IMG_0889(This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post.  I just think it’s really funny and needed a photo to put at the top, so this is it.  It’s from our rehearsal, obviously, and it’s a very “Beth and Brad” photo.  I’m a crazed mess and he is calm and collected.  It’s why we work so well.)

Quite frequently I get asked questions regarding how I plan meals.  How often do I go to the grocery store?  What day do I go to the grocery store?  Do I plan meals in advance?  How many meals do I plan at a time?  How do I decide what meals to make?  Do I have a budget?

You know… questions like that.  But when I give them my answer I always expect them to say “oh yea, that’s how I do it” or “yea, I go to the grocery store on that day too” or  “I definitely plan my meals ahead”.  But apparently, I surprise people with my answers.  And, in turn, that surprises me.  I pretty much just assumed I used a system that everyone uses but I guess that’s not really the case.  So… I figured I might as well write a post about it.

Now, I TRY to only go to the grocery store once a week.  It usually ends up being twice a week though.  There’s always a last minute thing I need that I forgot or something like I couldn’t buy salmon on a Sunday and eat it on Thursday or most likely it’ll have something to do with Saturday night dinners.  While grocery stores are definitely on my way home from work, I try to avoid doing pretty much anything after work.  Mostly because I just really like to get home as soon as I am done working.  That being said… I do end up doing my major grocery trip on Mondays more than I would prefer.  But really, I prefer to do it on Sunday mornings.  I like to go on Sunday mornings for a few reasons.  The main one is that it’s soooo much less crowded.  I hate going to busy grocery stores and having to wait in lines.  It’s the worst.  But another reason why I like to go on Sundays is because Brad has the opportunity to go with me.  I very much get into a zone when I am at the store, I have a list prepared and I am pretty much on a mission.  So he usually ends up just following me with the cart.  However, I enjoy his company and I think it’s fun to do together.  It’s also really nice to have someone there to give me an opinion rather than me asking myself and debating out loud while other fellow shoppers wonder if I have split personality disorder.  (Sadly- I really do talk to myself like that)  There are weeks of course that I have to go on Mondays.  Which sucks, but whatever.  I stop on my way home from work, in my dirty icing and paint covered pants, my hair a mess and glitter all over every inch of my body.  It’s a lovely sight.

The grocery store I go to most often is Kroger.  Kroger and Publix are the main grocery stores down here.  I like Publix (they have fresh pizza dough that I buy all.the.time.) however, I believe they are expensive.  With my Kroger card, I save anywhere from $5-$20 in one trip.  But also, I use the fuel points to get gas in my car (hello extra 10 cents a gallon!).  We have really nice Krogers down here anyway.  Especially in our town.  We literally have the nicest Krogers I’ve been in.  And they have a really great “natural food” section, which we have discovered has a lot of the same stuff as Whole Foods, only muuuuuch cheaper.

Another store I shop at is actually Costco.  Oh and Sam’s Club too.  I absolutely LOVE buying in bulk.  Since we do live a little further out, it’s really not fun if you realize you forgot to buy a can of chicken broth or if you decide you need another can of beans in that chili or need some rice for the sick dog (yea, that happened this week).  We are really lucky and have a huge garage that has a  little cut out/extra room deal that was meant to be a pantry.  It’s nice and cool down there and the heavy duty shelves we had in Indy fit perfectly.  It’s literally like a mini grocery store down there and I love it.  I do have lots of things I’d like to add down there, but that will all happen eventually.  Here’s a list of things that I buy in bulk and have found to be extremely handy:
Chicken Broth
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Canned Tomato Paste
Canned Tomato Sauce
Brown Rice
Quinoa
Oatmeal (always old fashioned rolled oats, never the quick ones.  You can do so much more with them)
Canned Beans (any kind Costco has, I grab)
Canned Corn
Rotel
Canned Fruit
Canned Green Beans
Ramen Noodles (I have an asian noodle recipe that I absolutely adore that uses just the noodles)
Salsa (Both a kind to eat with chips and Pace Salsa to cook with)
Ketchup
Peanut Butter
Potatoes
Onions
Spices (right now I just have cinnamon, chili powder and peppercorn, but I would eventually like to have many many more)
Cholula Hot Sauce
A1 sauce
Kosher Salt
An extra bag of dog food (it’s always a good idea to have this, especially if there is some horrible weather that will leave you stranded at home for a few days.  Can’t forget about the furry kids!)

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Obviously, that’s not all on the shelves right now.  But most of that was at one point.  You can’t buy all of that at once or you’ll end up spending $1,000 real quick.  But it’s good stuff to eventually have on hand.

