I primarily shopped at a Giant Food in the suburbs this week. I usually go to an Acme in the city, but I was out running errands with my boyfriend so we decided to just grocery shop where we were at the time. (Although I did buy one dessert at that Acme later in the week.) I’m a rewards member at both grocery stores and pay close attention to in-app coupons and points. I also love Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but neither is close enough to me right now. Next month I’m moving to an apartment very close to both, so that will certainly change!
What’s your grocery strategy?
I am not a vegetarian, but don’t enjoy cooking meat so my grocery shopping strategy generally revolves around the produce section. I pick out two or three vegetables I want to eat and that are ideally on sale. Then I walk around looking for a few pantry items like beans, pasta, or bread that make sense with those veggies, again ideally on sale. I also try to keep in mind what I already have in the fridge and how the new groceries I buy will work with those items.
Although it might sound like I’m just buying random groceries, allowing myself that kind of flexibility really reduces the chances of unnecessary spending, like buying “emergency” takeout because I can’t stand the thought of making whatever meal I carefully planned in advance. (I used to eat a lot of takeout for this very reason, but since I’ve changed my grocery shopping strategy I found myself ordering out a lot less.)
What sounds good to me can change in an instant and it’s important that my shopping reflects that. By shopping like this, I can pivot from meal to meal each day more easily because I’m not buying groceries for a specific recipe that I have no other use for. These days, I usually order takeout three times a month and eat out at a restaurant once a month, often less. I don’t factor these meals into my grocery budget; they are part of my “fun money” spending.
I don’t follow a structured meal plan because I know that I won’t be able to stick to it (this is based on years of failed attempts). Instead, I buy a week’s worth of groceries that sound good and mix and match them throughout the week. In my notes app I keep a list of the food I bought and add ideas of what to do with them as they pop up in my head. As I run out of ingredients towards the end of the week, I simply get more creative with my ideas. Sometimes by Friday my meals looks like they were made from a Chopped contestant’s basket, but it’s fun for me!
Sunday: Bagel with Cream Cheese, Plum, Instant Ramen, and a Truffle Bar
I live with my boyfriend of five years, but we usually buy our own groceries, as we rarely want the same food. He’s more of a meat-eater, while I don’t think meat cooked at home is ever good. So we go grocery shopping together, walk down aisles together, and check out separately. That being said there is no rule saying we can’t give each other food. Sunday morning exactly that happens when he surprises me with a sesame bagel with whipped cream cheese. In general I’m a “don’t toast a good bagel” kind of girl, but because this is a grocery-store-bakery bagel it’s OK that it’s lightly warmed. I’m also not a coffee person, so unless otherwise specified I’m constantly drinking a Gatorade squirt bottle full of either plain or flavored water.
I very rarely eat three meals a day on weekends because of an unfortunate busy/lazy combination, and this Sunday is no different. For lunch I have a plum from last week and another boyfriend freebie: one of his Diet Cokes.
I usually muster enough energy to make dinner on weekends, but I came home from grocery shopping at around 7:30 p.m., so I had nothing left in me. I grabbed the emergency roast chicken ramen I bought and ate that. For some context on my current attitude toward food, I’m moving halfway across the country in three weeks. Day after day is spent packing in 90-degree weather. I’m eating off of plastic plates and Pyrex because I was a bit too eager and already packed up my stoneware. So I’m really balancing my desire for everything I eat to be tasty, delicious, and exciting with my need to not do anything extra in the kitchen.
While budget is important to me, I love a little treat. Most often this is a floral kombucha or a floral plant-based yogurt. Today it is a Honey Mama’s. These are little truffle-like chocolate bars made primarily of honey and cacao. Genuinely delicious! The tangerine tahini version is the best I’ve had so far, but I still enjoy the salted almond as my Sunday night treat.
Monday: Yogurt, Chips, and Kale Pasta Salad
I start my day with what my boyfriend calls a “Homemade Chobani Flip,” which includes coconut-based yogurt, pumpkin seeds, mini chocolate chips, and dried apricots that I have on hand. For lunch, I snack on a pile of little chip things I was curious about made from sweet potato and plantain. They taste eerily like an old-fashioned donut.
