Fall is in the air, and with it an urge to get organized, clean up sloppy summer habits and knock our schedules into shape.
One way to feel like you've got some semblance of order at home is to master The Big Supermarket Shop.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of a big weekly food shop. Too much to grapple with at once. But the payoff can be significant.
A few pointers:
• Make a master list of staples you always want to have at home, and organize it by area of the supermarket (dairy, baking ingredients, produce and so on). A well-organized list saves you trips to the market, and also time spent zigzagging through the market, retracing your footsteps. This list is especially useful to have on your computer, so you can easily edit it every week.
• Before you hit the market, check the master list against the contents of your fridge, freezer and pantry. Stocked up on chicken broth? Take it off the list. Running low on quinoa? Onto the list it goes. You'll also save money and aggravation by not buying another carton of milk because you couldn't remember if yours was full or almost empty.
• Meal plan before you shop. This habit saves time, money and stress all week long. Pick out the recipes you want to make throughout the week, and then add the ingredients you need to your master list, in the appropriate categories.
• Take a bit of time to get your pantry into shape so you can see what you need. Group like items together — all of the pastas, tomato products, grains, condiments, etc. — to make them easier to find.
• Shop the sales — before you leave the house. Most markets post their weekly specials on their websites, and this is a very helpful thing. Make note of what non-perishables are on sale, and see what you want to really stock up on. Or you may want to buy some usually pricy perishables to freeze, like a beef tenderloin or some frozen jumbo shrimp. And if you see that pork loin, for instance, is on sale, that might inform your meal planning for the week (and give you a bit of inspiration to try a new recipe!).
The Big Shop is not a perfect science.
But purchasing more in one fell swoop is just an easier way to get through the week. Yes, you will have to go to the market again, because you will inevitably run low on orange juice, or have an unexpected influx of teenagers wipe out your snacks, or need to pick up a piece of fish to cook later in the week. But there will be fewer of these supermarket pit stops, which is a lovely thing.
Finally, give yourself some time to get into the rhythm of it. Start with your list of basics, add on from there.
And by all means, get some help unpacking the car.