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Grocery Shopping

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How many of you make a list when you go shopping? I went to the store today, with a list, mind you and I still walked out feeling like I didn't get much to make good meals for the week. Does anyone else get burned out on always eating the same old food week after week?

Also, I feel like I am going to, too many different stores because- of course I like many things that can't be found under one roof! Its Whole Foods, Shaws, Hannaford, the local Farm stand- I spend so much time running around and then when I get there I do the mindless, zombie walking through the aisles trying to find good food.

Anyone else have these dilemmas and what are your good tips for a happy grocery store experience?

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  1. I enjoy grocery shopping.

    Before we go to the store we plan out the meals for the week, and make the list. We rarely deviate from the list for impulse buys, but if there is a deal on something we may stock up for the freezer.

    We go to the local butcher for the meat/fish for the week (meat/fish is an important part of every meal in our house, we are meatatarians) on Saturday, and on to the local grocery store for the other items(during the summer a stop @ the farmers market, or farmstand is on the agenda) on Sunday. We do not eat any prepared foods, I cook everything from scratch, so Trader Joes would never be on my list of stops, we also dont want to spend an arm and a leg for groceries so Whole Foods is never on the list of stops as well. We shop @ Krogers, Super Wal-Mart, or a local family owned grocery store.. sometimes a trip to the Mexican market is in order as well.

    We take our time, and get what is needed, since a trip to the store is an important part of picking out ingredients for my favorite hobby, cooking. Typically a relaxing hour on our Sunday.

    4 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      Sometimes I really wish I could do this, plan out the menu for the week. But I find that if I plan to have, let's say, fried chicken and mashed potatoes on Wednesday that when Wednesday gets here I don't want fried chicken and mashed potatoes but some kind of pasta (again, for example). I end up with odd and ends of things and get off schedule. Then I start running back to the store for things that I really want to eat that night instead of what I planned.

      Of course, this probably means that the store owners really love people like me. :)

      1. re: Boudleaux

        it does take some dicipline & sticking to the plan/budget, and sometimes I do switch a nights meal here or there, so I make the menu interchangeable. Typically nothing difficult to cook on a weeknight since we dont get home until 5:30 & strive to have dinner on the table by 6:00(if RR can do it I can ;-) ). So we typically have some leftovers from a weekend meal, or something I can whip together fast. This week we had leftover Italian sausage from Sundays lunch as an oven grinder sandwich last night along with the cream of broccoli soup from Sunday's dinner. Tonight will be spaghetti, and maybe some more soup. Tomorrow will be Polish sausage, kraut, and rice, and Thursday will be breakfast(eggs, toast, and bacon). Friday we go out, or get carry-out. The more labor intensive/exciting meals are for the weekends.

        1. re: Boudleaux

          I have the same problem. I make food in advance for lunch the next day, or I buy certain ingredients, only to find that when it's time to eat what I've planned, it sounds totally unappetizing. Unless it's for something I plan on making the day I go to the store or something I can use in a number of different disges, I don't really bother with fresh ingredients. I buy a lot of random canned and dry ingredients and have started relying pretty heavily on vegetables and meats from my freezer. If I have a lot of ingredients to choose from and interchange, it's easier to make what I want at the moment without letting a bunch of fresh produce go to waste.

          1. re: Al_Pal

            I will join the bandwagon of those with no discipline. My SO and I get on an "eating at home" kick and invariably get thrown off by appetite changes or a bad day at work that negates any willingness to cook. Yes, that sounds spoiled but it is also honest. I end up buying fresh fruits and stuff for lunches. It's a lot easy to be stuck with food for lunch when I can't leave.

      2. I have to use a list. I learned that my memory is not that spiffy for stuff like that. If I have the money I buy good deals when I see them, or just if something looks expecially fresh or tasty. I think of Whole Foods as my local bakery and when I go I walk through the produce in case they have something really nice and affordable, go directly back to the bakery for my pie or muffins and such, linger a little bit at the deli and hot foods buffet but tell myself no if i get tempted, and leave with my desserts and produce. I have read that always shopping at the same store saves time because you generally know where everything is, but I hit two or three stores in a week. It's hard for me to restrain myself because a supermarket is like a Toys R Us for me and I tend to stuff my cart with lots of new things to try or play with. But I'm trying to stick to the basics and plan out whole meals. Another reason I don't like my local whole foods is that the employees always seem to be just standing around staring at customers. And the customers there seem very aggressive for some reason. I don't like to go to stores in the day time, I love going at night. Less screaming kids and bored career type empoyees watching your every move. I'm really lucky that there is a 24 hr Wegman's fairly close to me. I would say, at24,, think back to some of your favorite meals from childhood, or ask other people what they love to get ideas. This weekend I'm hunting down a big pot roast to make vegetable soup out of, and I'll throw in some end of summer veggies, maybe mix soft squash like zucchini with some spaghetti or acorn squash and lots of tomatoes from a roadside stand. You sure have come to the right place for awesome ideas! Let us know how you make out!

