shopping methods

shopping methods

Originally published on October 9th, 2006 at Onward & Upward 

Somehow, I made it to adult life with no cooking skills whatsoever. I am pretty good at toast, and brownies, and I can make a mean rice and tuna mix – but meals escape me. I pretty much lived on frozen dinners and Tuna Helper when I was on my own for a year and a half – and I ate out way too often. (I was fed occasional homecooked meals by dear friends, which I much appreciated.)

Enter husband, and suddenly I realize that he doesn’t enjoy Lean Cuisine as much as I do! So I have set out to change my eating and cooking habits to benefit the entire family. Recently, we decided to split the tasks so that I would do the meal planning and shopping, and Paul does the cooking. This works out well because he gets off work at 3 (much earlier than me), and also he is less terrified of cooking than I am. Also, Paul works on Saturday mornings so I use that time to menu plan and then do my weekly shopping trip.

I recently discovered which has helped immensely in planning the menu! Previously, our meals had consisted of what we knew how to make: tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, hamburgers, and grilled chicken. However, now that I’m not doing the cooking and I have at my fingertips a quickly-searchable database of recipes, we are branching out with the meals we eat. I also like the feature of being able to do a shopping list based on the recipes I’ve selected. All I have to do is transfer the list to my PDA and off I am to the store! I must admit shopping for unfamiliar foods like this requires many phone calls to my mom. I am pretty ignorant about a lot of things – like what fresh parsley looks like, for example. Or that you can buy refrigerated pre-cooked noodles (who knew??). But in the end I’m able to get everything and we eat happy for a week.

This little story does have a point! Recently Crystal at Biblical Womanhood has featured a series of posts about Supermarket Savings. This series has been challenging me a lot about the amount of money I spend on food. To be honest, I just buy what looks good and don’t worry about the price too much. But I know that is the wrong, wrong way to do it, especially if my goal is to pay our loans off early! I know that I can’t get too ambitious with couponing, etc. because I just don’t have the time with a full-time job, but it seems that there should be a happy medium of saving and still having evening time to spend with Hubby.

So I am curious how our other readers approach grocery shopping. Do you plan your menus first and then shop, or do you plan your menus based on the food that you have already bought? Do you plan your menus around sales? What’s the most effective way for you to stay in budget when grocery shopping?

For further reading, I recommend Crystal’s posts: part 1 (planning shopping trips), part 2 (example shopping trip), part 3 (meals), part 4 (tips), and part 5 (couponing for beginners).

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