Ooh, Abby is baiting me with Crock Pot and grocery talk. You know I can’t resist! I could write about this topic all day. Where to start?
One of my biggest pet peeves in life is wasted food. When Stephen and I started dating, I was shocked at how much food he and Zach would let spoil in their fridge. Packages of cheese, half-eaten bags of chips, restaurant leftovers… it all got tossed.
Two things were going on to cause this. First, they’d buy groceries separately without first checking to see what was already on hand and without comparing lists. Thus, they’d end up with duplicates, and they could never finish everything before it would go bad. Second, Stephen is the kind of person who lets cravings dictate his meal choice. It wouldn’t matter if there was leftover steak in the fridge. If he had a taste for spaghetti that night, that’s what he would eat.
Downstairs in Lindsay’s Rockville apartment, nothing ever went to waste, but you’d also witness some pretty strange meals. Stephen likes to call a bowl of random chopped veggies, canned tuna, and leftover rice the “Lindsay Special”. It’s very easy to prevent food waste when you call cereal and leftover split pea soup “dinner”.
When we moved in together, we both had to change our grocery/meal-planning styles. I wasn’t down with food waste, and Stephen wasn’t down with the “Lindsay Special”. To keep everyone happy, I started meal-planning.
Every week, before I go grocery shopping, I check with Stephen to see what he’s craving for lunches. He has a few items that he likes to rotate between- turkey or roast beef wraps/sandwiches, chicken salad, pizza, bacon and egg waffle sandwiches, chili or quesadillas. I always know what we have on hand (it’s a freaky talent, I tell you. My college girlfriends even quizzed me on our fridge contents when they came to visit this year, and I was able to name 29/30 items, condiments included. I’m a freak, I know.), so I’ll give him a heads-up if there’s a package of bacon or turkey meat that needs to be eaten, and he’ll base his lunch picks around that.
After lunch items have made the list, I’ll write up a loose meal plan for dinners that’s largely based on weekly sales, coupons (I should do another post on coupon-ing) and current freezer inventory. Our freezer is always stocked with chopped veggies, ground beef, fish and chicken breasts, and our pantry is always stocked with dried beans, rice, canned tomatoes, broths, coconut milk and spices. I normally only need to buy a handful of extra items to round out 5-7 dinners.
Beyond meal and lunch items, I’ll add any staples (like eggs, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, beer etc.) that need re-stocking to the list before I head out.
Meal-planning helps us avoid food waste and over-spending on groceries, but I rely on other things- like Sunday food prep and my Crock Pot- to actually get dinner on the table most nights.
After I grocery shop, I do a quick hour of food prep right when I get home. I’ll do things like- clean and chop vegetables, boil a big batch of brown rice, soak dried beans, bake muffins, roast potatoes, puree hummus and cook several chicken breasts or a big pork loin in the Crock Pot. It takes so little time when you have everything out on the counter, and it makes cooking dinner a breeze throughout the week. Half the work is already done!
So, to sum up, here are my top 5 tips when it comes to groceries and dinner:
1. Make a list and stick to it.
2. Let one person do the grocery-shopping, preferably the person who isn’t susceptible to impulse purchases.
3. Stock your freezer and pantry with dinner staples.
4. Devote an hour to food prep on the weekends or during an empty weeknight.
5. Buy in bulk and re-purpose one item for several meals. That big batch of chicken breasts in the Crock Pot? It becomes the base for chicken tacos, Greek chicken with potatoes, and chicken chili later in the week.
Abby, here are some of my favorite Crock Pot dishes: http://www.pinterest.com/lbhixson/crock-pot/
I hope this helps!