If you think about it, becoming a smart shopper is easy if you follow the one important golden rule: Buy your food at the grocery store, but do your shopping at home. This simply means you make all of your shopping decisions before you go to the grocery store, at the kitchen table, where your primary tool is the shopping list. Cooking from the Pantry allows you to control how much you spend on your groceries
In order to prepare your shopping list, your first plan of action, is to plan what you are making for dinner in the upcoming week. If you are really feeling ambitious, you can meal plan out two weeks, even a month if time allows. Gather your recipes together and check the ingredients in the recipes against what you have in your pantry and write down only what you need. Be precise. Some recipes hinge on one simple ingredient. This is even easier if you have an organized pantry. Next, check the staples in the house: milk, juice, eggs, butter or margarine, oil, peanut butter, and so on.
When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, simply wait until you get to the grocery store to see what looks plentiful, but make a few notes on what vegetables will be a great addition to your main entree. Grocery stores will always tell you ahead of time in the weekly sale ad what fruits and vegetables are on sale. Jot down what those produce items are along the side of your list. Then once your in the produce department, make your decision. Sometimes, even though fresh vegetables are on sale, I find that I can get a better deal and save more money if I buy the frozen vegetables. Packaged and prepared food coupons are a dime a dozen, but unfortunately, rarely are there coupons for fresh, whole foods.
I always try to do my shopping during the off-hours–early in the morning or late at night. Some say it’s great to go shopping on Sunday while everyone’s at church. Remember, once in the grocery store, buy only the items that are on your shopping list. By letting yourself slowly drift through the aisles, you’ll wind up with a shopping cart full of food but nothing to eat that completes your meals that you’ve planned or unhealthy items you simply could do without. If you’ve actually really paid attention to your grocery store, you’ll carefully see that the items on the shelves are organized to separate you from your money. A good example~look how the meat and dairy departments are “deviously” sectioned in the back of the grocery store, forcing you to weed your way through most of the store before you find what you’re looking for.
To tackle the grocery store, you must move through the aisles quickly, list in hand, checking off items as you place them in your shopping cart. Remember your mission–Save Money. As a busy mom, you don’t have the time to spend ruminating over chunk light versus solid white tuna. If you’re in line at the check-stand (thumbing through the People magazine) within 15 minutes or less, you know you’ve done some professional quality shopping. I know what you’re thinking…it can be done.
One last final tip–Get to know your butcher in the meat and seafood department and the produce manager, so you don’t feel reluctant to ask them questions. I find these people are great resources on choosing the right ingredients as well as cooking with them. And don’t be afraid to ask the butcher to cut the meat into the portions you need; you will find most often, they are happy to do it.