How about once a week shopping?

JulieJuly 1, 2001

Help, all of the trips I make to the grocery store are killing me. I have not mastered OAWC so maybe this is my problem. The challenge I have is that I never know when my traveling husband will be in town until Monday morning, and I have yet to try to freeze the things we eat for lunch (cold cuts, etc.). With this, it is as though I am always running to the store for something... any suggestions? Julie

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Actually, it sounds like you're on the right "track" for OAWC. I only shop for groceries once *per month*, and have milk/eggs delivered once per week. You could easily scale that down to shopping once per week, even without knowing when your hubby will be home. But it does take a little planning.

Pick a day (Sat., Sun. or Mon.)that will be your shopping day. Sit down the night before with a stack of cookbooks, and plan out 5 dinners (or 7, if you feel energetic), and make a grocery list *while you're planning). Don't worry if your hubby will be home or not - plan all dinners as if he's going to be there (you can always freeze the extras for lunches). Add lunch/breakfast items to the list as well. Then gather your coupons or whatever (the ones that apply to what's on your list - *no others*), and clip them to the list and put them *in your purse* so you can't forget/lose the list or coupons.

The next day, *eat breakfast* (never shop hungry!), and get to the store early. Stick to the list, get everything you need, and head home...don't browse the shelves for anything other than what's on the list. If you buy double what you need for just one week, you can "batch cook" and make double recipes every night for one week, freezing the extra and then you'll have a weeks worth of dinners stocked up in the freezer - *and* you won't need to go to the store, since dinners are already done and planned out! It doesn't take any longer than making a "normal" dinner, and will save you time later.

For a month, I don't really "meal plan" - rather, I buy enough meat, carbs, veggies and general cooking supplies to last a month, and then decide what to cook on a weekly basis (and I use only what I have in the house - if I don't have it, I substitute or leave it out, or put the ingredients on my next shopping list and wait to make that dish). This last Sat. was my monthly shopping trip (corresponding to my monthly paycheck, of course), and the night before I made my list, checked it against the pantry & freezer stocks, and got my shopping done in an hour and a half. Then when I made lunch for the dogs on Sun., I made enough to last the week and froze it all. I don't freeze my lunches, since it really takes no time to throw a sandwich together on my lunch hour. Grilled out Sun. night as a treat, but Mondays are my "cooking" nights, so I'll cook up a bunch of hamburger (the rest is in the freezer), and make 3-5 meals for the freezer. There are still three meals frozen, which will give me up to 8 meals total in the freezer, and I won't cook again until next Monday night (unless the "mood" strikes on the weekend). I'll only spend a total of 1 hour cooking tonight to get all that done - which isn't that much for not having to cook the rest of the week.

All this rambling to basically say, if you can get in the mindset to do once a week shopping, it will be just as easy to do once a week or batch cooking. Who knows, if you shop on the weekends, you may feel like just cooking most of it up that night...thinking,"Hmmm...well, I already have to make a tomato meat sauce for spaghetti tonight, I may as well just make a bunch and make extra spaghetti and a lasagna while I'm at it. Takes no more time (you were already cooking the meat sauce), and you have three meals done rather than one, which leaves only two more days of the week. The hardest part of that is looking in the cupboard or pantry and panicking because it looks like you have no food (I get that way towards the end of the month). But then you look in the freezer and realize you have more than enough - and don't have to do anything but heat it up. :-)

Good luck to you! :-)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2001 at 1:44PM
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I completely agree with Jamie's Post! Life is so much easier when you have a menu already planned.

I usually plan on Sunday (when the sale ads come) and pick 7-8 dinner ideas. I've got supplies on hand for quick easy dinners like spaghetti or soup and sandwiches. That way, when dinner time rolls around, we've got lots of options.

The leftovers usually become lunches, or get frozen for another night.

Freezing cold cuts might make things easier for you. You could freeze them in small batches and only thaw out what you need. That way, if your husband is out of town, you won't have tons of lunch meat that might spoil.

I'd say making a menu and freezing ahead are key. Go ahead and plan 2 weeks worth of meals as if you'd be eating together. Freeze what you don't eat, and then you'll have a freezer full of meals ready for thawing any night! It will give you some time to "coast" when your schedule is crazy.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2001 at 3:29PM
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I live on a farm and during busy times often don't get to town for a serious shopping session for a couple of weeks at a time. The only things I pick up at a tiny local store in between times are milk and sometimes fresh veggies when the garden isn't in season.

Half the battle, for me, is having the raw ingredients on hand to make a variety of dishes, the other half is being flexible about what I cook. I keep a pantry well stocked with canned goods and try to buy things like soups, mushrooms, beans & veggies, fruit etc. by the case when they are on sale. I do the same with dry goods like pasta, cereals, baking supplies. When I buy fresh produce, I think about how long it will keep. So for a few days after I've gone shopping we'll be eating a lot of short storage fruit & veggies like tomatoes, leaf lettuce, cucumnbers, fresh mushrooms, etc. For the next few days it will be green & red peppers, chinese cabbage, broccoli & cauliflower, etc. After that it will be celery, carrots, cabbage and others that will keep longer in the fridge crisper. Same with fresh fruit, I try to buy a variety so we eat most perishable ones quickly and the others as they ripen. I also have plenty of my own frozen/canned veggies on hand so it's easy to quickly cook some up to round out a meal.

I buy meat in bulk as much as possible, and when I get home I immediately divide it into portion sizes, wrap and freeze. Hamburger gets frozen in meal-size lumps, flattened so they will thaw quickly in the microwave when I need them. Things like chicken breasts or fish fillets get laid out on baking sheets, frozen overnight, then thrown in a heavy plastic freezer bag in the morning (don't worry, there will be no freezer burn in this short time). Bacon gets cooked, drained and frozen in bags or plastic containers so it can be zapped in the microwave for sandwiches, to crumble over a salad, etc.

When the kids were carrying school lunches, I often made up a couple of loaves worth of sandwiches, wrapped them individually and froze them. The frozen sandwich could be slipped into the lunch bag in the morning and would be thawed by dinnertime, keeping the rest of the lunch cool in the meantime. This is best done with sliced chicken or beef, cold cuts, ham, etc. Egg salad doesn't freeze well, neither do salad greens, onions, etc.

A lot of salads and side dishes can be made quickly from canned/frozen veggies. Things like canned string beans, asparagus, etc. can be chilled with a vinagrette dressing for a great salad. We also like moulded gelatines with things like grated carrot or cabbage, or canned fruit in them. These are really handy when you're running out of fresh produce.

Over the years I've built up a library of reliable, tasty recipes that we all like and can be made quickly and easily from common ingredients that I always keep on hand. So many current recipes call for exotic, unusual (and expensive!) ingredients and complicated cooking techniques that would have you dirty every container and applicance in the house to create one dinner and that's so unnecessary. I think it's important (partly because simple dishes tend to be the most healthy ones, and partly for the preservation of the cook's frazzled nerves) to keep most of the cooking as simple as possible. Save the occaisional gastronomic frenzy for the true occaisions rather than drive yourself crazy thinking you have to put a gourmet meal on the table every night. It sounds trite, but good old "meat, potatoes and a vegetable" is still a good general rule. Hope something here gives you some ideas you can use to make your shopping & cooking a bit more manageable. Corrie

    Bookmark   July 8, 2001 at 9:02AM
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