Meal Planning, Grocery Store Trips, and Food Storage

So I’ve been talking a lot the past few days about our trips to farmer’s markets and butcher shops and what not. What I haven’t covered, is what types of things we buy, and how we shop.

Meal Planning

Our shopping is a weekly collaboration between Sean and me. We do the bulk of our shopping on one day (this day has just been moved to Thursday instead of Tuesday because of the farmer’s market). A day or two before we go shopping, we sit down with a big white board and we decide what we want to eat for lunches and dinners for the entire week.

Here’s our dinners for the week (remember, we just switched our shopping days, so this week has some extra days):

Tuesday: Leftover Cheesy Potato Soup for Sean, Lefotover Tomato Soup for me, and Salad for both of us

Wednesday: Flank Steak for Sean, Cali Style Quinoa for me, and Corn

Thursday: Burritos (bean and cheese for me, add ground beef for him)

Friday: Pasta w/ Marinara Meat Sauce (I will put my sauce on my noodles separately)

Saturday: Bollilo Roll Sandwiches with Homemade Potato Chips

Sunday: Burgers (Boca Burger for me) with Watermelon Corn

Monday: Homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Tuesday: Tacos for Sean, Quinoa Patties for me

Wednesday: Spinach Quiche (this is a new recipe for us, so our ‘backup dinner’ is some Spaghetti-Os we still have lying around)

We try to make at least one new dish or try one new food every week. This week we’re only doing one because the last couple weeks we’ve tried 2-3 new things.

As you can see, because we often have to make two different things, or substitute something out for me, we end up cooking a lot. The nice thing is that we usually have lots of leftovers for lunches, or if we’re working late and don’t have time/energy to cook.

Grocery Shopping

So, from this list, I go to our cookbook. I compiled a bunch of recipes for stuff we will eat in a binder with clear plastic protector sheets. I go down the ingredients list for each of the recipes we will be making (Sean doesn’t need recipes most of the time, so this is mainly for me), and add anything we don’t have, or don’t have enough of, to a master grocery list. From there, I break it down into several columns. Farmer’s Market, Jon’s, Albertson’s, Bree’s Meats, and Whole Foods/Sprouts. We don’t always have to go to all of these places!

We go to the farmer’s market for any and all produce and eggs. Anything I couldn’t pick up there gets moved to the Jon’s list. Same thing for Jon’s. While we prefer to shop there because their prices are so much cheaper than Albertson’s, they are a smaller grocery store and simply don’t carry everything we need (read: Sean’s weekly bag of chips, milk in cartons instead of plastic, and frozen berries). Bree’s Meats is obviously our meat source. We don’t buy lunchmeat or cheese from them (although they do have it) because it is all the exact same stuff that Jon’s sells, but a little more pricey. We typically only go to Whole Foods and/or Sprouts every other week or so, and we only buy a couple of things there. Bulk quinoa, bulk dry cereal (puffed rice = riced krispies), bulk spices, bulk castile soap, etc. This week, we only went there for quinoa, and I’m having the last of the Eggo waffles and some eggs for breakfast this week (Sean’s finishing up the last box of his Frosted Flakes), so next week we will need to make a trip to Sprouts for cereal.

Ok, now for the HOW.

We have a wicker basket, a large plastic reusable tote, four smaller cloth totes, 12 mesh produce bags with drawstrings, and 8 gallon-sized reusable produce ziplocs. We also have a couple of tupperware that we bring (with good lids).

When we go to the farmer’s market, we bring the wicker basket and the mesh produce bags. Every type of fruit or veggie gets its own mesh bag, and we carry them all around in the wicker basket.

At Jon’s, we bring in the remainder of the mesh bags in case there was anything we couldn’t get at the farmer’s market (this week, grapes, watermelon, and bell peppers). We also bring the large plastic reusable tote, and a couple of the smaller cloth totes, since this is the place where we typically do the bulk of our shopping. This is also where we bring the tupperware – for deli meats and cheeses. This eliminates the need for them to use the paper and plastic wrappings for these, and they simply stick the sticker with the price and barcode right on the top of the tupperware lid. Whole wheat bollilo rolls go right into one of the ziploc bags.

At Albertson’s, we usually just bring in one cloth tote for the couple things we need.

Because Bree’s Meats is a small family-owned business, they actually seemed sort of pelased when we asked if we could bring our own containers in. While we haven’t actually done it yet, we will probably be bringing some type of large jar or tupperware to collect our meat. (Note: Tupperware is not freezer safe. Your food will get frost bite.) We haven’t entirely figured out the logistics of this one yet, but we’ll let you know when we do.

