Friday, September 14, 2012

Menu Planning and Effective Grocery Shopping

One of the biggest excuses I hear from my fellow workaholics is that they cannot cook gourmet-ish food and must eat sad little lean cuisines because grocery shopping takes too much time and they never have the right things in their houses to make what they want when they get home from work. 

I have the solution. It will revolutionize the way that you grocery shop. It's called...the Plan and Plot method. It takes a little bit of time on a Sunday, but trust me, it will make your life so much easier, and coincidentally, will lower your grocery bill.

The first thing you must do is you must take one sheet of paper and plan out your menus for the week. I typically restrict planning in such detail to dinners, as I either eat lunch out or eat leftovers or scavenge. This method is also good for planning a big holiday meal, such as Thanksgiving (or in my example, Rosh Hashanah lunch). 

So here we have a menu that I have created for a lunch I am hosting on Rosh Hashanah. Typically, my menu plan would just have "M, T, W, R & F" listed in the spots where 1-5 are listed on this menu. Put down every thing you plan on having for dinner--from sides to veggies to sauces/condiments and main dishes.

If you do not know your recipes (or your pantry) well, I would suggest you take a second piece of paper and list every single ingredient you're going to need for each dish, including the quantity. It doesn't matter what order you're putting it in yet, just list everything. Then, take that list and go into your kitchen and cross off the ingredients that you already have in your house. If you have any doubt whatsoever about whether you have it, go check. I'm serious, you'll thank me later. And make sure you have sufficient quantities (for Thanksgiving, this typically means I have to buy several extra pounds of butter). I didn't do it with this round of menu planning because I know my pantry well and I know these recipes like the back of my hand. I'll let you know next week whether this omission will backfire.

Then, take a third/second piece of paper, and divide it into four quadrants. At the top of each quadrant, you will list the following headings:

  • Meat/Seafood
  • Dry Goods
  • Produce
  • Freezer/Dairy
In most grocery stores, these are your major geographic areas. You will want to transcribe the list of ingredients that you still need to purchase into these quadrants. If the quantities are specific, list the amount you need of each thing as well.

(My list includes items I need for other meals, not just the one specifically shown above)

Then, take your shopping list with you to the store, and enjoy a very directed shopping trip that does not leave you running from one end of the grocery store to the other, back and forth!!!!

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