Sunday, March 30, 2014

Plan Your Groceries For a Week's Worth of Dinners...

Every Sunday I would sit down with supermarket flyers and plan out my grocery list for the week.

There would be mainly two trips- one foremost to an Asian supermarket and the second to a Canadian chain such as Loblaws or No Frills. I would scour the sales and deals before deciding on one local store from each to visit. I would also open all my cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer to see what needs stocking up, and what needs to be used before expiry so I could plan for complementary recipe items to purchase. It's good to check on seasoning and spices too because often than not when I assumed I had something as simple and always available such as canola oil or ground white pepper, they were actually close to depletion. A good tip is to have a magnetic writing board on your fridge or a running list you can easily access to jot those ingredients down right when you discover things are getting low. I would generally get a sense of what I want to make for two or three nights then let the rest of the week's meals pick up from each other be it leftovers or extra ingredients such as fresh herbs or Chinese greens that are more delicate and should be used in the next few nights.

I often get inspired during my visits, so menu ideas are created along the way. If you know the general lay-out of your store, you can create your list in the order of your browsing to make shopping faster. Otherwise, this is a great template to quickly see what your week's menu looks like so far and to organize your items by categories so you don't forget something that's way back at the other end of the store. In an Asian supermarket, Bread/Cereal becomes Bread/Noodles and Misc. becomes Misc./Dried Goods.

On Monday mornings after dropping off the older kids to school and my husband to work, my youngest and I would head over to the Asian grocers to do most of the "heavy-lifting" on the list since you save so much more money that way- especially on produce, meats and seafood, but more importantly you tend to make healthier choices and cook from scratch since there's a lot less processed foods. If a particular meat is on sale I buy more than I need for the meal and portion the rest out to freeze. Typically, mid-week is when I visit a Canadian store and pick up everything else on my list that either cannot be found at the former or it's cheaper or they are non-Asian condiments. I also like to leave all my canned goods such as tomatoes, tuna and soup for the latter because you get a much wider brand and flavour selection.

Weekend meals are more flexible due to my kids activities, or we go to my parents or eat out. But planning ahead doesn't hurt in case you are cooking and for whatever reason just can't get to the store, you'll have things in-house to come up with something meal-worthy.

And most importantly, never go grocery shopping hungry... you'll end up spending more than you bargained for....

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