The Grocery Store is a Minefield
Being overwhelmed, overworked, and overexcited for the last few weeks leading up to my wedding I have been neglecting my food blog. The family has still been eating quite well, but it been a lot of old favorites (turkey burgers) and basics (whole roasted chicken) that I could cook and serve with a minimum of stress or extraordinary effort. But now I am home, a married woman, relaxed and refreshed from a lovely honeymoon trip to the Dominican Republic. My first task was to restock the fridge and pantry for normal life, and looking at my receipt from the grocery store inspired me to write about how to stock your house to feed yourself and your family. This shopping trip was not one I would recommend anyone replicate exactly, but the reasoning behind these purchases is a philosophy that I have developed intuitively to allow me to cook great food without spending huge amounts of money and relying on very few processed items.
First things first, the grocery store is a minefield of overpriced, over processed, and pre packaged items that pound for pound often cost more than filet mignon. The layout of the store is such that it induces you to be drawn into a maze of these products only to spend lots of time and money on stuff that hardly counts as food. Almost everything that qualifies as real food is on the outside edge of the store, think about it: meat, dairy, and produce, are all on the outside edges of the store. I only wander into the middle part of the minefield for must have items; otherwise I don’t go up and down every aisle. I also try to avoid buying the ridiculously high priced deli and bakery items. Yes, I make exceptions: the really great French bread rolls for burger buns and imported sliced prosciutto at the Italian market to name a few. I will also head into the middle of the store for a few of my stepdaughters favorite school snacks that are perilously close to being overpriced, over processed, and pre packaged, but I read the labels and try to find the best of the lot, more on that later.
Now that you understand the basic plan of attack it’s time to shop. I love a store special, because frankly there are almost never coupons for meats, dairy or produce so the only way to get a price break on these items is to buy the store specials. Also the specials are often on the local items or what is in season so this is really what you should be buying. But be aware not all store specials are good buys, if your family doesn’t like it it’s not a bargain, also if the quality of the item is not good it’s not a bargain.
When I hit the aisles it’s about getting them most for the money but only if it’s going to taste great. So a splurge on great shrimp, prime beef or exotic cheese is not out of the question. In the next few articles I will expand on this grocery store shopping strategy section by section using my trip to the store this week as an outline. I am planning on including navigating the produce, dairy, and meat sections. As well as giving a guide to what staples should be in the pantry/freezer and the items that you really should get at a specialty store. I hope that these articles are more about making cooking easier than making grocery shopping more complicated.