This is the third article (read the first and second stories) about grocery shopping inspired by my post honeymoon restocking trip. I hope my theories on tackling the grocery store help you get more for your money and puts an end to those annoying one-item mid week trips to the store.
We have been working our way around the outside edge of the grocery store and so far we have been to the dairy and meat sections. We have avoided the lure of the middle aisles full of expensive and processed food. And we are moving full steam ahead toward the fresh produce department. Ok this is when you have to stop thinking like and economist and start thinking like a cook. We have all this stuff in the cart and we need the finishing touches to make it into meals. That does not mean price is no object but making cohesive meals is now the most important thing not just selecting the best buys.
Before I start planning my evening meals I will normally fill my cart with the necessities for making a week’s worth of lunch salads and fruit and veggie type snacks. This trip my salad stuff included romaine, radishes, tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots, and cucumbers about $14 worth of produce. The mix will vary based on what looks fresh and what is a good price, this week the cucumbers were two for a dollar so I took four planning on a cucumber salad at least one night. I also am always sure to get onions, celery, and carrots; you just can’t cook without the ingredients for mirepoix in the house. Grapes and strawberries (on sale) also hop in the cart for healthy snacks for another $10. Now after gathering all these basics I have had a good look at what is available and what I might want to plan to use in completing my dinners.
Then the plotting starts in earnest. I do this in my head, but if you are not good at keeping all these ideas in your mind find a quite spot (I recommend next to the lobster tank in the seafood department) and scratch out the meal plan on the back of your list with a pen. Also nothing is set in stone, if I swap the green beans for the broccoli on a chicken meal and move the green beans to a pork meal no one will ever know. The order I will cook the meals is also not exactly what I plan at the store, it’s just an outline. Here is what I came up with:
Chicken 1st meal: Whole Chicken and roasted new potatoes with a side of broccoli and a cucumber salad with a little of the sour cream to make the dressing. Simple meal and don’t need anything else from the store to make this so once I get produce it’s done. I will use this basic whole chicken method in this post here with the potatoes around the outside of the bird.
Chicken 2nd meal: Pasta alla vodka with leftover chicken and mushrooms and steamed asparagus. I will have to hit the dairy section for the cream in this recipe, I hate doubling back but it’s better than going to the store tomorrow for one thing. The pasta dish became a blog recipe, check it out here.
Pork Chops: brined and grilled chops with grilled mushrooms & onions, and roasted sweet potatoes. I am out of cinnamon for the sweet potatoes but it’s already on my middle of the store list so no worries here. This meal is great fun for me, I do the prep and my husband does the grilling while I sit on the patio and sip a glass of wine keeping him company. If weather permits I think we may have to dine al fresco.
Ground beef 1st meal: burgers on the grill, grilled zucchini, with some garlic and lemon sautéed green beans. I will also make my Baked Apple Baklava for desert with the extra whipping cream in place of the yogurt sauce. We have a few of my stepdaughter’s friends spending the night; they should enjoy this, right? Can’t forget to pick up the great French bread burger buns in the deli, as well as ketchup we are getting low and it’s on sale, and lastly I need that fresh lemon for the green beans.
Ground beef 2nd meal: spaghetti with homemade meat sauce and a green salad. This is an easy Saturday meal since I can quickly get the sauce going first thing in the morning and leave it in the Crockpot all day. I will toss any of my raw veggies that are looking a little sad into the sauce so I don’t wasting anything. I keep the basic jar/canned items I need to whip up spaghetti sauce in the pantry so I will not need to buy anything in the middle of the store for this meal today.
Sunday brunch: eggs and cheese frittata using up leftover cooked veggies from the week with fresh green onions I saw on sale just now. On my list I see we are low on whole wheat bread we use for toast, so I will need that for sure. Sundays we normally either have nice small family brunch and leftovers for dinner or, a big family dinner with about 8 or more people and just leftovers before the giant feast during the day. So I have my Sunday brunch for this week covered easily.
Whole Fresh Ham: The ham will only be coming out of the freezer this week if I can get a family dinner organized. Then he will feed about 8+ people! I will either do him Cuban style with a citrus marinade or he will make pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. Either way I should have plenty of left over pork to try a pork posole recipe I have been thinking about. I am not going to buy anything for this meal yet, I am guessing with Easter coming in 2 weeks this piggy may be staying in the freezer for a while. But at such a good price I am happy to have him.
Ok so what all have I really added to my cart in my second swing through the produce department: potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, apples and a lemon. That is about another $30 in produce bringing the total for this section over $50. I am really ok with that, we are getting real good food and I have meals for my family for just over $130 for the week between the meat, dairy and produce sections, this is 3 meals a day! Are you kidding me!! That is feeding 4 people 3 meals, for 6-7 days. Let’s do the math. 4×3=12×7=84 that is 84 meals! Yes breakfast is light, toast with peanut butter and fruit most days and lunch is salad but still this is darn good. I have not added in the costs of my pantry goods already at home or the few snacks and things that I will get out of the center of the store yet, but just the pork chop meal I planned would easily cost about $130 for four people in a restaurant. If you plan on enjoying a bottle of decent wine with those chops at a restaurant their markup on that bottle of wine will cover the rest of my shopping bill.
Next article we are going to tackle the center of the store…I have avoided it as longs as I could. Be ready, it’s a minefield in there.