Grocery shopping. The errand you will have to run for the rest of your life as required by normal bodily functions. Wouldn't it be nice if this mandatory errand wasn't a hassle? Better yet, wouldn't it be nice if you loved it? Use the below hacks to navigate this part of life, and you'll see how grocery shopping is about to get a whole lot more fun.
Don't Shop On An Empty Stomach
Let's start with the basics. Don't shop hungry. Ever. Shopping when you're hungry primarily happens due to a lack of planning; when you want to make your lunch and realize that the fridge is empty. Suddenly, everything in the grocery store looks more delicious, and after spending $100 more than you intended, you're going to hate yourself (but only after you inhale the sticky buns you spontaneously bought). How to avoid this misstep? Plan in advance, and always do your shopping after you've already eaten.
Plan A Menu
Notice I didn't just say make a 'grocery list.' I want you to plan a menu and put a little effort into it. Treat it like you're opening your own restaurant. The worst thing you can possibly do is settle for the same seven staples week after week. Menu planning doesn't have to be complicated; if there's a comfort food that ends up on your menu regularly (for me, it's tacos), just make an attempt to spice it up. Switch out your toppings, change the salsa you buy, etc.
Curate What You Buy
To keep your grocery list budget-friendly, curate two or three foods every week. Make a point to select seasonal foods that you know will be available at your store. The goal is to select items that can be used in multiple meals. For example, if you buy potatoes, you can use them in three different meals. (For me, I think of baked potatoes, vegetarian curry and homemade french fries.)
Keep A Running Grocery List
Making a grocery list shouldn't be a chore that takes an hour of your time every week. Keep a running list on the fridge and hold everyone in your house accountable for contributing. Separate your grocery list by category, i.e. cleaning supplies, vegetables, pet supplies, etc. When something runs out or is close to empty, put it on the list. By the time you're ready to head to the store, the list should have completed itself.
Once a week is a great schedule for grocery shopping. It's tempting to make lots of smaller trips to the store, but those baby-sized trips add up. Commit to one trip a week with a goal of obtaining a week's worth of meals and neccessities. If you're going to make a second weekly trip, make it a larger event by visiting a farmer's market to get fresher produce or swinging by a specialty shop for more authentic salsa if you're going to go the taco route. (I told you — it's my favorite!)
As for when you make your trip, never shop on weekends. Everyone shops on weekends. If you want long lines at the cashier and limited selection of produce, pick the weekend.
Use The Buddy System
We tend to assume that grocery shopping falls on the shoulders of one person in any given household. Here's my pitch for you: consider grocery shopping to be a group effort. My boyfriend and I shop together every week. Shopping together allows both of us to participate in the act of filling up the fridge. Shopping together gives you an extra set of eyes in the store to catch stuff that might've been missed on a list. Shopping together takes the 'errand' out of the equation. It's actually our time during the week when we can hang out and focus on making a shared decision on our meals and, in the grand scheme of things, our health.
Take Advantage Of Online Shopping
If you're a person who likes to touch and see every item that goes into your cart, don't rule out online shopping quite yet. Online shopping is fantastic for nonperishable items that you regularly buy each month. I'm a huge fan of Amazon Prime, specifically their Amazon Pantry option. I keep a running list of items I will need to buy every month such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, cat food, etc. I pick one week to order my pantry box, and suddenly I no longer have to physically pick those items up in stores. By planning ahead and ordering the items you know you will need to purchase online, you will save yourself time in the stores and will be able to budget those items that you will always need.
I love food. My love of food has helped me to love grocery shopping. As much as I plan out menus and lists and budgets before I leave the house, I always keep my mind open to trying something new. It makes my trips more interesting, and it helps me to look forward to my meal prep.
To help keep my mind open, I keep the rule of 'every aisle gets one shot.' I walk down every aisle of the grocery store; it forces me to be meticulous with my shopping so that I don't backtrack or miss an item and also helps me to see items that I might be overlooking. I've discovered hominy by walking down an aisle that I typically just breeze past. Cheesy Hominy Casserole is now my favorite menu item! I also get out of the habit of grabbing the same brand names every week, and I seek substitutes (often times on the spot) to keep things interesting. For instance, I had a noodle dish on my menu, but the store was out of gluten-free spaghetti noodles. So, I grabbed thin rice noodles and decided to make homemade ramen instead.
Food is so beautiful. Just experiment and see what happens!
Erika Jenko is a playwright and theme park junkie trying to navigate the magical world of adulting. Also, a YouTuber and blogger at www.subwaymouse.com.