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How do you grocery shop?

The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 10:02 AM

Okay, I know this sounds like a crazy question as I've been grocery shopping my entire adult life, but how do you grocery shop efficiently, yet take advantage of specials and what looks best?

For instance, this morning I went to the grocery store with an idea of what I wanted to make for dinner. I checked my pantry before I left the house and made up a shopping list. When I got to the grocery store, I felt like I wanted to change up my whole plan to accommodate some great-looking seafood that was on sale and some summer fruits that looked better than I expected them to. But, it took me forever to get out of the grocery store, because I was no longer shopping from my list, and I was scrambling to remember some recipes that would work and trying to remember what I did or didn't have at home that would work with my new menu plan.

Inevitably, whenever I try to be flexible or spontaneous, I forget or duplicate something, and sure enough, on this trip I had to make a second stop on my way home to pick up something I suddenly remembered I'd forgotten.

I'm sure there's a better way to do this. How do you do it?

Thanks in advance for your ideas.

~TDQ

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  1. Jetgirly RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 11:39 AM

    I look at what I have at home and want to use up, then I make a list of things I will need to complete the meals. I bring a pen and cross off items on my list, and if I happen to have a different-colored pen I will circle things I wasn't able to buy so I can stop somewhere else on the way home. I'm lucky in that I have two huge supermarkets, a bakery and a small health food store within walking distance of my house.

    At the grocery store, I get all my produce first, then get bread, then I only go down the middle aisles if there's something on my list down that aisle. I haven't been down the chips and pop aisle in months. Finally, I stop at the fridge to pick up dairy and the freezer if I need frozen vegetables.

    However, all that goes out the window when I go (the Real Canadian) Superstore, as I can never find anything, have to go up and down all the aisles three times, and then impulse buy like crazy while I wait in the queue for forty minutes to pay.

    1. j
      janniecooks RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 01:38 PM

      I always have a grocery list going, adding to it whenever something runs low or out, and try to plan meals around the weekly flyer to take advantage of sales or specials. Whatever looks appealing on the flyer that I wan to cook gets added to the list as well as anything else I need for the next few days. (I do grocery shopping every two to four days). I almost always stick to my list, and since most of my shopping is only on the perimeter - produce, dairy, meats and cheeses, it's easy to get in and out quickly. If it's not on the list it normally doesn't go in the basket. I'm so obsessive about sticking to my list that it's a joke in our household! But it makes for extremely efficient and fast shopping.

      Except, as you point out there are times when you see something for a main dish you hadn't planned and it's too good a buy to pass by. My meals are flexible enough that I would either substitute or just make the tantalizing purchase and reshuffle the rest of the meal planning. Meal planning on the fly for one meal isn't too difficult, but it can be hard to recall details of a complex recipe so if something is too good to pass by I'll plan on a simple prep and save the complex prep for another time even if it means not getting the same great deal. But, that's why the weekly flyer is so useful for me in planning trips to the market. In fact I keep the flyer at home until the next one comes out.

      And just before I leave I do a visual check to see if there's anything else I need and to refresh my memory of what's there: Soy sauce? check. Flour - only a quarter cup left, buy more. Vinegar? check. How many eggs remain" Oops, need more. But really, keeping a list going and keeping a barely stocked pantry is a good strategy for me. Nothing gets shoved to the back, nothing gets overlooked, and we buy only what we need short-term and we consume what we buy. Finally, once I get home I transfer to a new list anything I decided not to get that trip for next time and keep the list handy to add to it whenever I use something up or need something I haven't got.

      Bottom line I try to be flexible to take advantage of the advertised specials in the flyer, but once in the store I prefer to stick to my list and avoid ad hoc purchases.

      1. k
        KiltedCook RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 02:39 PM

        Make a shopping list and STICK TO IT!

        If you see things that "look good" or on terrific special, grab them. But don't waste time running around trying to get all the other recipe items that you think might be needed for the new stuff. This is 21st century America -- you don't have to drive half an hour or go actually milk the cow. You can get extra recipe ingredients..........on your next trip. Or have your SO or yourself pick up additional goodies on the way home from work.

        1. Kajikit RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 05:54 PM

          I look in the pantry and see what we don't have... and I look at the grocery store flyer to see if there's any great specials to be had - that way if they have spareribs on sale I already know that we need some bbq sauce to go with them etc. When I run out of something during the week I write it onto the grocery list right then because otherwise it'll be forgotten for sure!

