My Grocery List is Awesome

May 27th, 2019

I have been through various iterations of what some might call a “meal plan” for some time now. The basic concept of planning what food you will make in advance works well for me. It has been a process of constant change, however. The system itself has, just as all my other systems have, been constantly tweaked, adapted, and updated based on my changing needs and discoveries about myself.

I think the core element of the current version of the system is the grocery list. That is really where the rubber hits the road for me. I find cooking easy, fun, and straightforward but I am aware this is not a common circumstance and that many, many people find it scary, difficult, and confusing. So for me the moment when planning becomes reality is what I choose to put into my grocery cart.

This is the process I go through to generate that list. Each step is designed to make the entire process of consuming nutrients easier on me and my mental health.

First I select the recipes or dishes. And believe me this has been a journey by itself. What ingredients, what recipes, how much, all factor in. It’s much more an art than a science. I really hate throwing away wasted food and that has been part of the process of learning. I’ve also had to grudgingly come to the conclusion that whenever someone changes what they eat, there will be wasted food. It is simply inevitable.

Choosing what I’m going to eat this week is usually fun for me. I am looking forward to all the delicious things I’ll be consuming throughout the next seven days. This is also when I look at new recipes which is even more fun. Adding variety to my repertoire is awesome.

Second I go through each dish or recipe by ingredients. Anything I already have on hand I mentally check off, and anything I need to purchase I record on the grocery list. If I am uncertain about what goes into a dish, I reference the actual recipe and if I’m uncertain whether or not I have an ingredient on hand I go and check.

This stage is all about memory. I do not rely on memory to ensure that what I need gets purchased. A lapse in that memory can be badly disruptive to my process and thereby my whole week. And the freedom to relax and not work hard to remember the entire list of ingredients in every single thing I want to cook is awesome.

Third I go over in my head the staples that I keep on hand. This is the only part that doesn’t have an official list of its own. For the others I have lists (recipes I like and their ingredient lists) to look at but not for staples and this means that this part of the process is less efficient and takes more time and effort. I’ve considered making up a “staples” list to reference but have somewhat been waiting to settle on a definitive way of eating before I do that.

And this stage is the hardest on my mental health because I have to rely too heavily on things I’m not good at. I am good at writing lists. I am terrible at remembering how much of any given staple food item is left or if I do, whether that amount will be sufficient to last the week. When I create a “have on hand” list with amount (such as three cans of ___) listed, it will be awesome.

The fourth step my husband does, but it’s so brilliant that I have picked it up when I shop alone. Separating the list into categories, and, this is the best part, in the order they are displayed in the store. For example the first section in most grocery stores is produce. So the first section of our list is produce. As you progress down the list you are essentially tracing our natural route through the grocery store. No backtracking and fighting the current of shoppers. This means that on a good day we can do a grocery shopping trip for the entire week in ten minutes.

And spending only ten minutes in a grocery store is awesome!

For ingredients I have to purchase elsewhere than our usual grocery store, I write those lists in a reminder which is set to fire when I know I will be out. This could also be done more effectively with location reminders but I’ve struggled to get those consistent.

And that’s it, that’s the process. It involves sitting down and making a bunch of decisions all at once, but they are scheduled into my week and they are batched which can make them easier. After that, I have no decisions to make whatsoever. This can also help with curbing impulse purchases. If I want a treat, I put it on the list. I find that building in these indulgences means I will be less likely to crack and go bananas on something on impulse.

What’s your relationship with your grocery list?