For Whole Foods and Sprouts, we use the ziplocs. Normally, you use the same type of plastic bags that you usually use for produce at a grocery store, for all of the bulk items. We’ve tried bringing our own jars or containers to these stores, but Sprouts has no way to tare the jars, and Whole Foods can only tare up to .32 pounds – anything heavier, they can’t do. So we use the ziplocs to transport things from the store to home, where to transfer the stuff to jars or stainless steel containers.

Food Storage

Once we get everything home, the produce gets unloaded and stored in (respectively) in the fruit and veggie drawers (except bananas and avocados stay on the counter, and grapes stay on a shelf in the fridge). Apples stay in their mesh bags (we buy two different kinds, so this helps us tell them apart). “Piggy veggies” get cut up and stored in tupperwares in the upstairs mini fridge for daily guinea pig snacks (We usually buy romaine, dandelion, parsley or cilantro, and red bell peppers for the guinea pigs, and occasionally give carrots, carrot greens, apples, or tangerines as treats). Meats get separated into single serving sizes (since Sean is the only one who eats it) and stored in mason jars in the freezer. The bollilo rolls we love so much for sandwiches stay in their ziploc produce bag, in the fridge. Any bulk items (sprouted quinoa, beans, rice, etc) get transferred to mason jars in the pantry.

When I cook bulk amounts of stuff, like quinoa or beans, I keep a tupperware or jar of it in the fridge for meals for the next couple days to a week, and freeze the rest in the freezer. It doesn’t affect the taste, and I don’t have to keep cooking small batches of it any time I want some (this is especially important with the beans, because you have to soak them overnight before you can even cook them!).

Leftovers are typically stored in tupperware in the fridge (again, unless we want to keep it for another week or longer, then it goes in single-serving jars in the freezer).

We try to buy things like butter and ground beef when they’re on sale. They keep in the freezer, and you can just defrost as you need them.

We try not to buy canned goods anymore. Spaghetti-Os and canned raviolis and stuff used to be a staple for us (not to mention the huge amount of canned corn, green beans, and tuna his parents left us when they moved out!). We’ve been trying to use up our stocks of these things, and we aren’t replacing them (although occasionally I will cave and get Sean a couple cans of Spaghetti-Os for days when he’s called in early to work, and needs something he doesn’t need to worry about refrigerating). Sean doesn’t like the green beans or tuna, so we aren’t really sure what to do with them. We’ll probably donate them to a local church or food drive or something. The corn we’ve slowly been working through. Each week, we inevitably have at least one side of corn with dinner (this week, we have 2). Canned corn is just not the same as real corn, though, so we usually trade off using a can one meal, and the next time we buy fresh corn on the cob.

Lunches

Lunches for Sean usually consist of a sandwich (turkey and cheese on a whole wheat bollilo roll), an apple, carrots (actual carrots, not the baby ones!), chips (I’m trying so hard to wean him off!), and a treat of some kind (usually homemade cookies or cornbread muffins). This week, he also has grapes.

For me, I usually have a sandwich (avocado, cucumber, tomato, mozzarella on a whole wheat bollilo with a little balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the bread), an apple, a banana, a tangerine or cutie, and Wheat Thins (one of the better crackers out there for you, but I still ONLY eat ONE serving – 16 crackers!).

Breakfast

Breakfast in our house is usually rushed as we get ready for work… It’s usually just a bowl of cereal. No, really. I’ve been trying to make healthier choices with the cereal (switching to plain Cheerios and Rice Krispies and things like that), but with Sean it’s nearly impossible. He’d much rather eat whatever sugary stuff is on sale. Once he’s out of Frosted Flakes, though, its puffed rice for us (although he’ll probably just add sugar -_-;). I almost made the mistake this week of buying Honey Nut Cheerios because they were on sale. Then I looked at the ingredient list. First ingredient: whole wheat oats! Awesome! Next 4 ingredients: some type of sugar. Sorry, you lose. Also, doesn’t fall under our 5-ingredient rule. That’s why this week I’m finishing up the Eggo waffles, and eating eggs.

If you have any questions about how we do stuff, how to implement some of these ideas in your world, or anything else for that matter, leave a comment! Or, if you want to tell me how you do stuff, have any ideas on how I could improve my system, etc, I love feedback!

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About elizabethanne

I'm 22, living in Southern California, and trying to figure out this crazy thing called life.
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