          1. h
            HillJ RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 06:48 PM

            4-6 different grocery stores a week; produce at one, dariy & meats at another, pantry staples at another and so forth. Coupons don't always work for me (I don't buy alot of canned, prepacked food) but weekly specials are always worth a trip.

            Like you, I create a shopping list beforehand but I do check it against the circulars that come in the mail and adjust my meal planning if need be before I leave to shop. Mostly, I meal plan while shopping to take full advantage of specials and seasonal produce.

            Also, I stopped buying herbs/spices, baking supplies and beauty products at grocery stores; I have specific online wholesalers I use for those items.

            4-6 grocery stores a week; roughly 150-200 bucks spent for a family of six and about 2 hours of total shopping time spread over the course of a week. Works for me!

            1. mrbigshotno.1 RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 07:02 PM

              I have to keep a detailed list of everything I need. Otherwise I would forget looking at all the fine women.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                EWSflash RE: mrbigshotno.1 Sep 8, 2009 06:38 PM

                So dude- where do you shop?

              2. t
                tzurriz RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 07:15 PM

                Poorly.

                Seriously. I have a 6 month old and a nearly 2 year old. I keep a list on my fridge, and whenever I empty something, it goes on the list. I frequent a couple of different stores, and hit them up on different days, and in general I know what they have at good prices. If I see something fantastic, I buy it, and then figure out how to cook it with the staples I keep on hand.

                I tried meal planning, I didn't last the week. :)

                1. g
                  givemecarbs RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 22, 2009 09:58 PM

                  Great post Queen! And very timely as I am trying to mend my ways. In fact this is mosty why I get so annoyed when I shop at Trader Joe's. I see wonderful items, and then I have to rethink my meal planning and usually there is just way too much going on there for me to think at all at my TJ's. Right now is the easiest time of year for me in Penna because I love fresh corn on the cob and plenty of it for dinner every single night if I can manage it. I don't need much else to go with it. I hit the store about every three days in the summer, and I go to the farm stands every other day. During the colder weather I make one or two big trips to the store a week, and plan quite a bit more. Thanks again for posting this, can't wait to see if other hounds have some ideas on how to do a better job.

                  1. The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 04:21 AM

                    Thank you everyone for the terrific replies!

                    I do try to maintain a list (it's on the outside of the fridge) during the week as we use stuff up, but my husband cooks as often as I do and it's inevitable, no matter how disciplined we try to be, that one of us will be in a hurry, use something up, and forget to write it down, so I always do a quick pantry check before I leave.

                    Sometimes, I find myself driving past the grocery store on the way to somewhere else and use that opportunity to pop in and buy things I know we need (we always seem to be out of milk...) and perishables or staples that we use with enough frequency that we "might" need it, and if we don't, we will soon. Usually, I'll call my husband and say, "I'm at the grocery store for milk, what else do we need?"

                    The biggest revelation (to me) in this thread is how many of you consult the ad fliers in advance of shopping! Many moons ago, I used to clip coupons and I would look at the fliers as part of that. But, when I gave up coupon shopping (most of the coupons are for junk anyway), I also gave up looking at the fliers. But, as a result of this thread, I've checked the websites of all of the grocery stores and co-ops I visit frequently and lo and behold, they all post their sale fliers online. Even my fishmonger does! So, I think I'm going to start incorporating the"check the websites" step into my shopping and meal planning routine.

                    In fact, it seems like such a logical and simple thing to do, that I'm a little embarrassed that I haven't been doing that all along! It makes complete sense to plan your meal around what's on special (and what's in my CSA box, of course. Always a slave to what's in the CSA box!)

                    And, of course, if I plan around the fliers, then I can really "stick to the shopping list" as many of the rest of you suggest.

                    Thank you everyone!

                    ~TDQ

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      Kajikit RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 24, 2009 06:12 AM

                      Checking the sale flyers is the number one step... that way you know whether or not to bother to go to that particular store this week, or whether it would be better to shop elsewhere. We go to three different grocery stores depending on what we need most that week. eg. Publix is good but a bit pricy but they sell the kitty litter and cheap catfood and yummy yoghurt and a few other goodies that we try to keep on hand... Albertsons has much cheaper meat but their pet supplies are through-the-roof expensive so you'd be nuts to buy them there... and so on.

