Thursday, May 30, 2013

A New Grocery Shopping Routine

I have a couple of big factors when it comes to grocery shopping.

1. buy healthy food
2. shop within a budget
3. get food that everyone in the family will eat
4. shop in a way that minimizes waste.

This didn't seem so difficult, but honestly our grocery budget was creeping higher, as was our food waste each week. We always seemed to have plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, but I was always met with deep sighs when I suggested meals or snacks.

Something had to change!

A couple of months ago I inadvertently adopted a new way of grocery shopping, that has seemed to meet all of my criteria. Now this new method is not hugely dramatic, more of a subtle shift, but it has really made a big impact on the way we eat, our budget and our food waste. We are not buying LESS, but shopping and eating with a different focus.

In the past, like most families I would have a look at our pantry and take a few requests for evening meals, and make my menu plan for each week accordingly. Then off I would trot to the grocery store to buy whatever I needed for those meals.

What I eventually found was that I was buying items specifically for meals. There was invariably some of the item left over, and it would sit at the back of the fridge until it went bad.

I also found that despite my plans to use up leftovers for subsequent meals, the family would protest ... and so the leftovers would invariably sit until they wound up on the Food Waste Friday list.

All round not good :-(

So my big solution?! Bulk shopping for everything!


I buy all our pantry items in bulk, keeping them either in the freezer or in airtight canisters. This includes items like pasta (regular and gluten free), beans and pulses, flour and grains, and a few canned items like tomatoes and black olives. I replenish these as I need them, but it saves me buying small quantities each week, at a higher cost. I also found that when I use smaller packets, I have a tendency to prepare the entire bag, creating those leftovers that get wasted.

Our week to week shopping is now centered around perishables only, such as fruits and veggies, cheese, tofu, and dairy free milk (we drink rice and soy milk).  And our meals are then focused around these weekly perishables, rather than around recipes.

For example, in the past we would have burritos, with a package of tortilla wraps, a tub of guacamole and a jar of salsa. Now we have rice and beans, on a bed of spinach, with fresh avocado and tomato.

Before it would have been a specific bean chilli recipe, now it is more likely to be beans cooked in seasoned (homemade) pasta sauce, with roasted veggies and quinoa.

For me the difference is in focusing more on elements of a meal, rather than the meal itself. And, with all of those veggies it is healthier to boot. (When you buy spinach and romaine lettuce in 4 lb bags it takes a real commitment to make sure they get finished each week!)

We are now doing almost all of our shopping at Costco and our local health food store (we buy all of our grains, beans, nuts and flour from the bulk bins at our local health food market).

The photo at the top of the post is of our recent Costco shop, which is fairly typical (save the eggs, which we usually have delivered from a local farmer, along with our milk).

As I said, a subtle shift, but one that seems to be the right fit for our family!

How do you grocery shop? Daily, weekly, monthly? Do you focus on bulk, packet, or a combination of both? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!