hate grocery shopping? try this.
When I first started this blog, I didn't think that a big part of it is the actual grocery shopping itself. After posting a poll on my Instagram, you guys all weighed in that the shopping, may be just as important as the recipes. I think so many people struggle by the act of just going to the store and knowing what to buy, being conscious of ingredient and nutrition labels, and how to plan out the week, so you're not stuck eating something that you a. don't really want, or b. isn't that great for you, but you were left with very little options. I hope to break down a little bit for you how I get my weekly shopping done, get the best bang for your buck to help you make this weekly chore a little easier.
Where you shop
This one, obviously is going to change depending on your region. Living in Newport means that there are limited options. While I would love to get a Whole Foods, Wegmen's or a Trader Joe's, its just not worth the trouble of driving minimally 30 minutes (or longer) to get what I can find there. We shop predominately at Aldi's. I'll be honest, the first few times I went in there, I hated it. There's no music, there's no real brands. You put a quarter in for a cart - the whole thing felt weird. But the more I gave it a shot, the more I realized how great it can be. Aldi's are an off brand of Trader Joe's, so while I don't get all the fancy finds there, I can rest easy knowing that all Aldi's supply organic, gluten free and other various goods. I'm amazed at their selection of "G-Free" their gluten free line - pastas, baking items, chips, bars, a whole section of sprouted breads, . On top of it, their produce is also organic which is a huge plus for me. If I haven't convinced you yet, the cost is more than amazing. For reference, we used to shop at Shaw's and/or Stop & Shop, and since shopping at Aldi's we've essentially cut out weekly bill in half. The biggest downside I will say to them, is that its limited. You cant find nutmeg [or other 'weird' spices], their frozen section doesn't have a ton of veggies, and sometimes depending on the season, the produce isn't great. But if you're open to trying whats in season, this might be a good place for you.
Of course, this isn't the only place I'll go - Amazon Pantry and Vitacost are great for the times in which you need something specific but don't need it right away. I like to just add items to the cart until I have enough and am ready to go. Things like spices, protein powders, super foods, are great to get in bulk online.
The last favorite spot I like to go, for us Newport locals, is A-Market. While their prices are higher, they are our local health shop, where I can usually get the items I can't find at Aldi's. The one thing I have to make note of is, to never go in there with an agenda other than my specific items. I don't typically buy produce or meat there because of the up charge, but this is great for an extended herbal and vitamin section, more local goods, and since they have a rewards point card, I can make my trips there worth it.
When to shop
I am 100% a weekend, first thing in the morning gal. Sunday AM before 10 a.m. tends to be the best time for me. Let's just say though, that you need to do you. I like the weekend morning because it allows me the time to see what I really need. Odds are good, if I waited until after work, that I'll be hungry and end up buying things that A. I don't need, and B. that aren't the quality level that I'd like to have.
I also like going on the weekends because it allows me the time to meal prep and plan for what items I'll need for the week. I tend to take some time on Saturday and Sunday to mentally think through what I'd like to have for meals during the week, and then go through my pantry and refrigerator to find out exactly what I need to do that.
How to shop
Lets first start by saying I always go with a list. Even if the week isn't a 'big' week, you need to have what you're looking for. For me, I don't need a full list every week, because so many items we get every week - for us, this is mostly produce. I am always going to get greens, carrots, bananas, and a few other fruits and veggies. Until you develop a real idea of what you need from week to week, making a full list of meals will be your best friend.
The best piece of advice I was ever given was to shop around the perimeter of a store. If you've ever noticed, all the junk and over processed items tend to be in the middle aisles. Shopping the outside perimeter is where produce, dairy, meat and the frozen section tend to live. These are the areas where I buy most of my items. Its only if I need something specific do I really venture through those middle aisles. Another benefit of Aldi's - is that their aisles are pretty limited and I get 85% of the items I need within the first 5 minutes in the store.
Focus on whole foods, eliminate as much processed stuff as possible. The more whole foods you get, the less you'll want the junk. [Or you'll end up like me making those treat items from real whole foods, so at least you don't feel like you're filling your body with junk.]
What I buy
If you haven't figured out by now, the least processed items I get are what tend to be my regular items. To just give a quick breakdown of the items you'll always find in my cart:
Potatoes (this usually is every other week as I get a huge bag)
Frozen cauliflower for smoothies
Frozen fruit for smoothies
Meat & Dairy:
Chicken, Ground Beef, Ground Turkey (I try to load up on all the meats every other week and keep them in the freezer)
Cheese - we eat dairy pretty minimally but like to have it for certain meals
Granola bars - if I'm not making them
I think the last bit of advice is that you really need to plan for your lifestyle. While we have a lot of variety in our dinners, for the most part, our breakfasts and lunches are pretty standard. I know what I like, and I know what Frank likes and that's what helps me work within some parameters to make each week not as painful to go shopping. I try to experiment with a new recipe twice a week. And the more you focus on eating good quality food, the sooner your body will crave it - making being creative with those meals so much easier.
Thanks for making it all the way through this post - I sure know it was long. I'm working on a post for what my go-to breakfasts and lunches will be. Stay tuned!