                      1. re: Kajikit
                        The Dairy Queen RE: Kajikit Aug 24, 2009 07:10 AM

                        Oh goodness, I certainly can't be organized enough to let the sale flyers drive whether I'm going to shop somewhere on any particular day. I shop at whichever store I happen to be driving past (and this gives me about 3-4 different good options)...

                        Also, I'm in awe of all of you who can do your shopping for the whole week. I end up making 3-4 trips a week, for this or that or whatever.

                        ~TDQ

                    2. jfood RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 06:26 AM

                      Oh boy, jfood is going to get some heat for this one.

                      He created a shopping list in Word that follows the aisles of his grocer. The list is all of the items the jfoods normally buy and then several blank lines to fill in.

                      For example, his store has the produce at the entrance, so the first column starts with tomatoes, lettuce...and the some blank lines for say artichokes. Then immediately below this list of veggies is the oils, tuna, sauces, and on and on all the way to ice cream and eggs at the far end of the store.

                      Jfood has many copies in the house and if someone wants something they check the item and then before jfood goes to the store, he fills in the rest. When he gets to the store he has his grocery store Mapquest.

                      If he sees something on sale that he wants, he may grab it or he may place a little check mark next to it for the next day or two.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: jfood
                        bayoucook RE: jfood Aug 23, 2009 06:32 AM

                        I do the same! Learned a long time ago it's the best way not to forget things.
                        I keep a running grocery list and get it all together before I leave the house.

                        1. re: jfood
                          Jen76 RE: jfood Aug 23, 2009 08:09 PM

                          No heat...just major envy at your level of organization!

                          I did fairly well when I subscribed to the Grocery Game, but I gave it up once my linen closet was well stocked with TP, PT, shampoo, toothpaste, etc (non-food items are about the only things I use coupons for). Now, I play by those rules on my own, but it sure was nice to have someone else tell me the best times to buy stuff and what coupon to use with said stuff. I do still check all the flyers for the produce and meat sales, though. Metro-Phoenix has one of the most competitive grocery markets in the US, so I save a ton shopping the ads alone.

                          1. re: Jen76
                            meatn3 RE: Jen76 Aug 26, 2009 09:02 PM

                            What is the Grocery Game?

                            1. re: meatn3
                              Jen76 RE: meatn3 Aug 26, 2009 11:17 PM

                              It's a service that you can subscribe to that tells you the best time to use particular coupons and when to stock up on items at the lowest prices. They track pricing trends so they can tell you when a sale is really a good deal so you can stock up. The idea is to stock up on the loss leaders. If you Google it, you'll find it. They have a free 4-week trial. Save up coupons prior to signing up though - you'll make much better use of your free trial. I also found a site that does something similar for free (pinchingyourpennies.com), but it doesn't really track pricing trends, so it's not quite as useful to me (because I'm lazy when it comes to coupon clipping and planning!). Anyways, there are only 2 of us, and with my job demanding more of my time, I just don't have the energy to shop on that kind of schedule. Plus, I'm still stocked on non-food items, so finding the sales on meat and produce is relatively easy.

                              1. re: Jen76
                                meatn3 RE: Jen76 Aug 27, 2009 12:22 AM

                                Thank you! I'd never heard of this.

                                1. re: meatn3
                                  Jen76 RE: meatn3 Aug 28, 2009 08:36 PM

                                  You're welcome!

                          2. re: jfood
                            Kajikit RE: jfood Aug 24, 2009 06:13 AM

                            Once upon a time I had a grocery list organised that way... it did make shopping simpler - until they rearranged the grocery store and turned it into useless scrap paper!

                            1. re: jfood
                              Sooeygun RE: jfood Aug 24, 2009 06:19 AM

                              "He created a shopping list in Word that follows the aisles of his grocer. The list is all of the items the jfoods normally buy and then several blank lines to fill in."

                              I have a similar list, but it's a pad that I bought called "All out of..." Once they are used up, I will probably make my own as you have done. We check things off as they are used up.

                              We make a menu for the week on my menu chalkboard that my F-I-L made for me. We have a little list on the side of it where we try to keep track of entrees in the freezer...stews, sauces, meats. I check the flyer on-line (only one as we do the majority of shopping at one store because we are on foot). Make a list based on the menu and whatever staples we need. We usually stick to the list unless there is something in the meat section bargain bin that can go in the freezer for later.

                              Some weeks we stray from the menu or move it around, but it's nice to know we have all we need for a week's meals without wasted extra store trips.