        1. Grocery shopping is one of my chief activities these days, and I generally do it daily, since my fridge/freezer/pantry space is limited. Most of what I make is from scratch, but Trader Joe's is still my main grocery source; their frozen fish and fresh poultry are the cheapest and best, their packaged produce is often superior to what the other grocers have in bulk, and I've found that buying salad greens by the big head or bunch is a false economy (it always seems to go slimy before we've used more than two-thirds of it), and TJ's packaged greens are, again, better and cheaper than the major brands. Whole Foods is where I go for farmer's-market quality tomatoes and things between farmer's markets. I've started shopping at two Fresh & Easy markets that aren't too far away when I'm in their neighborhoods, and we're about to get one which will be right on my principal shopping route. What's most fun is the Asian and Latino markets around here (Pasadena CA and environs) - very cheap and fresh fish, great prices on fresh produce, plenty of strange stuff to experiment with in the freezer cases and on the shelves, the occasional stunning bargain (frozen BONED lamb shoulder, $3.50/lb!).

          3 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            Have you tried Persian markets too? They have a lot of good buys in there. It worth checking out if not just for the saffron at about 1/10 the usual price.

            1. re: MaxCaviar

              I'll have to go west for Persian, I think. I have shopped some Armenian ones, especially Jon's on Glenoaks in Glendale. Weird and wonderful sausages etc., any part of a lamb you want...

              My pa-in-law gave me a good-sized zip-close bag of saffron in a tin for Christamas almost three years ago, and it's holding up wonderfully. I use about a pinch per month, mostly for seafood dishes, and if it doesn't fade out on me I've got about three more years' worth!

              1. re: Will Owen

                If you get the threads rather than the powder and keep the air out it does really last.

          2. I don't use a list. Most of what we buy from May-October is from the farmer's market so we just buy whatever they have in season, and I build meals around that. We basically eat a lot of the same things and I enjoy shopping for them as 98% of what we eat isn't from a conventional grocery, but places like a farmer's market or our old-world style market where we buy our meats, cheeses, olives, coffee, etc. I only go to the regular grocery for things like flour or soup if I'm sick or the few boxed things we eat, such as seeds of change quinoa or whatever. And stuff from trader joe's. I never have a list.

            Nothing that's ever on sale in the "regular" grocery are things we eat, so it's n/a for me to look at flyers and shop the sales. We don't buy grocery store meat, we eat almost nothing that's processed, we don't drink pop/soda, etc.

            1. I either forget the list or lose it!

              1. I use a list... if I didn't have time to and I'm in a relaxed state of mind I can visualize what I need. I believe it's important to shop while calm and relaxed, if not I find I too much, too little or just forget so many things.

                Like yourself I do the run around (shopping downtown, locally, arabic, middle eastern, persian, italian, indian, west indian anything that looks interesting!) so many good things at different places, and generally I'm cooking for one (myself :P ) but I enjoy shopping, a lot, it's kind of a pass time maybe?.

                1. I make a list, my husband generally does not. When we shop together (most of the time). We get or at least look at what's on the list and then we wander. Even if I write out a list and forget it at home, I have a better chance of remembering what was on the list due to having seen it in writing and just the process of the words having traveled from brain to fingertips/paper. If we just need a few items we'll say them aloud and that helps us remember. Some people make a checklist of items they usually get and check off those they need. When I worked at and did grocery shopping for a group home, I made a checklist, posted it on a cabinet, and asked staff to check off the items they used up or noticed were low.

                  1. Jfood has a computer list he developed, broken into categories, three columns with about 100-125 of the normal stuff. Printed out and left on the desk in the kitchen. Anyone can check a box when they need/want something before jfood leaves for work. The categories are also laid out on the page in a similar manner to the layout of the store. produce, then deli, then grains...

                    Because it's on the computer it is also easy to change as tastes and seasons change.

                    Noone can say "Dad you forgot the blahs".

