A girlfriend of mine, and fellow blogger that I've mentioned a few times before, came to me with a suggestion for this week's Tuesday Tip; a grocery store tutorial. A how-to if you will. And I think it's a great subject to focus on this week. While picking out the right ingredients and making new recipes daily comes as first nature to me, that's not the case for everyone. And if you arm yourself with the right tools, you can leave the sometimes dreaded market with everything you need without breaking the bank.
We will use a recent trip to the store that I took with my boyfriend. While I normally go alone to the store; because a) I go multiple times a week and b) I take forever reading labels and smelling, squeezing, and picking through produce so no one really wants to be seen with me. But Andrew and I set out to stock up our house with the essentials, and he was prepared for an extensive bill. But when we got through the checkout and realized that we got an entire cart full of produce, dairy, eggs, pasta, deli meat, an array of cheeses and breads for only $65, he was amazed. Now $65 may sound like a lot to some of you, but this was about 2 weeks worth of groceries, which would equal 1-2 nights out at a restaurant for us. This is where I pat myself on the back. If "grocery shopping" was an endorsement on Linkedin, I would take the cake.
So here's my "map" to grocery shopping. First things first. I ALWAYS have a list prepared. I never go with the notion that I'll just pick up whatever looks good, because then I would be broke, and a lot of food would go to waste. Also, my favorite place to shop is Sprout's Farmer's Market, and they offer double ad Wednesday's, which makes for double the sale items, so I try to shop on those days. But I follow the same guidelines for any store.
As I enter the store, list in hand, I grab a basket or cart depending on the size of my list and head on in. I like to hit the outside border of the store, then make my way to the center where the produce is. I always head to the canned goods/baking section first where I stock up on beans (garbanzo for making hummus, black beans for Mexican dishes, and pinto/kidney for soups and/or chilis), as well as any baking supplies I am running low on (flour, sugar, oil). Then I head to the dairy section where I can usually find my favorite unsweetened almond milk on sale, as well as a dozen or two fresh eggs (hard-boiled eggs and breakfast sandwiches are a hot commodity in this house, not to mention baked goods).
Then I will head over to the meat counter where I am bound to get chicken breasts and ground turkey. If I have specific recipes that I know I am going to make that night/week, I will grab the necessary pork/beef/fish item, but never just because (unless it's a buy one get one free sale; I can't say no to those). Any wine stocking will happen at this time, which definitely requires a cart because you can never have too much wine; am I right?
Lastly I will finish up my trip in the produce section. I like to shop by what's in season, that way you know it's fresh and it's usually the cheapest because the stores have an abundance of them. If you don't know what is in season in your town, check out this handy-dandy map! My cart ratio is usually 3:1 produce:other food. I have a juicer that I use about 5 days a week, and I always incorporate fruits and veggies into every meal, so I tend to get a lot of them. Also, if things are in season and crazy cheap i.e. strawberries last week were $0.98, I will buy the max allotted amount by the store and juice them or freeze them for smoothies. Onions, cilantro, kale/spinach, cucumbers, lemons, and limes are always a must for me as I cook/juice with them daily. And lastly I head to the check-out and make small talk with the cashiers.
I hope this has helped you to navigate the sometimes-scary-but-can-be-