                              1. re: jfood
                                LindaWhit RE: jfood Aug 25, 2009 12:49 PM

                                Same here - my mother taught me long ago her method of keeping a running grocery list and writing things down based on the location of where things were in a supermarket, and I just note it down on a scratch pad of paper in the manner in which I'm going to shop the store - produce first, dairy last. Produce gets the upper left, dairy gets the bottom right. Paper goods are somewhere around the middle on the right (with cat food just below that above the dairy), canned goods and pasta are on the middle-left. Meats and "special items" (BOGOF I want to note) are written down the middle.

                                Finally, I put an asterisk next to any item I know I have a coupon for, whether it's Listerine, toothpaste, dry cat food, or butter. That way I know I have to find that coupon and bring it with me to the store.

                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                  Caitlin McGrath RE: LindaWhit Aug 25, 2009 02:41 PM

                                  I do the same thing, LW: write grocery list on scratch paper, but group like items together based on store department or aisle.

                                2. re: jfood
                                  mattwarner RE: jfood Sep 5, 2009 05:01 PM

                                  I like the checklist idea - like a catalog order! I usually use Excel with columns for aisle, item, and notes. That way, I can sort it by aisle (e.g., baking, bulk, produce, meat, dairy, frozen...) once I've entered my items, and it's easier to keep track as I'm walking through the store.

                                  1. re: jfood
                                    j
                                    Jacey RE: jfood Sep 7, 2009 09:54 AM

                                    From your posts, I always have wondered what you do for a living, Jfood. I'm guessing an engineer or something by the way you write your posts and "conduct" yourself.

                                    1. re: jfood
                                      bagelman01 RE: jfood Sep 7, 2009 12:55 PM

                                      Glad to know that I am not the only anal one here. I make a list and it is in the order of the aisles in the store I frequent most. Although we live in southern CT, I do most of the marketing in northern Mass. I make a list every Monday evening. I drive to Mass. early Tuesday. I stop at 7am on the way to my first appointment and pick up a circular (the supermarket does not maintain a website-BOO). I go over the circular and add to my list.
                                      I email my wiofe with the specials and ask if she wants any. On Wed and Thursday, My Wife and daughter email requests.

                                      Every Thursday on the way back home I stop and do the shopping according to the list. I don't impulse shop. If it's not on the list I don't buy it.

                                      This time of year, my wife buys the frozen and Milk locally. Once we get to winter, I buy it all in Mass., except for fresh bakery items bought on the day we wish to consume them.

                                      I spend 4 straight days in CT and then 3 in Mass. Shopping long distance seems odd, but we save about 35-40% on the same name brand goods. Fairfield County, CT is way too overpricedm and the selection is limited by the high cost of vreal estate.

                                      1. re: jfood
                                        EWSflash RE: jfood Sep 8, 2009 06:42 PM

                                        jfood, thank you for your post. I make complex spereadsheets and then forget to take them with me.

                                      2. Gio RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 06:52 AM

                                        We're only 2 here and shop according to our weekly menus but they are very flexible. If you've read any of my COTM reports you will have seen that I substitute like crazy while basically staying as close as possible to the original recipe. We shop on Wednesdays and Saturdays at local farm stands, a local Italian salumaria, TJ's and 1 supermarket ... with a list... which is more a guide than must have list. When we're close to the end of a pantry ingredient it goes on the list with a star to denote a necessary item.
                                        Here's the line-up of menues per day:
                                        Macaroni Monday, COTM Soup Tuesday (except during the summer when it's just COTM), COTM Wednesday, Left-overs Thursday, COTM Vegetarian Friday, COTM Seafood Saturday, COTM Sunday Roast...except this summer it's been another seafood day due to the CSF weekly share.

                                        Crazy, isn't it?? But it gives us a huge variety of very interesting and healthy meals. Guess you can tell we're both retired.... LOL

                                        1. h
                                          HillJ RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 07:07 AM

                                          While we're on the subject of grocery shopping, does anyone take advantage of rain checks when an item/sale item isn't available. My mother always does and swears the savings is worth asking at customer service.

                                          ..thoughts?

