Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grocery Shopping Tips and Tricks

While there are many vegans and vegetarians who enjoy cooking, there are just as many who do not. Sometimes the biggest challenge is in getting the right ingredients. I'll be honest, I used to hate grocery shopping. It always seemed like I was going back multiple times per week because I had forgotten something or because I didn't have the time to make the dishes I had wanted with the ingredients I had purchased. And that still happens, but I've come up with a number of techniques that have helped me make it less aggravating and time consuming. Here's a bit of advice. Feel free to share your own tips and tricks!

Make a List - This one seems obvious, but a lot of people still don't utilize this easy, simple tool. Whether you use a pen and paper or an app on your phone, I can't recommend making a list more than I already am. Furthermore, being detailed with your list is essential. If shopping is overwhelming for you, include notes next to each item like amounts, sizes, and types. Otherwise you run the risk of putting "tomatoes" on your list with the intent of using them in sauce, on sandwiches, and in a salad and when you get home you realize that you only got enough for one of your dishes. Catastrophe! Don't leave anything out, either. I always put down "snacks" and "lunches" so I remember to stock up on things like protein bars, Amy's burritos. I know that it helps me a lot because when I get to the grocery store I start fluttering around like a moth around a bright, shiny lightbulb. In other words, it helps keep me focused.

Write Down Your Menu - Even if you aren't a home chef or anything, I've found that it helps me immensely when I make a list of the dishes I plan to make for the week. I painted my pantry cabinet with chalkboard paint in order to do this! That way you can consult your menu and know right away what you have waiting to be made. If you're using cookbooks you're unfamiliar with, you should also note next to each menu item where the recipe can be found. Then you're ready and rearin' to go when you actually get back from the store!

Buy a Few Staple Items - Let's say your menu includes enough meals for your whole week. That's great! Very ambitious. I don't even do that. Regardless, I always have extra items that I don't have to labor over ready in the event that I have to work late or I need to do some errands or I just simply don't feel like cooking. By staples I mean items like pasta and sauce, frozen meat substitutes and vegetables, extra cans of your favorite beans, a few frozen dinners, and dried grains like rice and quinoa. My partner and I are also fond of Tasty Bite packages of rice and beans. We prepare them in the microwave as directed and pour them over rice I make in our rice cooker (sometimes seasoned with Indian spices to match). You can do this with cans of chili, too.

Have Some "Signature Dishes" - I've recommended this a few times in the past. Some people feel like if they make the same thing too much they'll get bored with cooking. I've found that having a few "signature dishes" makes it easier for me to make a grocery list in a pinch. There are some items that I don't even have to look at before putting the ingredients down on my list. Hopefully, it will become that easy. For me, I make tofu scramble, a nice lentil soup, kale and baked tofu, and tortilla pizzas these days. I used to make a veggie loaf out of chickpeas a couple times a month, and loaded baked potatoes are another great option! Even if it's pasta and sauce or fake meat and side vegetables, at least you'll have a better idea of what you need when you leave the house.

Eat Before You Leave - Never go grocery shopping while you're hungry! This is a no-brainer. If you're hungry you'll want to buy everything. You'll be less likely to buy impulse items or junk food. Sometimes, Chris and I make a social occasion out of a shopping trip. We start by eating lunch or dinner at home or at a restaurant and then go about purchasing the items on our list. It's actually pretty fun. You should try it!

And that will give you a great start. You can also make grocery shopping more enjoyable by trying out alternative venues. Austin has a lot of interesting places to shop at including:

So, yeah, I hope this helps make your grocery shopping trips easier or at least less overwhelming. Thanks for reading!

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