Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meal planning, grocery shopping, and food storage

Here's how we do it...

1.  The white board.  This is in our dining area, which is basically part of the kitchen.  We keep a running grocery list (on the right, where it says "ground coriander" in the photo), adding any staples as we run out.  Every Saturday, we look through the refrigerator and pantry and decide what we need/want to use up.  Then we ask Bean what he wants for dinners that week (it is currently always "falafel and dip").  Finally, The Beast and I (looking at calendars and needs) decide who is cooking what when and we put it on the list on the left side.  And, of course, we check the recipes and write on the white board what ingredients we need.  Then we double-check whether we have enough for lunches, and I also check in with Bean and make sure we have the ingredients for whatever we are baking together that week.

2.  Co-Op/Bulk Shopping.  We do much of our grocery shopping at the regular grocery store, simply because of our budget (we don't buy much organic).  But we buy a good amount of stuff in the co-op's bulk section in a separate shopping trip each week (our grocery store has a student discount on Saturdays that we take advantage of, and then I do a co-op trip on their member discount day).  I was initially using a ridiculous number of the plastic bags they have, and transferring it to jars when I got home (a total pain in the butt).  Then I snagged some bags on various things and was trailing beans, rice, etc. and I figured there had to be a better way. 

We started using canning jars and bringing them to the co-op.  One location of our co-op has a scale in the bulk section, so I could get the tare weight for my jars.  Another location had me go get the tare weight at the register before I filled the jars.  Now I have the weights memorized.

Anyway, when I go to the co-op, I make a list, and I put any jars I'll need in these wine bags - it keeps them from clanking around and threatening to break!  I mark them with a grease pencil,  but this is mostly just a habit rather than a necessary step.

When I fill the jars at the co-op, I write down the PLU on my paper list (I haven't memorized most of the PLUs yet...).  Most of the cashiers have me give them the PLUs verbally, but a couple have taken the list and entered it all on their own after asking for the tare weights.

3.  Storage.  We keep everything in the jars and store them on top of the kitchen cabinets.  We have a shortage of storage space in our house!  We keep "snacky" things (dried fruit, some nuts) in the tiny pantry, giving Bean access to it so he can get is own snacks.

That's basically all there is to it!  We end up with very little waste/packaging, which makes me happy because it feels less cluttered (we also take reusable grocery bags to the grocery store and co-op, so we don't usually have a stash of them overflowing).  Every now and then - when we have little stored in the freezer ready to go (beans, broths, etc) and are running low on bulk items, our drawers overflow with empty jars.  That's fairly rare, though.
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