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: HillJ
                                            jfood RE: HillJ Aug 23, 2009 07:11 AM

                                            Absolutely

                                            1. re: HillJ
                                              a
                                              adamshoe RE: HillJ Aug 23, 2009 05:59 PM

                                              Rainchecks! Does hell go with yes?! When they're out of the promised sockeye salmon @ $7.99 lb. or the skyy vodka 1.75 liter for $18.99, you bet I get a raincheck. adam

                                              1. re: HillJ
                                                Jen76 RE: HillJ Aug 23, 2009 08:10 PM

                                                Most definitely! Rainchecks are often good for a month. So, you have lots of time to go back at your leisure and pick the best of the best of said item (particularly helpful if it's something like meat). I love rainchecks.

                                                1. re: Jen76
                                                  h
                                                  HillJ RE: Jen76 Aug 23, 2009 08:27 PM

                                                  Three yes's was all I needed. Rain checks make sense.

                                                2. re: HillJ
                                                  Kajikit RE: HillJ Aug 24, 2009 06:15 AM

                                                  I don't even know how they work... that wasn't part of my shopping education. Care to explain? If they've run out of something I wanted I either come back tomorrow to look again if I REALLY wanted it, or else I just do without.

                                                  1. re: Kajikit
                                                    h
                                                    HillJ RE: Kajikit Aug 24, 2009 06:29 AM

                                                    Rain checks are a paper receipt that the grocery store provides customers when they advertise a product special @ a sale price but run out of that product before the sale date ends. If the store doesn't substitute that item w/another brand at the sale price or better you can request a rain check for that item, including the maximum limit of that offer.

                                                    The customer service attendant can offer greater explanation right at their customer station.

                                                  2. re: HillJ
                                                    EWSflash RE: HillJ Sep 8, 2009 07:03 PM

                                                    No. Insufficient attention span/follow through

                                                    1. re: HillJ
                                                      BobB RE: HillJ Sep 15, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                      I don't usually bother for the buck or two (or less) savings involved, but when it's a compact staple that keeps indefinitely and the savings is significant, sure. My local supermarket recently had a sale on my favorite Italian canned tuna (Pastene), $2 a can instead of the usual $3. I probably would have bought a half-dozen cans if they had it in stock, but when they didn't and I asked for a rain check the clerk asked me how many I wanted, and after thinking about it for a minute I said 50. (Why not, the stuff keeps for years, and hey, that's 50 bucks saved!) When I went in a couple of weeks later to redeem it the rain check got passed from clerk to grocery manager to store manager for approval, but in the end they honored it.

                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                        h
                                                        HillJ RE: BobB Sep 15, 2009 12:29 PM

                                                        That's rather astute shopping BobB! I too am finding rain checks worth the x-tra time and customer service when it's an item I can use or the local food pantry can use.
                                                        Might as well spread the wealth!

                                                    2. thew RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 07:21 AM

                                                      i rarely have a menu in mind when i shop.
                                                      and if i do have a menu, i think of it as a suggestion, open to change when i get there

                                                      1. q
                                                        queencru RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 07:39 AM

                                                        I tend to buy things I find that are interesting and on sale and then figure out what to do with the interesting items later on based on what I already have available. However, I'm not one of those people who goes down every aisle just to see if it has something of interest. I keep a mental list generally of what I need and am looking to eat that week and will look into sales within those aisles.

                                                        1. c
                                                          ChanceTDaily RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 04:37 PM

                                                          I always like to make a set protein list, I know i want salmon and Salad. Then when you're there you pick the produce. Saves a lot of time.

                                                          1. r
                                                            Rick RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 23, 2009 04:44 PM

                                                            Every Sunday we make a list of meals for the week and subsequently a grocery shopping list. If there is something on sale that we use often, we'll stock up. We're pretty good about sticking to the list. We are however fortunate that we both drive past a grocery store on the way home so if we did forget something or decide to change what's for dinner, it's not a huge inconvenience.

                                                            We just started making a weekly meal list and I have to say I love it. It takes us a few hours to do Sunday morning, but all the stress of what to make for the next week is gone and we don't end up just going out to eat because we don't have anything to make for dinner! We both get home late so not having to think about what's for dinner is nice.

                                                            1. BamiaWruz RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 24, 2009 12:17 AM

                                                              I write up a general weekly menu on things I'm going to make (based on what I see on tv, inspirations, cravings and what I've got from ingredients like a specific vegetable or meat)

                                                              I write my shopping list based on the ingredients I'm going to need for all these recipes in the week and I go shopping. If I see something on sale then I pick it up anyway because I can fit it in somewhere.