Dinner is actual cooking! I make pasta salad with the whole-wheat rotini, lemons, and kale I bought. Besides the lemon, the dressing is made with all stuff I already have: vegan mayo, Parmesan, and Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Seasoning Blend. It’s pretty good, but I didn’t sauté nearly enough kale.
Tuesday: Yogurt, Leftover Pasta Salad, a Really Good Salad, and a Candy Bar
I have a Homemade Chobani Flip again, this time in an orange-shaped snack bowl in hopes of boosting morale. I eat leftover pasta salad from last night for lunch, but this time straight from the Pyrex.
My dinner is a really good salad: Kale massaged in olive oil, feta that I had in the fridge, chickpeas that I roasted until crispy, olives, and lemon juice. As good as it is I feel like something is missing — and that something is the cucumbers I bought Sunday. My boyfriend is out at a work dinner, and while this shouldn’t affect how I’m eating I believe it warrants a little treat. I have the Cadbury black forest cake-flavored dark chocolate bar I bought Sunday. It’s crunchier than I expected.
Wednesday: More Yogurt, Tuna Salad and Cucumbers, Chips, and an Eclair
I have another yogurt concoction for breakfast, and then a second bowl of it because it’s honestly a delicious combination of flavors. For lunch, I make use of the once-forgotten cucumbers and have them as little dippers alongside a tuna salad I make with various things I have on hand: tuna, vegan mayo, shallots, apple cider vinegar, capers, Parmesan, and too much yellow mustard.
I do a lot of sweaty packing today — probably too much. I end up feeling pretty nauseous, so I just have the rest of my sweet potato plantain chips for dinner. Later I have a miraculous second wind after I go on a walk with my boyfriend. To celebrate I buy us some grocery-store eclairs that are covered in at least three different types of sprinkles. I really enjoy mine.
Thursday: One Final Yogurt, Spicy Kale Caesar Salad, Cucumbers with Kimchi, and a Greek Pasta Bake
Today is my last morning of Homemade Chobani Flip. I have a big bowl of it dolled up with some chia seeds I have on hand. I’m really hungry today, so I have a two-part lunch: First is a spicy kale Caesar with the rest of Tuesday’s crispy chickpeas and a bunch of last week’s groceries: Caesar dressing, Parmesan, and Buffalo sauce. I am so happy with this salad. Then I have some of my cucumbers cut up and topped with a pile of kimchi I already have.
I decide to cook again for dinner so I freestyle a kind of Greek pasta bake. I boil the second half of my box of whole-wheat rotini from earlier in the week and then bake it with kale and the Greek-iest stuff I have on hand: feta, lemon juice, Kalamata olives, olive oil, and lots of dried oregano. It is very good; definitely an idea to repeat when I have feta again. Although I will say, once again I added nowhere near enough kale. I never properly account for how much the kale will shrink when cooked.
Friday: Cucumber and Olives, Carnitas, and Cheese Fries
I wake up super tired today so I don’t get around to eating anything until lunchtime. I just have some cut-up cucumber and Kalamata olives. Almost a salad.
Dinner is pre-planned takeout because we’re doing a farewell tour of our favorite takeout spots before we move. Today is tacos. I get carnitas with a creamy cilantro sauce (10/10 will miss them so much!). We also split an order of cheese fries because why not!
Saturday: Egg and Cheese Bagel, Veggie Dog, Kale Salad, and a Slice of Frozen Pizza
My boyfriend treats me to an egg and cheese bagel from our favorite breakfast truck. It’s the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had: omelette-style egg with the slice of cheese folded into it and perfectly steamed in the tin-foil wrapper.
We run a bunch of errands today, culminating in a trip to IKEA. I have a veggie dog that my boyfriend paid for since I paid for the household items we bought there. I really like the veggie dog, but I miss the hot mustard that used to come on top. (Now it comes with yellow mustard.)
I throw a salad together with the rest of my kale, Caesar dressing, Buffalo sauce, and Parmesan for dinner, and end the night with a piece of my boyfriend’s frozen supreme pizza dipped in Caesar dressing.