- Figure out your week - this might seem like a weird first step in grocery shopping, but it's an incredibly important part of meal planning as I learned during my show. The amount of prep time you have each day/night to cook is really going to dictate what your menu looks like. When I was rehearsing and performing in my show I relied heavily on my crockpot. Now that the show is over I've got more time at home to prepare meals. You want to determine when you and your family members are going to be home, any activities you have planned or any dinners out you may have scheduled.
- Scope out your kitchen - get a sense for what's in your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards. This will help when you're going through the recipes and determining what you need to pick up at the store(s). Are you out of basics (milk, flour, frozen fruits/veggies etc.)? This is a good time to figure it out.
- Get out your cookbooks - or recipe cards or start surfing the net and figure out which recipes you are going to make. This is going to help you figure out what you need at the store and it also helps to keep things interesting throughout the week. Are you going to stick to old favourites? Or try something new? It also helps me to figure out if I'm going to have enough leftovers for lunch so I'll know if I'll need to plan to make a soup or something else to fill the void. I usually do this on Sunday morning while I'm eating breakfast. I pull out my cookbooks and start reading!
- Write it out - I usually start with an 8.5x11 sheet of recycled scrap paper and fold it in half. On one side I write Sunday - Saturday and on the other side I have my grocery list. As I decide which recipes I'm going to make I write them in under the chosen day (sometimes the days I make things change, but I generally try to stick to the plan) I then write in the items that I'm going to need on the other side of the piece of paper. I usually list them by type of item - fruit/veg, protein, liquid or dry goods/pantry - so they're easier to find on my list when I'm in that section of the store.
- Head out - I make three stops when I do the grocery shopping. This may seem like a lot, but the three stores cover my needs and allow me to get the best deals possible.
- Bulk Store - We have a cute little bulk/health food store very close to our house and I love it! Here I pick up herbs & spices, cereal for Joey (he likes to make his own "raisin bran" with bran flakes and raisins - it's incredibly cost effective), stuff for baking, dried beans, brown rice pasta, nuts, canned goods and larabars ($1.69 each which is the cheapest I've seen in Toronto so far) They also have a great selection of teas and nut butters and today I actually bought tofu there because it was cheap!
- Health Food Store - I feel so lucky to live so close to The Big Carrot, because I love it there! Here I get bread, meat, dry goods, soy & almond milk, oils & sauces and sometimes fruit and veggies. They also have a wonderful take away counter where they make amazing vegetarian food and list all the ingredients.
- Fruit & Veggie Stand - I try to buy organic as much as possible and I love one particular fruit & veggie place near me because they often have tonnes of organics and local produce for low, low prices! The price of their regular produce is amazing and the quality is great. Today I got cauliflower, 2 pints of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, 3 green peppers, 1 red pepper, celery, zucchini, asparagus, and 5 lemons for $19.06 and about 40% was organic.
After I stop everywhere I need, I head home and put it all away. It's quite a task, but I always feel very accomplished when I'm done, and I know that I won't be halfway through making a recipe one night and realize that I don't have a particular item.
Do you have any tips for meal planning and/or grocery shopping?