                    Then M/M jfood check the weekly specials at their store and try to plan as many meals around those specials. It fun, a challenge and helps the budget.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jfood

                      I'm a "three column" person too-- but by hand. I almost always shop at the same grocery store, so the first column is produce plus the stuff that is early on in the store, in my case deli, cereal, and shampoo and stuff. The middle column is the "back and end" of the store, that is, meat and dairy, and the last column is "everything else" (canned goods, pasta, laundry stuff etc). It works really well for me.

                      As far as meal planning, I'm in a CSA, so I build around using up those vegetables. And I almost always "stick to the plan" about what to have for dinner. Too chaotic otherwise.

                    2. make a list and stick to it. don't allow yourself to get distracted, cross off each item on the list as you toss it into your basket, and leave when your list is complete. for anything you can't find circle it and buy it at the next place. the stores are arranged to keep you there as long as possible, the longer you're in the store the more you'll be tempted to buy.

                      I go in the store, buy only what's on the list and get out. very efficient, keeps me sane and avoids waste - i never stock up on things but only buy what I need for the menus/meals I have planned. works for me.

                      1. Just because I have nothing better to do, I carefully and in great detail make out the menus for the week noting the main, the side and, if we're not having a salad, a 2nd side. If I'm cooking from a cookbook, I note the book & page number.
                        I then create the shopping list with references to which day and book the produce, etc. will be used. If what I have listed is not satisfactory or not in the store that day, I substitue something else. In other words, I only buy what we're going to eat within a certain time period. This has greatly reduced our grocery bill per month.

                        We shop at local farms for organic veggies and meats, have a fish monger we like, and have a really Super supermarket with lower prices than any other in our area. We don't snack but always have a variety of cheese and crackers on hand...for cocktails dontcha know. The pantry is always stocked with ingredients, basics (onions, garlic, potatoes, pastas, etc.). It's not as stringent as it seems at first glance because I can always change the day's menu at will.

                        We usually shop on Wednesday and, if necessary, on Saturday as well.

                        1. I make a list of the staples we need and any ingredients necessary for a recipe I want to cook. Then we look at what's on special to flesh out the week's menu. I wish I had access to ethnic stores and farmer's markets, but we don't. There's one Asian grocer that closes before I can get there after work, and the farmer's market is seasonal and only Saturday mornings - when I work. Sigh.

                          1. I know the feeling of numbly walking the grocery store aisles looking at the same old stuff. So lately I've been starting the week's grocery shopping with a trip to the farmer's market for inspiration. Good looking bok choy, some interesting hot-pink carrots, perfect tomatoes, fresh figs--anything can inspire a meal. Then a trip to other stalls, stores, and markets as needed to complete the meals--eg flank steak and chow fun noodles for the bok choy, prosciutto to wrap around the figs, fresh mozzarella and basil to serve with the tomatoes.

                            There are always a few meals a week that are the old pick a meat, pick a starch, pick a veg standby, but using what's seasonal and local provides a jumping-off point that adds more interest to the meal planning and shopping experience.

                            1. I never shop with a list. It is too expensive.

                              Rather, I plan the week's menu based upon what is on sale in the various stores that I shop.

                              When I find a deal on staples, especially canned goods, I will buy as much as I need for several months.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jlawrence01

                                We have a short list of basics needed (even w/ olives on the list, we managed to forget them the last four (4!) trips. We generally do our early Sunday morning heathen grocery shopping for the week. I shop the flyer sales and hit the reduced meats, breads, veggies and lunch meat ends hard. Eating a lot of cabbage and tomatoes from the garden now. We live in a small town and have 2 super markets and a great health food store/wine shop at which to shop. We also haunt 2 salvage stores Reny's and Marden's for boxed and jarred provisions.I also hunt, fish, pick mushroom and mussels and dig clams to round things out.
                                Two things that are unusual are that one, we have inherited a cellar full of survival food (Really enough to outlast the Mormons!). We have 5 gallon pails of grains and legumes and this winter I think I'll test my culinary creativity by trying to use this stuff to make something that tastes good. I already use it for Mexican and soups and chowders. The other unusual method is that my mom lives in New Jersey, when we visit, we take down empty coolers and hit the Hong Kong Supermarket, Indian grocery, a Brazilian/Latin one and slavic delis and specialty meat markets for chow grub to bring home to the wilds of Maine.

                              2. I do not do well with a menu plan that extends past a few days...I've tried, but end up with too much wasted food when plans change suddenly (which seems to happen frequently in my life).