                                                              1. m
                                                                mpjmph RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 24, 2009 07:43 AM

                                                                I'm single, live alone, so I generally shop and cook for one. I have to balance budget, diet, and minimize waste, so I tend to plan ahead and rarely deviate from the menu for the week. Right now I'm doing my weekly big shopping trip on Wednesdays since my CSA pick up day is Wednesday and I want to have shopping and CSA in sync. My CSA farmer posts a list of what in the box on her blog every Tuesday. I look at the CSA list and the grocery ad online to plan meals for the week, then make a grocery list based on that. I actually draw a table each week, with columns for lunch and dinner and rows for each day. I fill in what I'm going to cook each night and what I'll pack for lunch each day (usually leftovers). If I know I'll be pressed for time one evening then I'll plan to cook extra a day or two before to have enough leftovers. I keep the meal plan and grocery list one the same sheet, so if I do see a great unadvertised deal I can adjust accordingly.

                                                                1. cassoulady RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 24, 2009 09:19 AM

                                                                  i dont have buy too many veggies or fruit because of the csa for the summer. About once every other month i do a big shopping that is mostly non perishables- sparkling water, paper goods, seasonings. then i stop as needed, often daily for meat of fish to go with a meal. We normally have people over Sat nights, so I will do a small shopping sat to get things I need for that meal plus other items I may need for the week, milk etc.

                                                                  1. BobB RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 07:53 AM

                                                                    I do most of the grocery shopping for the house. Special occasions and dinner parties aside, I tend to shop pretty much daily for fresh items and staple replenishment. It's easy for me since I'm in a city and there's a supermarket next door to the gym I walk to most days after work, as well as a great bakery along the way.

                                                                    I keep a notepad on the fridge and have the family trained that if they write something on the pad I will buy it in the next day or so. I use the pad myself - when I use the last of an item (or see that it's getting low) I'll add it. I then take the day's list with me to the store, get everything on it, and also buy anything that looks particularly good for dinner that day, fruit for the fruit bowl, as well as any special treat that catches my eye.

                                                                    Once every few weeks I take the car to the market and stock up on large and/or heavy non-perishable items (bulk packs of paper goods, cans, bottles, and such.)

                                                                    1. Popkin RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 08:42 AM

                                                                      I do a little of everything (except for coupons for the most part.... there are a couple of things like sunny delight though that I keep an eyeball out for), check flyers, and keep a close eye on the clearance bin.

                                                                      I keep a running list of what we need, and I always keep extra staples on hand (I'm never without a couple of kinds of pasta, rice, oatmeal, canned tomatoes of whatever variety was on sale, my 50 condiments lol, etc....), so that no matter what, I have some sort of meal ready to go (for instance the other night I was at a loss, so I made my mom's carbonara out of ingredients I always keep on hand: pasta, tomato paste, parmasan, egg, milk, pesto, and bacon). If it's not terribly perishable, I buy it in bulk (a habit I picked up from my grandma, who was a little girl during the depression)

                                                                      I work next to a grocery store which usually has good stuff in the mark-down bins, IF I hit them up on lunch (by the time I'm off at 7, they've been picked over). I know how to use almost any sort of meat, and am decent at cooking by the seat of my pants, so I usually plan dinner about, oh, 3 or 4 hours in advance when I grab the main component. Perishables are purchased daily or every 3rd day on average, because it's no biggie for me to walk all of 50 feet to get that squash I just decided would go great with dinner tonight :D

                                                                      Between the buying of non-perishables at winco (a local costco-like chain, only with no membership, and an AWWWWSOME bulk-bin section. Elliot [DH] thinks it's funny how excited I get over that bulk section lol, but hey, they have things like freaking bacon salt by the pound, how can I NOT love it?) and daily shopping for clearance perishables, I think we do well.

                                                                      1. shaogo RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 08:56 AM

                                                                        Before I bought my first restaurant, I'd go shopping nearly every day I planned a meal at home - this was in NYC and although I wasn't married yet I often had guests over to eat.

                                                                        Then I moved to "the country" -- central Connecticut. I was amazed at how *large* the supermarkets were, compared to the cramped little places I used to shop in NYC.

                                                                        Nowadays, I just buy stuff if I'm making a meal that my staff and I will enjoy -- and I enjoy shopping for it. I've never used a list, really, I just walk up and down the aisles and get an idea what I'm going to do.

