1. Lots and lots of coffee. This is decaf, but there’s no reason for you to suffer like I do.
2. Take a look around the kitchen for stuff you use all the time that you may be out of. For me, this means almond milk, juice, seltzer, fruit, peanut butter, etc. You get the idea- the staples, whatever they might be in your house.
3. Start to organize your list. I mainly shop at Trader Joes, and there are really only 4 aisles. I like to organize my list accordingly, so that each item is in it’s own section according to what part of the store I’ll find it in. Otherwise, I’m wandering aimlessly with a huge list of stuff and have to keep reading through everything. Try to keep all the fresh fruits and vegetables in one list section, the frozen in another, dairy and breads in another, and so on. Organizing now means way less hassle later when you’re playing bumper carts with the world’s most impatient people who all decided to go to TJ’s at the exact same time and do NOT want to let you into the cheese aisle for that aged gouda. (And please for the love of god, try the aged gouda if you haven’t already. It has flavor crystals.) Write down the must-haves that you’ve already identified are low or absent from your kitchen.
4. Put on some relaxing tunes and grab your favorite cookbooks. This might seem like an unnecessary step but hey, it’s Sunday morning. You deserve it.
5. Think about your week. What nights are you around and able to cook? What night do you have that crazy deadline where you will definitely not be able to manage anything more than a frozen pizza and an Olive Garden style side salad? (I usually have one or two of those a week). Are you having company? Have you decided how you’re going to get out of vacuuming and find time to finally store the two-week-old halloween decorations that are still all over your house yet? Me neither.
6. Choose what you want to make. I like to peruse my favorite cookbooks and get inspired. If there’s something I’m craving, I put in on the menu. Bigger, more elaborate meals get slotted for the weekends, and easier stuff gets stuck on a weeknight. (I usually end up switching things around a bit throughout the week based on what I’m in the mood for, but this general outline works for me). I have two lists going simultaneously; one that outlines each night I’m home and cooking, and my shopping list right next to it. As I add the meal plan for a night to one side, I update everything I’ll need for it on the other list.
Here’s my plan for this week:
Sunday: Fresh mozzerella and roasted chile salad with basil; wild mushroom farro risotto with kale, parmesan, and pine nuts; plus some kind of meat for Kyle.
Monday: Cauliflower and chickpea curry with whatever substitute for paneer I can find; rice and garlic flatbreads (TJ’s has great frozen naan).
Tuesday: Spanish tortilla; steamed broccoli with garlic.
Wednesday: Lentil soup with Chickpeas; more garlic flatbread.
Thursday: Black bean tacos with all the fixin’s.
Friday (dinner party): Roasted chicken; homemade vegetable pot pie; butter-braised radishes; a little arugula salad.
The general idea is to use what you already have (the sad kale wilting in my crisper will get tossed into tonight’s risotto) and what you have to buy a lot of (a bag of potatoes will work for the vegetable pot pie and the Spanish tortilla). I also try to plan for dishes that will yield leftovers earlier in the week, so we have food around to pack easy lunches for work. Bringing your own lunch is such a money-saver, but that’s another story. Make the stuff that uses fresh vegetables (broccoli) earlier in the week, and the dishes that use up pantry staples (lentil soup) later in the week, so nothing goes bad on you.
And that’s it! Off you go. Your gorgeous, carefully planned list should prepare you for everything except the 47 new seasonal pumpkin-infused items that mysteriously wind up in your cart. There is literally nothing that can protect you from that.