                                I do keep my pantry well stocked, as well as basics which store well such as onions, garlic, lemons, cream, eggs etc. I also keep a well stocked freezer of stock, produce frozen while in high season, and home made dishes.

                                I keep a list for staples that I am running low on and any special cravings being experienced in the household. If it is a slow week, I'll look over the ads carefully, if it is a regular week I look at the flyer posted in the grocery, if it is a crazy week I cruise the aisles for what I want and hope I stumble upon the great sale items!

                                I try to eat what is in season, so that keeps my choices somewhat limited to that which is priced moderately. It is about 50/50 as to whether I'm shopping for a specific menu item or shopping to see what looks good and then decide on the specifics of the meal. Having a well stocked pantry allows a bit a flexibility in making that decision. I buy in quantity for the pantry when I find good deals, so my over all costs stay lower.

                                I also come home bleary-eyed after too many errands. I try to have a very simple meal to make or a frozen dish to defrost. I can shop or I can cook, I can clean or I can cook - have a little trouble making it all happen on the same day!

                                I do go to a number of different sources, but rarely more than 3 on the same day. I have learned which ones are best for which items. I also have learned which days are best to catch the "managers specials" which are not in the ads. For instance, one of my grocers does markdowns on meat Sunday evening, another does them on Tuesday mornings - so I try to time my visits accordingly.

                                1. Sure, I have these dilemmas. Like jfood I did an inventory in Master Cook where I could create a shopping list, and I think I used it once. There are usually only three mouths to feed here (one is Luci Baines Johnson, our Lab), so I don't have to cater to too many tastes or whims.
                                  Some of you have the luxury (if you want to call it that), of having a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc. nearby. I have S&S (Stop and Shop), or a S&S. There is one, decent meat market, on the path most traveled, that also sells frozen fish.
                                  As my garden winds down I either have to settle for the average offerings of S&S or travel quite out of my way to find something better.
                                  I tend to have one or three meals in my mind when I head out. My lists are more for things like detergent and plastic bags. The others, the food staples, I have pretty well programmed in.
                                  I head to the meat, fish and ice cream last. I put all cold things together in one, insulated "recyclable" bag.
                                  I buy what looks good or what is a special. I am a sucker for sea scallops if their price is reduced. I have the luxury of two refrigerators and a freezer so I have a lot on hand and I cook a lot. Not too much spoils and I can improvise at will. This makes my grocery shopping easier.
                                  I would suggest that you limit yourself to a couple of places and take cues from dining out as to what to buy and try cooking. I read the food section of the NYT and get meal ideas. I almost always buy a whole chicken. It almost always gets grilled. Then it becomes two or three different dishes, plus making stock. A chicken may become sandwiches, then burritos, and then Thai, or soup. I do a lot of "main meat" meal progressions like that, and for me, it doesn't require a lot of agonizing over in the store.

                                  1. I start with a list, but have found that a long slow walk past the seafood and meat counters will usually get my imagination going. Veal, lamb, and other meats start to stand out after a while against the boring beef and chicken.

                                    1. I do use a list, but still end up shopping 2-3 times per week. I keep a running list on the refrigerator so things can be added easily when we run out. The 2-3x per week is actually an improvement over my previous habit of daily shopping. I try to get what's on sale and base a menu around that. Also what is in season and local. I try to at least *attempt* to do my part for the environment.

                                      My advice would be to try to limit the amount of stores you are shopping in, if possible. Sometimes I will do the 'trade off' thing and buy my deoderant, etc. at the supermarket simply to save a few steps and help me from becoming 'zombified'. I know exactly what you mean when you say that. I used to try to do the run around thing and I feel much better since I cut it out. Plus, if you look at your time as money, it all evens out.

                                      It also helps if you gently remind yourself before you enter the store that there will be some really, really annoying people in there and they will get on your nerves to no end and if you can just get out the door without taking someone's head off you have done a very good thing today. Well, that's me at least. Maybe some people have more patience.

                                      I just can't seem to plan meals out like may posters have mentioned on this thread. When I become a grown up, I plan on being that kind of person ;)

                                      1. I usually do a list, and if there's lots of stuff on it I'll group the items by the relevant store - eggs, bagged greens and frozen fish are always Trader Joe's, cheap wine is either TJ or Fresh & Easy, oranges = whoever's got navels on sale, and so forth. The list is of course like a recipe, always open to interpretation and/or expansion. Like, if someone's got skate wing on sale, we're all of a sudden going to have THAT for supper!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          I do shop with a list but its of things I run out of like milk, bread, butter, crackers for my 3yr old, paper plates kind of stuff. Money has been a bit tight lately so I sit down with the sale flyers and do a rough plan of a menu from the items on sale. I limit myself to two stores that are closet to me and that I find have the best sales.

