Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weekly shopping and a menu plan

I received a question from a reader asking me about my typical weekly shopping list and how I plan in such a way that just the right amount of food is bought.

I don't think there's such a thing as a "typical" week in our household, because the situation is dynamic and changing constantly - for example during the last month, when my husband and I had to spend quite a lot of time away from home, it naturally meant we needed to take that into consideration and buy less food so that it wouldn't be wasted. Of course there are the few basic items such as bread, milk, eggs, and challah and wine for Shabbat, but overall I have to make a new plan for every week ahead.

My husband normally does the shopping (it's easier and cheaper if he does it on his way from work, than if I do it in the little - and very expensive - store in our area) on Thursday night, and during the day I write a shopping list and email it to my husband. In order to do that effectively, I think of what I would like to cook for Shabbat and during the week (even though Shabbat leftovers usually take us at least until Tuesday). I also check out the supplies I have at home and see what is running low, and plan accordingly.

My husband might buy something that isn't on the list if there's a very good deal for it. Also, with the prices of basic foods, even such as rice and grains, soaring throughout the world, we recently began stockpiling and bought a large amount of different products that can be stored for a long time (such as rice, beans, some canned food). It will carry us through at least a few months of not having to buy those, plus it will save us time because it's more convenient to buy and store a large amount at once than do it bit by bit every time I need a jar of canned peas.

For more information on stockpiling, check out this excellent post by Rhonda Jean, and also this post .

If you want to buy the right amount of food - not too much so it won't go to waste, and not too little so you won't have to run to the store several times a week - the best way I can think of doing it would be to plan a detailed menu and think, realistically, of what you will serve and what and how much every member of your family might eat. It will save you a lot of money and headache in the long run. It's not too bad to learn from mistakes, either - when you see that, for example, you ran out of milk early in the week, you might want to take a note to buy more milk next time.

It's also very important to see what you already have. An unorganized storage system when you don't know what goes where might eventually cost you money, like it happened to me last week when I forgot I already have cucumbers and bought some more. This sad story ended in throwing away a pile of cucumbers that went bad - a lesson for me to be more organized.


Catherine R. said...

Anna, when you write about your marriage you sound like you've been married for 20 years! It's hard to believe you've been married for 2 months (I think) honestly. Maybe it's because you anticipated this time in your life very carefully. I have been married for 11 months and I still feel very disorganized and clumsy in my routine, or lack of routine. But, good for you : )

Mrs. Pear said...

You are doing great! Especially for a new bride.

I started doing the weekly menu and then shopping from that immediately after our wedding too, and it helped me so much!

Of course there were still times when groceries went bad, but as you keep an eye on produce, you get creative - cucumbers coarsely chopped with some vinegarette dressing on them makes a great salad! (We wives have to help each other out!)

Anonymous said...


I've been a reader for some time and although our differences outweigh our common ground, I'm still interested to learn about your life-style. I really appreciate it when you write about your daily life-somehow being able to attribute names, faces and personalities makes it a lot more interesting to learn about other life-styles!

I must say, however, that I was disappointed by this post. With your background and personal interest in nutrition, I was hoping to see a picture of specific things that you eat, possibly with a few recipes or at least names of food! I'm interested in cooking economical, healty and tasty meals myself and I love trying foods from around the world. I felt similarly disappointed by the post you wrote on cooking for someone who eats it occurred to me..maybe I should just ask!

Are there specific recipes that are eaten regularly in your house? Are there specific staple foods or unique ways of preparing foods that those of us further west might not know of?

After living in seven countries, i never cease to be fascinated by how one country's staple rice is a bit exotic and special in a country that eats mostly potatos!


Alexandra said...

We do the same...hubbie buys the groceries with a list. We buy the same things every week, so I typed up a list and keep it on our desktop. It's easy to print up, and check off.

Anonymous said...

Recently I was trying to figure out how to store more beans/rice/cornmeal, etc. You know what I came up with? We've used up almost all of our shelf space in our leaky, small cellar but I bought a plastic trash can and filled it up! I vacuumed packed the food first, though. But the trashcan can sit in water and it won't hurt a thing!

It is so nice to have extra food around. :)


Diana said...

I do my Big Shop on a Monday and then on Thursday I buy whatever's needed for the Weekend. I write out my Shopping list on a Sunday and i also do my Menus for the Week. It is so much cheaper doing it this way.

Misty said...

I try to keep a running list of what perishables are in the fridge. I will cross off any item that I use. As the summer growing season is here, I don't really plan our meals in advance. Rather, it is more cost efficient to buy what is available at the local farmers market and plan our menu around these items. Of course, there are basics like flour, eggs, milk for the kids, juice, and wine for our Shabbat meal that I can budget.

Anonymous said...

I am laughing, because after 21, oops, almost 22 years of marriage, I brought home 2 jars of peanut butter when I already had 4! HaHa!
thank goodness the kids like it and that it doesn't go bad.

USAincognito said...

I always make out a list before I head to the store. I walk thru every room in the house checking to see what I am out of or running low on. This way, I am sure not to miss something!
I am interested in knowing more about stockpiling....what type of food items can be stored long term and in what type of containers can you store them in? Especially if one has a small apartment without a lot of room. :)

Julia said...

It sounds like you're doing great. Still newlyweds and you already have routines and you're already figuring out how to run a household. It took me years to feel comfortable in my role as homemaker.