                                                                        My late father used to *love* grocery shopping. It was the best thing on earth to him to find a super-special... and he'd stock up. When I moved mom out of their house and into a retirement complex, she and I gave away boxes and boxes of canned goods, cereals, etc. that dad had bought on sale but that we just didn't have the room for! (There were, literally, over 200 cans of tuna fish alone!)

                                                                        1. n
                                                                          Normandie RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 09:16 AM

                                                                          I'm with those here who *always* start with the sales flyer, first, plus a few coupons. I don't get to use many coupons, because I mostly buy meats, produce, grains and breads, and most of the coupons I encounter generally seem to be for processed food, of which I don't buy too much.

                                                                          Over the long-term, following the sales flyers doesn't really restrict me too often in making what I'd like to make. I.e., if I get a whim one morning to make something specific, chances are I stocked up on it when it was on sale and therefore it's in my freezer or pantry. It takes a while to get things that way, if one hasn't shopped the sales before, but I've been doing this for a long time and I usually have on hand at least *one* package of what I want.

                                                                          I do stick mostly to the perimeter of the store, with occasional forays into the aisles with coffee beans, cereal, rice/pasta, etc.

                                                                          1. h
                                                                            Harters RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 09:34 AM

                                                                            Being on a restricted income, we tend to stick pretty much to the list. Not slavishly, of course.

                                                                            I look out for, say, fruit that looks particularly good (as we're always going to eat fruit); special offers on things we usually regularly (tinned items, toilet paper and the like); meat that's on offer because it's nearing its "sell by" date and can go in the freezer. Other than that - the list is the list!

                                                                            1. lisavf RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 25, 2009 10:59 AM

                                                                              I have fallen into the same problem of seeing something that looks fabulous that throws off my whole shopping scheme. It used to send me into a bit of a tizzy. Now I decide to do one of two things. Either (1) forget about those fabulous-looking veal shanks (or whatever) because I just don't have the time or energy to regroup, or (2) go to one of the areas in my Wegmans that have seating - the coffee shop area or cafe or the magazine section - sit down with my list and my iPhone (to look up a recipe online), and take the time to adjust my list. My general rule of thumb is, if I think I may need an item, I just buy it. In contrast to what someone else said, I do have to drive a half hour to get to the grocery store, and I don't have the time or inclination to make an unplanned trip. So I would rather have the duplicate of something than not have it at all. I'll just try to plan to use it up in the future. It usually takes me about five minutes to write down my list adjustments, then I can go back to shopping with a clear mind about what I need and don't need.

                                                                              1. m
                                                                                MrsT RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 26, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                                                I don't do a traditional grocery shopping anymore. I buy grains mostly at specialty stores, fruits & veggies at the farmers market, toiletries and cleaning products at Target, and everything else via the internet. I really only use my local supermarket for dairy products or if I need something in an emergency.

                                                                                1. corneygirl RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 26, 2009 07:31 PM

                                                                                  I shop often, but the store is less than 10 minute walk away. In the summer I plan around CSA produce, and in the winter I try to go through the freezers (1 quart mole - need chicken, tortillas, etc). I stock up at ethnic groceries infrequently with a list that I always deviate from (what are sweet potato threads, I must have mustard oil). Try to always have dried pasta, canned tomatoes, and canned tuna. Mini grocery down the block helps for the flakey and lazy moments.

                                                                                  1. al b. darned RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 27, 2009 10:51 PM

                                                                                    Shopping list? We don't need no stinking shopping list! Actually I pretty much know what we need "up here" (tapping the old melon). DW, OTOH, will make a list, but we wait until the end of the store before we check it to see if we (o.k., I) forgot anything. I'd say that 90% of the time I have everything on the list...and lots of things that aren't.

                                                                                    If I go to the store alone I don't use coupons. I can't figure out DW's filing system. When we go together, or she goes alone she will use them.

                                                                                    Like others, I have perused the weekly flyer ahead of time, so I pretty much know what is on sale that I need/want.

                                                                                    1. a
                                                                                      AngelSanctuary RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 28, 2009 08:33 PM

                                                                                      I know what you mean, sometimes I just need to buy milk and end up with a bunch of stuff even though my fridge is already full of crap I need to finish.

                                                                                      But it got better once I started buying things with my money, I am very attached to them.

                                                                                      I usually do have a rough list. I have different categories and then there's a quota for each of them. And then I'll splurge on one item that's a bit more expensive.