                                          I do my best to go once a week and I also do my best to shop without my 3yr old. Both more for financial reasons than anything else. Can’t spend money if I’m not in a store.

                                        2. I keep a list by my phone that I write on as I begin to run out of things. List is written on left and right-hand sides of the paper in approximate "aisle order". Of course, that only works if the aisles are the same in the markets I go to - which sometimes they're not. The list is usually in Stop & Shop order, as that's where I shopped for years and have memorized, but I rarely do my shopping there now. Either way - I know where things are on the list and (usually) where they are in the particular store I'm in, so I keep it in S&S aisle order. :-)

                                          Then I check the weekly flyers I get to see if there's anything special and usually go to the one store that has meat specials at a good price (usually the new Market Basket in Reading) or what I need to get. Specials get written down the middle of the page with their price points (hate carrying the flyer with me). If I can't get things at one store, I get most things there, and those items I didn't get (if I absolutely didn't need them *immediately*) I put on a new list for next trip.

                                          I usually shop once a week, maybe less. Mostly those staples I've run out of or vegetables. I have a chest freezer in the basement, so meat gets rewrapped and frozen in individual portions.

                                          So sometimes it's a trip to Trader Joe's (and Whole Foods, as they're near each other) or sometimes it's to Market Basket - or to Roche Bros. Just depends on what I need at the time.

                                          1. I make a list that usually includes the staples that I don't want to forget to buy and some ingredients for particular dishes that I intend to make. I do that shopping once a week.

                                            But I also like to shop daily for the fresh items for tonight's meal. I'm terrible at planning a whole week in advance, but I find a few things on my weekly shop that help guide me during the week, and then I supplement as needed. For instance, I can get some chicken today and I know that when I take it home I have plenty of stuff to cook it with. Or I get a butternut squash on my weekly shop, and then I can decide whether it becomes a side dish or goes into a curry, depending on how I feel on whatever day.

                                            Basically, the list is for things I might otherwise forget but really want to have. Anything beyond that is improvised, but I like it that way.

                                            1. DH and I make a weekly menu and try to count in leftovers for my lunches. We do a list based on the menu. We're pretty flexible about switching one meal for something on another day, so I never feel that 'what if I don't feel like pasta tonight'. If I feel like that, then we have whatever was scheduled for the next night.

                                              I have this great grocery list pad that breaks down all the sections of the store with checkboxes to mark off what you need. http://www.knockknock.biz/commerce/Pa...

                                              For grocery shopping, we don't have a car, so we shop weekly at the nearest store with buggy in tow. Luckily, it's got great prices. Unluckily, their produce and meat aren't great. But we go to the St. Lawrence Market on some weekends to stock up and have a great little place for produce nearby. We stick to the list for the most part, but will be flexible if there are things on sale, or if struck with a brilliant idea while in the store.

                                              If we know we are seeing certain family members, we get them to pick up heavy items for us, like flour or a case of Coke.

                                              1. I definitely feel this same way! Whenever I don't know what to make for dinner, I stop at the one grocery store on the way home but they're missing so much stuff I like so I wind up going OUT of the way to Whole Foods or Sunset Foods, which are too expensive and out of the way. Then, when I'm there, I get overwhelmed and don't know what to buy.

                                                1. I keep a well stocked pantry and a well stocked freezer. Full supply of staples, canned goods that can be used in many dishes and sauces, lots of pasta and rices. The freezer has a variety of meats and fish, frozen veggies of all sorts. I keep about 80 spices on hand and maybe ninety assorted "condiments" that range from mustards and capers to shoyus and fortified wines.

                                                  I can usually cook just about anything that pops to mind but there are times I do have to shop for special ingredients. Usually produce, but last week I had to make a run to the Chinese supermarket for some star anise.

                                                  But for all that, every once in a while I am compelled to ignore it all, get in the car and make a run to Burger Street for one of their cheap naked hot dogs! '-)

                                                  No. I do not have any hot dogs in the freezer.

                                                  EDIT: Oh yeah. As I run low on a stockpile, I add it to the running shopping list I keep on my computer. All I have to do is remember to print it out before I go shopping...!