Monday, 13 April 2015

How I write my shopping list

Before I begin this post, I really want to write a disclaimer. I do not in any way think that my method of deciding what to eat for the week and how I record it is any better than anyone elses, but I have had many comments over the years, mostly consisting of, "you're so organised," that I thought I would share this anyway, as it may be of help to those who perhaps don't know where to begin. I would also advise you to supply yourself with a cup of tea, as this post is rather text heavy, for which I apologise.

Planning your shop for the week ahead is massively liberating. One doesn't need to worry every day or every couple of days what one is going to eat that night, or when one will make the dreaded trip to the supermarket. If you make a time for your weekly shop and try to keep it consistent (I admit, I am fastidious about my Monday morning shop, and barely anything can make me alter it!) you will find it at least one load off your mind in your busy weekly schedule. And when I say a weekly shop, I don't mean popping to the supermarket and picking up a load of random things you think you may need, I mean buying food for specific meals to last you the week. Admittedly, my method does not at all take into account people who like to visit different proprietors to purchase their food, and I'm so thoroughly unadventurous in this regard. I truly admire, particularly, other mums, who will buy their meat from one place, their produce from another, and their household products from yet another. If any of you are able to tell me how you plan for this in terms of time, I'd love to hear about it.

I am also greatly blessed to have had two children who have never, ever made it hard for me to go shopping. On the contrary, I am now very well acquainted with many of the members of staff who replenish the shelves and man the tills at my local Tesco Extra, due to the Tonjus striking up conversations with them over the last four 1/2 years. And even though I shop at a large Tesco, there is very much a feeling of community, which is obviously helped by my visiting at the same time each week, and the gregariousnes of my boys... ok, and myself! Just as an aside, this principle will obviously also work for click and  collect and delivery, but personally I prefer to physically do my shopping myself.

So without further ado, here is my method for creating a weekly shopping list and making your shopping work for you. Choose a time which in the week which you set aside to plan your meals for the week following; I do mine on either Sunday afternoon or evening. Surround yourself with one or many recipe resources (if you've not planned like this before, probably keep the resources to a minimum to avoid overwhelming yourself with choice).

Depending on the types of meals we've eaten the previous week, or over the weekend, I have in mind the types of meals I want to plan for the week to come. If I've made a couple of more, shall we say, "homely" meals the previous week, I will often opt for lighter meals the following week. I know, from knowing my cookbooks inside out, how to find the kinds of recipes I want, but even so, sometimes I can spend a while deliberating. It is very helpful in terms of waste elimination to try to choose a couple of meals that use a common ingredient, such as, say, spinach. I often have half a bag of spinach left in the fridge which I didn't have plans for, and which can go to waste unless I try and use it the first day of the new week before it goes beyond eating. I also think about which days I know I will need to cook something reasonably quick and when I'll have the time at home in the late afternoon to cook something which may need a couple of hours in the oven or on the hob. For example, Big Tonju has swimming lessons on Monday late afternoons, so I know I either need to choose a meal for which I can make preparations before leaving for the swimming pool, or something super quick which requires a much smaller amount of time to prepare and cook before husb gets home around twenty past five (yes, again I realise this is a great blessing and many mums don't have the luxury of having their husbands home even before bedtime.)

As I'm planning, I constantly get up to check the fridge and cupboards to see what I have supplies of as I'm reading through each recipe's ingredients. I have a massive supply of spices which last a long time, so these are things I will only need to buy occasionally, and I put fresh herbs in the freezer after the first few days of them being opened, because they are another great source of waste. Frozen herbs slice beautifully, and are ideal when they are to be added to the body of a dish but you would prefer to use fresh rather than dried herbs. Unfortunately, once thawed they become utterly limp, so are not quite as attractive as herbs that haven't been frozen when used as a garnish!

Since I am concentrating on menu planning in this post, I haven't mentioned the inclusion of sundries in the shopping list. I always have a sundries list on the side, consisting of the usual things such as breakfast foods, snacks, cleaning products and toiletries etcetera. There is my sundries list, on the right hand side of the left hand page.

Back in September 2013, I decided, after a few years of writing my shopping lists on reporter's notebook sheets, ripping them out and discarding them after the week had ended and I'd made all the recipes (I had to keep them for the week to remind myself what meals I'd planned), I was becoming increasingly frustated to find I couldn't remember where a certain recipe was that I'd cooked several weeks before, or the name of a recipe so I could search for it. I decided to take drastic measures (!) and acquire a notebook which was to be used purely for writing my weekly shopping list. This way I could easily reference previous weeks and be reminded which meals we'd enjoyed and which I'd like to revisit. Since then, I've done this every week, and am now over half way through the second such book. Obviously (haha) I've kept the first book and still reference it, and it's fun to have a look at what I was cooking two years ago and how I've found other recipes which have become new favourites, as well as to choose a surprise old favourite.

Here are the two books side by side...

Even though I do enjoy planning my meals, especially if I know I'm going to be trying a new method or ingredient, or a recipe I've been wanting to do for ages, I still feel a weight off my shoulders when I can close the little book and know that I don't need to worry about it for another week. I will then shop on Monday morning after dropping big Tonju at nursery. I take little one with me, and get it done and unpacked before leaving again to pick up the big one. It may seem ridiculous that I've seen fit to take the time to write a post on how I write a shopping list, but it's part of the whole idea of order in my life bringing a little sanity to my otherwise intense day. If you've got this far, I salute you, and I hope your tea managed to sustain you for the whole post :) 

I'd love to hear if this was in any way helpful to you, and also if the very idea of being so regimented is just dull and lacking life. We are all so different and what works for one person certainly may not for another, even with the closest of friends.

xxx Sam

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