I just got back from a short trip to Germany. I love how traveling to a different country gives me a fresh perspective on how I’m doing things here in the States.
Today I want to talk to you about meal planning and grocery shopping. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of meal planning. I like to sit down on Sunday night and plan out our meals for the week. Monday is my grocery shopping day, and I try to buy everything I’ll need in that one trip. It’s been a big time saver and has helped me manage how much I’m spending on groceries in a given week.
With that said, I got a chance to do things a little differently while I was in Germany last week and there were some things I liked about more frequent, quick shopping tips. Of course there were some pitfalls and I’ll be sure to point those out as well.
Sometime during the day we would decide what we wanted for dinner. With plenty of veggies and salads from the garden and a well stocked pantry, it was usually a matter of picking up some sort of meat and maybe a fresh loaf of bread. Since we were out and about most days, it was easy to pop into the grocery store to pick up 2 or 3 things on the way home.
Since we often didn’t know who would join us for dinner and when we’d end up going out to eat, it worked out really well. This could also be perfect during summer break when you’re not in your usual routine and traveling some days. Or when you have company over and play things a little more by ear than usual.
Let’s talk about what it takes to make this spontaneous day-to-day cooking work.
You’ll Need A Well Stocked Pantry
You don’t want to have to pick up a bunch of pantry staples or worry about what you’re fixing with your main dish. Having a garden to provide lots of fresh produce helps as well, but isn’t essential.
Make sure your pantry is stocked with rice, pasta, potatoes, flour, spices and anything else you may need. Having some canned tomatoes, canned veggies and the likes is helpful too. As we talk about recipes in the next section, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to keep your pantry stocked with. Make note of non-perishables and plan to stock up on what you need over the coming weeks.
You’ll Need A Few Simple Dishes / Recipes
Coming up with meals or dinner ideas on the fly while you’re out and about is so much easier when you have a couple of “go-to”dishes that you know by heart. Let’s stay one of them is Spaghetti with meat sauce. You know you’ll need the pasta, a jar of tomato sauce, some ground beef and parmesan cheese. Keep the pasta, sauce and cheese stocked. All you need from the store is some fresh ground beef and maybe a garlic bread, some fresh tomatoes or a head of lettuce to go with it.
Come up with a list of 4 or 5 simple dishes like that that you can shop for and cook without having to look them up. Make sure you have all pantry items you need to make them on hand.
You’ll Need To Be Flexible
Last but not least be prepared to be flexible. There will be times when you head to the store and they’ll be out of the one fresh ingredient you need. Or maybe you’ll find that a different cut or type of meat is on sale. For example, earlier this week I wanted to make barbecued pork chops and serve them with oven roasted potatoes. When I got to the store, boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale. I grabbed those instead and made rice instead of the potatoes. Having both rice and potatoes in the pantry and barbecue sauce in the fridge made it easy to switch things around.
Give this a try during busy summer days when you’re not quite sure when and if you’ll be home for dinner. Stock your pantry and stop at the store for anything fresh you need.
I do still have my regular shopping trip to stock up on pantry items, staples such as bread, milk, eggs and anything else we might need (toiletries, cleaning products etc.).
One note of warning when you give this a try. Make it a point to be quick and get just what you need at the store. Head to the meat counter to pick up your ground beef, grab a head of lettuce from the produce section and head back out. Don’t give into the temptation to grab a couple of extra things because they look good, or you might need them later on. Those extra purchases can make this whole daily meal planning an expensive proposition.