In addition to our basement pantry, I like to buy freezer items.  Since my last trip to Costco was at least a month ago, we’ve eaten a lot that I had in there, so the photo below is a horrible example.  But I’ll tell you what was once in there:
Ground Beef
Chicken Breasts
Frozen Mixed Veggies (perfect for a quick soup or just a plain side dish)
Mixed Stir Fry Veggies (it almost feels silly to use the fresh vegetables now in stir fry just because the frozen mix is soooo much easier)

Items that are not purchased in bulk but I like to have in there anyway:
Hash Browns of some sort
Ice Cream (no explanation needed)
Margaritas (again, no explanation needed)
Sometimes I have frozen fish, like tilapia or cod.  Just for something quick to make.
Mojito Cheaters (this is a really good one.  In an ice cube tray squeeze a bunch of fresh lime juice and tear up maybe 7-10 mint leaves.  Top off with water freeze and then put in a freezer ziploc bag.  These are really good to put in your water when you want some flavor and always good to put in some rum, soda water and a little sugar for a SUPER easy mojito!)
Currently I have a few frozen burritos in there that I made a few weeks ago out of Mexican rice, salsa, beans and a little cheese.  They are awesome for lunches!
I also like to make frozen breakfast burritos or breakfast sandwiches.  Usually made with eggs, cheese and sausage.  I love having frozen breakfast stuff… makes the mornings sooo much easier.

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Hmmm I think that’s it for the freezer.  But it’s all basically things that are really nice to have in case you need a last minute meal… and then some extras.  I really love being so prepared!  It just makes life so much easier!  And!  It makes grocery store trips so much less expensive!  I’ve never actually calculated out how much money we save by buying things in bulk, but we have to save SOME money, right?

Ok- so now you know where I like to shop and what I like to keep in the house.  Next up- planning the meals!

I do this pretty much every Sunday morning.  I get up, eat some breakfast and sit on the couch and get to work.  Every single week, before I start researching, I ask Brad “is there anything you really want for dinner this week?”.  Sometimes he can list off 4 meals, sometimes he lists off zero.  But that is always my first priority.  Gotta keep my man’s belly happy!  Once he gives me his input, I think about if there is anything I really want for dinner that week.  Then I decide if this is a week we need a good amount of leftovers or not (the bank account decides that) and then once I determine what types of meals I need to make (lots of leftovers or not lots of leftovers, Brad’s picks and my picks) I start researching recipes.  I usually check on the food blogs that I follow and see if they have done anything super interesting that week, and then I head over to Pinterest to look at my “Dinner” board.  It’s hard for me to tell you exactly what I do because well, 1) I don’t really pay attention and 2) it varies.  But for the most part, that’s what I do.  I write all the days down on our new super cool chalkboard wall in our kitchen and start planning what meal is on what day.  Once all of that is figured out, then I make my grocery list!

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My grocery list is laid out how my mom used to do it.  I think anyway.  It’s laid out sort of in order of how the store is laid out.  In the top left corner is all the fresh produce because that’s always where you go in first.  Then below that is deli stuff, like deli cheese, deli meat, fancier mozzarella (not in block form)… stuff like that.  Then, right below that is meat… chicken, beef, bacon, breakfast sausage… all of it.  Then in the bottom left corner is all your “in the middle of the grocery store” stuff.  Like canned stuff, cereals, crackers, seasonings, baking stuff… you get what I’m saying.  I try to keep that part of the list super small since they say you should shop on the perimeter of the store for healthier food.  In the top right corner is dairy and other refrigerated stuff, like milk, eggs, sour cream, rolls of biscuits, block cheese…. And then lastly, in the bottom right corner is freezer stuff.  I think that’s pretty straight forward.

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I have always made my grocery list that way and always will.  And I have always planned my meals that way and again, always will.  I’ve never been a fan of having to go day to day trying to figure out what to eat for dinner and then having to go to the store everyday.  It’s not my thing.  I am such a homebody that I really just want to be home as much as possible.  And too- while I do love to go to the grocery store, I just don’t love it enough to go multiple times a week.   Plus, it makes life so much easier and a little less stressful if you are prepared for the week.  Anything can come up at any point of the day and it’s nice to know that at least you have everything you need and know exactly what you are making for dinner that night.  Sometimes we change stuff, sometimes we don’t follow the plan, but I think 90% of the time we do.  I mean, geez, I put so much effort into it, might as well!

I don’t know if this has been helpful at all for anyone, maybe it’s at least been an interesting read.  Now you don’t have to spend your days wondering how I do all of this because I am sure you were so worried.  But, whatever.  It’s interesting and really… I just get asked so much that I figure it’s going to be on SOMEONE’S mind!  So… that’s that.  Hopefully next week I’ll have some actual food to post about.  Who knows though… I haven’t made my list yet!  Ha.  Ok- I’m done.

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