                                                                                      But I still go a bit overboard when I do see a sale =/.

                                                                                      I don't really shop with a particular dish in mind...I am REALLY bad at thinking ahead...

                                                                                      1. s
                                                                                        sueatmo RE: The Dairy Queen Aug 28, 2009 08:41 PM

                                                                                        When I'm being efficient I check the circular from my market which comes in the local paper. I can see what is being discounted for the week, or what is being featured. But often I just wing it, and if I like something I buy it. I can usually figure out how to cook it if I get it home.

                                                                                        1. b
                                                                                          Bite Me RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 5, 2009 10:43 PM

                                                                                          How do I grocery shop? Very inefficiently! I forget my coupons, my paper bags, and I sometimes forget to buy everything I really need. Occasionally, I take a list and that is helpful. Like others, my list has items grouped together based on location in the store. I like to go up and down all of the aisles, but I go quickly.

                                                                                          1. c
                                                                                            Cinnamon RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 6, 2009 11:56 AM

                                                                                            My strategy involves one big delivery a month (it's like having 'the supply ship' sail into port) and specialty sorties to a few stores in between.

                                                                                            I order online for pantry staples and heavy stuff like beverages, and paper goods. The prices are pretty good - there's where I concentrate most 'savings attempts.' Sometimes I'll get milk and eggs here though more likely a trip a week to a local health food store or Whole Foods just for that and maybe one or two other items that they have that we like. There's a World Market almost next door, and they have the least expensive Lavazza espresso around, so I'll stock up there on 4-5 cans at a time, and pick up any whole spices we need.

                                                                                            We don't cook a lot of meals that aren't quick and individual, and when we do something more planned it's usually worth a trip to the convenient, slightly higher-end local grocer for meats etc. as more of a special occasion than a daily deal. Here I'll also pick up some fresh salad veggies and herbs (if not exorbitant), a baguette or such, some thin-sliced specialty hot salami from the deli, etc.

                                                                                            Whenever I expect to be doing a lot of salads or veggies in a given week or so, or whenever I just happen to be in the area and am so inclined, I love to stop in at 99 Ranch, an Asian-oriented cornucopia of stuff from lots and lots and lots of cheap fresh fruits and veggies (fresh water chestnuts! fresh bamboo shoots!) to meats it's hard to find elsewhere (chicken feet for stock! scary sea creatures of indeterminate species!) (OK, I don't really buy the sea creatures).

                                                                                            One thing that's been really helpful is to learn and keep in mind what things have some longevity. I've mostly weaned myself away from buying things outside of salad fixings and basics that I don't actually plan on a certain date to make (unless I'm near a 99 Ranch, then I stock up and make an effort to cook all the interesting things). So I've found it's reasonable to buy things like potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, bananas, oranges, limes, ginger, carrots, eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon, sour cream, etc., to have on hand ... keeping any expiration labels in mind ... because they're not going to go off in a mere few days. (You know, the kind of thing one was probably apt to learn 100-150 years ago as a child, because you had a root cellar, etc.)

                                                                                            I buy that kind of stuff via our monthly delivery or for some things where I'm pickier (like with smoked salmon brands), on one of the higher-end market trips. Or if I ever have occasion to go to Trader Joe's. They have a few things we love, but the store doesn't make it into our regular shopping rotation.

                                                                                            I'm not a big fan of frozen, and have stopped buying most frozen things and for the most part canned. I do keep some special-project ingredients in the freezer, like bones and chicken feet for homemade stock. And Trader Joe's has a good mushroom risotto, so that stays in there.

                                                                                            1. greedygirl RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 6, 2009 05:19 PM

                                                                                              I'm a lot less organised than most of you, I have to say! Mr GG and myself have a very chaotic and random work schedule, so that doesn't help.

                                                                                              I get a box of organic vegetables and some organic milk delivered every Friday and once I've unpacked it I will get a vague idea of what meals I want to cook. I will also think ahead to how often we're going to be home in the evening, when I need to take lunch and dinners to work etc. I will then pick up meat from the butchers, and every couple of weeks I will go to a small supermarket to pick up basics like tinned tomatoes, loo roll, cat food, flour, deli meats etc. Sometimes there will be a list, but mostly not. Everything else gets picked up as we need it from the local deli, fishmonger and outdoor market. I can find everything within ten minutes walk from our house - there's even an Asian supermarket.

                                                                                              So a bit chaotic, but works for us.

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