Archive | February 23, 2014

Grocery shopping for the busy family

Do you grocery shop every week?

For years I would tromp on down to the supermarket every weekend. It was a habit. One I thought you had to do. We all need to eat, don’t we? So every week we buy the food. And other assorted household stuff.

Grabbing staples, throwing a random selection of ingredients into the trolley. Buying veggies we “usually” use. Stopping at the butchers and buying different meat – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – to work out later what to cook.

In the morning: Chicken tonight? Yep. Take it out of the freezer.

After work: what shall we do with it? Stir fry? OK.

Even worse, the after-work-what-shall-we-cook conversation when nothing has been taken out of the freezer!

Come the weekend, back to the supermarket. Throw out the food going off. Restock the fridge.

After years of this, I hated the waste. Wasted food = wasted money. And the wasted time. So I changed to menu planning, working out what we would actually cook for dinner and buying for that. It cut out food waste significantly. And cut the stress of working out what to cook when we came home tired from work.

A few years into menu-plan shopping, I thought I would take a radical step: not go to the supermarket every week. I was bored with food shopping. I hated grocery shopping taking up a couple of hours of my weekend. Obviously not doing the weekly shopping could be done. Think of those who live in the country! Yet we do things out of habit, mindlessly, because we’ve always done it that way.

Now I spend half an hour working out with Mr Sans what we will cook for the fortnight. We are not strict; we just work out 12 or 13 meals – there’s always left-overs or a “catch-and-kill-yourself” night. (With two growing/grown-up sons at home, we always cook for left-overs so the boys can have food for lunch or snacks.)

Then I roughly plan each week’s menu – don’t want all chicken one week and all pasta the next! Normally the menu for the week is flexible. We swap the dinners around depending on the weather, our moods or if one of us is tired.

If we have evening functions we make sure we have a double meal (cook a double quantity so there is a meal ready to reheat). We also plan for the evenings when one of us isn’t available to cook. As we share the cooking equally but have different dinners we like and different cooking styles, we need to let the other know what night they definitely have to cook. “I’m out on Tuesday and won’t need dinner, so you have to cook.” “I’ll make the green curry then.” “Good, don’t like that one.”

After menu planning, I draw up the shopping list. Supermarket and butchers are visited once a fortnight. The green grocer I go to every weekend. That is why I divide the dinners into each week, so I buy the veggies for that week.

The benefits have been enormous: less stress, less waste, money saved. I have cut our grocery bill by hundreds. Fewer visits means throwing fewer “treats” into the trolley!

Now, my family would probably tell you I go even less than once a fortnight. Sometimes I go “on strike”. There’s food in our kitchen, so why shop? Eat the fruit in the bowl! Just because you don’t feel like an apple but want a banana doesn’t mean I have to go buy you one!

And teenage boys, well mine anyway, think if they have to do more than open a container and put it in the microwave, then there’s nothing in the house to eat. Tough, I say.

So what’s on the menu for the next fortnight?

Week 1
Sat – Mum and Dad are going out with friends for dinner, so readymade stir fry from the butcher’s with Hokkien noodles for sons to cook.
Sun – roast chook, gives some leftover meat for lunches. And I will roast extra veggies for vegetarian lasagne later in the week.
Mon – BBQ lamb kebabs and salad.
Tues – BBQ steaks, chips and salad. (We’re making the most of the end of summer. BBQs on the back verandah.)
Wed – two lasagnes – one beef and one vegetable. Lots of leftovers for lunches and snacks.
Thurs – Hokkien noodle pork stir-fry – double lot cooked for Friday.
Fri – left-over Hokkien noodles

Week 2
Sat – BBQ sausages (real meat ones) with salad.
Sun – Belgium chicken pasta.
Mon – Steak sandwiches. (We’re Aussies so these HAVE to come with tinned beetroot and fried onions!)
Tues – stirfry. Cook extra rice for fried rice later in week.
Wed – fried rice. Cook two lots.
Thur – fried rice.
Fri – leftovers / catch and kill your own.
Sat – roast macadamia and honey chicken roll.

So there you go. We love food and we eat well. A little menu planning and once a fortnight shopping saves time, money, stress and food waste.