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Adulting is hard. Grocery shopping is hard. Grocery shopping like an adult can feel impossible. Especially when a few minutes on Pinterest has you spinning, trying to figure out how to balance budgeting with meal planning, eating organic and local, and making your meal look instagram worthy and ultimately results in you reaching for the UberEats and swearing off cooking. (Cue ridiculously accurate and funny theme song)
I’ve been there. And I am a big fan of UberEats. But I’ve also figured out what works for me and my family for grocery shopping. I am not claiming to have all the answers. But the guidelines I’m going to give you should help you in doing your own grocery shopping like an adult.
Most important thing: Have a list
Easy and obvious right? But making a good list that will actually give you several balanced meals takes some careful planning. I’m not a huge fan of meal planning, where you know exactly what meal you will make each night of the week. My life is too spontaneous for that precise of planning. But what I am a big fan of is having a well stocked kitchen with all the “staples” and a list of 5+ meals you know you can throw together with those staples.
Whole-week meal planning might make more sense if you have a large family to feed. But when it’s just you, or you and a spouse, making a whole meal every night 1) can feel exhausting and 2) can leave you with a ton of leftovers that have to be eaten at some point and may end up going to waste if you are cooking a new meal every night.
I typically plan one meal that I make near the beginning of the week and we eat left overs of that the rest of the week mixed in with other spontaneous meals made from the staples we keep on hand. I also will cook a pound of ground beef and then use that throughout the week for multiple meals like tacos one night and red sauce spaghetti the next night. You can do the same thing with chicken breasts, rice, and lentils. Using the same ingredients for multiple meals helps you reduce food waste while still avoiding the feeling of eating the exact same meal for days on end.
Here are the staples we keep in our house:
And here are some of the go-to meals I make from those staples:
Spaghetti with red sauce
Chicken and veggies
Scrambled eggs and grits
Omelets and hash browns
Mac-n-cheese with broccoli
Salad with sunflower seeds
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Hummus (snack not a meal)
(also not a meal, but I can bake just about anything ever from my staples too)
You’ll notice some of the meals on my list are pretty simple; “chicken and veggies” and “mac-n-cheese and broccoli” are not the fanciest meals around, but they get my family fed a balanced meal. While southern cooks get a bad-rap for frying everything and smothering it in butter, one thing southern cooks get right is that a meal doesn’t have to be fancy to taste good and fill you up. I’ll take my southern cooking roots over a fancy cook class meal any day.
If you have food allergies or preferences such as gluten-free or vegetarian your go-to meals may look different than mine. And that’s ok! That’s why they are your go-to meals. To help you put together your list of go-to meals and your staples list keep these meal guidelines in mind: 25% protein, 25% carbs, 50% veggies and fruit. The USDA MyPlate guidelines are pretty good for helping you plan a balanced meal. My one main disagreement with their guidelines is the recommendation of low-fat or fat-free dairy. Many nutritionists agree that full-fat dairy in moderation is actually better for us than low-fat.
To make meal planning easier, every item on your staples list should fit into one of these categories:
By thinking in terms of these categories you’ll more easily see when you have too much of a certain food group. And when you shop from a staples list instead of just randomly buying what you feel like in the moment, you will begin to see a drop in the overall cost of your grocery bill and you will feel like you have more food available to eat.
-Buy high-quality meats in bulk when they are on sale, then freeze them in single serve portions
-Shop the bulk bins for dry goods
-Actually eat what you buy
-Organize your fridge so you eat left-overs and perishables first. If you see it you will eat it.
-Your freezer is your friend, meats, breads, veggies, ice cream 🙂
-Eat before you grocery shop. Going grocery shopping when hungry is a recipe for disaster. You will end up buying all the things.
-Know where is actually cheaper to shop for what you buy. I did the research and found out it was actually cheaper to do all my shopping at Whole Foods than Kroger!