Today, I made my first trip to the grocery store clean food-minded. Armed with this list of 21 Essentials for Freezer, Pantry & Fridge, I figured I would wing it. I knew not to buy anything with more than five ingredients or that had sugar as one of the top three ingredients (thanks for the tips, 100 Days!) and I did my best to stay out of the aisles. I looked at the meal plans on 100 Days of Real Food, but there were too many meals that I didn’t like (I have an acute aversion to hard-boiled eggs and any salad that’s not really a salad: tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, you get the point).
I went to Earth Fare because that’s where Lisa Leake shops and I had her comprehensive guide specific to that store of what makes the real food cut. I should not have brought my son and I should not have gone on a Sunday afternoon. It was totally overwhelming. I was so busy keeping Jed from shoving his hands in the bulk bins and apologizing to other shoppers for blocking their way (Earth Fare aisles in West Asheville are narrow) that I was too flustered to check my iPhone for my lists. Not to mention I was shopping with a migraine. Surprise.
The tough part about my decision is that I’m doing it for my migraines. My husband and son don’t have migraines so I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to adhere strictly to the rules. Dave is totally on board for making our shared meals “clean”, but he should be able to have his potato chips and Jed should be able to have his Teddy Grahams. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or patience to trek to three different grocery stores each week to get what we need, so I either go to Ingles where they might not have everything I need/want or to a health food store like Earth Fare or Whole Foods and pay out the nose for some organic natural version of Cup O’ Noodles. Then we are members of Sam’s Club so I’d like to take advantage of their discounts, and in Asheville, we are lucky to have this store called Amazing Savings, which, holding true to its name, is ah-mazing. I will figure this out.
What I have figured out so far is that I cannot plan every meal and snack in advance for my whole family for the whole week. It’s just too much to wrap my mind around and I hate the idea of having the whole thing mapped out like the calendar we used to take home from school with the cafeteria meals for the month. Food is still fun for me, and that much planning makes it feel almost institutional. I appreciate that this is a great way to eat clean on a budget… and I might spend more without a specific meal plan (like today), but it’s just not in my gastronomical DNA.
So I went to Kath’s blog to see how she approached her grocery shopping and found this very digestible approach. She calls this her “non-meal” plan:
THE NON MEAL PLAN
Most weeks I take inventory of my proteins (including things like beans and eggs and things in the freezer) in my head and buy vegetables that are in season to go with them. Then I mix and match when dinnertime comes around. Here’s an example of a week’s worth of dinners and lunch/breakfast staples without a plan:
BUILDING BLOCK BASICS
- 2-3 seasonal fruits
- 1 bunch bananas (with green tips!)
- 1 kind of greens (like kale, collards, etc.)
- 2-3 green vegetables for dinner sides
- 1 container salad mix or 1 bunch leafy lettuce
- Carrots and green pepper for salads (if we’re out)
- 1 kind of starchy veggie (like sweet potato or squash or corn in the summer)
- Mental check on bulk food stock (refill anything we completely used up)
- 1 meat (we already have salmon on hand this week)
- Eggs/milk/yogurt (if we are out of one or all)
- Mental check on pantry staples like tomato sauce or sardines (will venture into an aisle if I need it)
- 1 cheese for salads, 2 if planning to use some in a meal
- Occasional Splurges: tortilla chips, pre-made hummus/sauces, extra cheeses, more expensive fruits/veggies like berries, non-bean/grain bulk bin stuff like dried figs, fancy drinks like kombucha
This I can wrap my head around. Of course I need to take into consideration that I’m shopping for three, not two, but the overall idea just works better for me. We’ll see how it goes next time around!
What’s your shopping strategy?