA batteries last trip and Beth wanted me to buy some sparkling green tea, so I wrote these in at the top of the page and highlighted them - if I don't highlight them, I won't even see them! I also write "CC" beside things I need to buy at Costco, like laundry detergent or mozzarella cheese.
When these three things are done - inventory, menu, grocery list - I am ready to go. We get out our shopping bins - tubs from the local warehouse grocery here - and set them by the front door, along with our hot/cold bags (for our favorite treat, ice cream - and the frozen things and meat too); I put my list in my purse (I always worry I'll leave it on the table!); and go to bed on time, because we pull out early on shopping day!