I am a firm believer that a good grocery shop begins at home with just a bit of preparation. A little planning saves you time and money because you don’t have to take extra trips to the store and you aren’t as tempted to just order in when the day gets away from you!
Ask any organizer and they likely have different ways of setting up their kitchen, their grocery lists and doing their shopping, but don’t worry — there is no one right way. It’s about what works for each of us. And here is what works for me:
Know what you want. Meal planning makes grocery shopping — and five o’clock on a busy Wednesday afternoon — so much easier! Before you shop, make up a menu of dinners for the week by flipping through your cookbooks and/or online recipes for inspiration, and then note down what you need to buy. By writing out your menu for the week you have a clear plan. I find this helps keep me on the straight and narrow. If I see “Tuesday: Thai Chicken with side salad” and I know I have done my shopping accordingly, I am way more likely to have Thai Chicken and a side salad on my plate than any type of fast or frozen food.
Know what’s there. Let me warn you that you will be in for some ribbing from family and friends but this step will be worth it, honestly…label your fridge. I know, I know, it sounds a little over-the-top but it will change your life as a foodie! A few years ago I separated the sections on my fridge door into categories like “sweet stuff”, “dressings”, “condiments” and the shelves into “meats”, “fruits and veggies”, and “dairy”, etc., and it has made a huge difference in the amount of food I shop for and throw out. By having clearly marked sections (choose labels that have a laminate surface for better durability), I can quickly figure out what I need for my menu planning week — and when I really don’t need yet another bottle of salad dressing! Another bonus to labelling is that I don’t end up losing items in the back of my fridge when I know what I have purchased has a purpose and a place. Even better, my husband and kids can also easily locate and relocate food because every shelf is clearly marked.
Know what you need. Have you ever come home from the grocery store and realized you forgot to buy a particular item yet again?! Don’t leave your shopping to memory — write down what you need as soon as you realize you are running out of it. I keep a 4-by-6-inch pad of paper and a pen mounted on the side of my fridge with a magnetic clip. When I see I am getting low on something, I add it to my ongoing grocery list. It saves me riffling through the fridge right before I head out shopping or counting on my memory recall when in the meat aisle — and my family also knows that if they want more of their favourite cereal, they have to add it to the list. When I sit down to do my meal planning, I use this ongoing list and my recipe requirements to re-write my list according to my grocery store’s layout — so fruit and veg go at the top of the page, followed by bread, then cleaning products, etc. I find it is worth the few extra minutes to re-write the list so I am not criss-crossing the store.
These ideas are what works for me, but be sure to tailor your shopping experiences to what works for you. Maybe it is a pre-printed checklist of often-purchased ingredients, maybe it is making your meals on the weekend and popping them in the freezer — whatever it is, find out what works for you and stick to your plan. It will make Wednesday dinners (and all the others) so much easier
Heather Cameron is a mom of two and a professional home organizer and decorator with Edited Interiors. She believes that being organized isn't about being perfect but about finding what works perfectly for you.