Make Grocery Shopping Easier, Cheaper, and More Fun
Going to a grocery store without a plan is kind of like going into a labyrinth without a ball of thread. Sure, you might make it back out in one piece with the things you need. Or, you might get devoured by a Minotaur (which in this case would be junk food and a costly grocery bill). I can't count the times I've gone to the store without a list and left with $50 worth of sugar, junk, and not one actual meal. But stocking your fridge and pantry shouldn't be daunting. In fact, grocery shopping can, and should be, enjoyable.
Members of the Cooking Light Diet have figured that out. They've discovered how to make grocery shopping easier, cheaper, and more fun. The big secret? Have a plan. If you come prepared, there's no reason why you can't get in and out of the store quickly with what you need so you can focus on the more important things—like catching the season premiere of Game of Thrones. We chatted up CLDiet community members in our Facebook group to see what they've learned about shopping since joining the service. Here's what they had to say.
Plan around what's on sale.
Members like Laurie Pifer Grier strategize and plan their week's menu based on what's marked down. "The sale ad comes out on Wednesday and I plan the next week's menu around what's on sale." Kathy King-Long adopts a similar approach to one of a grocery bill's most costly components: protein. "I look for sales on the meat and fish and stock up when the price is right." By stockpiling when prices are good and planning menus around what's cheap at the moment, these folks are cutting down on food waste and unnecessarily high food costs.
Try a different shopping approach.
A lot of people are also adopting what they call the "European approach" to grocery shopping. Diana Devine says she's "going more frequently to buy fresh ingredients," as opposed to going to the store one time for the whole week. Cassie Drogose says this is beneficial when trying to make your food last longer. "I also stopped shopping once per week, which cut down on the spoiled food a great deal. I hit the store 2-3 times per week and try to keep from getting more than 2 meals deep in leftovers." If you have the time, breaking your shopping trip up into several trips can ensure your using fresher ingredients and not buying bulk products that may end up in the trash if not used quickly enough.
Save money by growing your own herbs and veggies.
Aside from protein, produce is usually one of the more expensive grocery categories. What's the point in buying a whole bundle of parsley for a recipe that only calls for a tablespoon? As Edie Elliot Suire tells it, "Whatever healthy food I did buy would go into the produce drawer, where good intentions went to die, and then get thrown away a few weeks later." But a lot of Cooking Light Diet members are responding to that situation by planting gardens. "I grow my own herbs now!" says Christy Lindberg-Price. "It saves money, and I love being able to use ingredients from my own garden." Nicole Kessler echoes that sentiment. "I just set up a veggie garden and planted frequently used herbs and lettuces. That will decrease the bill a little during the growing season." So if you want to spend less in the produce section, set up your own produce patch. It's easier than you think.
Shopping with a plan means less impulse shopping, which means saving dollars and making smarter choices.
If you're equipped with a meal plan—like the ones the Cooking Light Diet provide—when you head to the store, you're less likely to get googly-eyed when you pass through the cookie aisle. Cyndie Mason Moran says that not only is having a meal plan saving her family a lot of money, she's also shopping more naturally. "I rarely buy prepared food, quick mixes, cold cereal, salad dressing, snack foods, or packaged foods." Similarly, Joan Rasmussen says that her grocery bill has gone down thanks to less impulse shopping and less purchasing of convenience foods, while Lisa Quinn says that she no longer has to "try to pick things on the spot. I just buy what I know I need and will therefore use," which has helped her cut down on food waste. So in order to shop smarter and cheaper, equip yourself with a meal plan.
Shop faster and more deliberately.
Heading to the store with a meal plan allows you to get into a rhythm of sorts, since you know what you need and what you don't. Carol Westaby says that she's moving through the grocery store at a faster clip these days thanks to the Cooking Light Diet. "I'm also not spending as [much] TIME in the grocery store. Most of the shopping list is in the produce department so I can usually get in and out relatively quickly. Rebecca Lake, too, says that having a meal plan makes shopping a breeze. "My shopping is more deliberate since I know what recipes I'm planning to cook (I never did meal planning before, just winged it), and I'm more organized about using up all the food in my refrigerator, so less goes to waste." So having a plan of attack helps you get in and out of the store quicker, and in turn can even save you time and money.