I dreaded grocery shopping, but it’s my household job: how I made my chore less loathesome

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I really, really dislike grocery shopping. It seems to take time out of my day and stores are hard to navigate and I always forget what I need and blehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I never want to do it.

But friends: NO LONGER!

Not since I made a system — everything I dislike doing is better with a system which removes the barriers to success. Now I finally have a grocery system — or at least most of one.

By using a system, I don’t have to make some of the lower-level decisions each week. The sorts of decisions which sometimes cause indecision and often derail my plans to buy food for the house.

These simple changes helped me quite a bit, and they make up the Happy Shopping System for Frustrated Grocery Consumers in America and Across the World (HSSFGCAAW):

The first tenet of HSSFGCAAW:

Plan the week’s meals before you shop

 I’ve talked about E-mealz before. It’s a service which provides a meal plan for each week. There are a number of types of plans — low fat, vegetarian — and lots of good recipes. I like it less for the recipes, though, and more for the forced practice of different types of food. 

For example, under E-mealz I tried my first lasagna. I learned my way around the crock pot, too. Now I mostly use it for reference — to fall back on — and I’m still using the meal planning skillz to make grocery shopping better.  

It’s just as easy to do this without using a meal planning service. This month I picked a few Indian recipes from Manjula’s Kitchen which use overlapping ingredients. It’s made it easy to keep us in dinners without scooting out for groceries every other day.

The second tenet of HSSFGCAAW:

Be loyal to your grocer

We moved to a new neighborhood with this house, so I spent quite a while trying out all our groceries. Now that I know which Hy-Vee has the best combination of price, selection, and convenience, I don’t stray.

It’s nice that the store is a good fit, but I think I really chose it to be my favorite grocery because its layout made the most sense. Its lighting didn’t irk me. Clerks were friendly and all that. Feeling like a place is pleasant makes me happier about the grocery shopping chore.  

The third tenet of HSSFGCAAW:

Shop when the sun is up

Duh. Avoid the evening crowds. If you can’t grocery shop during the day, choose an off-peak hour for sure.

The fourth tenet of HSSFGCAAW:

Buy a big bag

This was the tip that tripped my trigger the most. Do you have an IKEA bag? A FRAKTA? (I love how IKEA names look.) These are the secrets to making my grocery shopping more enjoyable. 

The FRAKTA is an industry marvel. It’s made of a space-age material which defies rips, tears, and spills. It is the most durable grocery bag you can buy! And the FRAKTA is hiding one more secret: It is bigger on the inside than on the outside

I don’t know how, but on several occasions one of these babies has held my entire load of groceries. And with the patented ergonomic design, it’s still mostly easy for me to lift into my car! 

Okay. Am I the only one who systemizes grocery shopping? What sorts of easy changes make your food chores more likeable?

Comments on I dreaded grocery shopping, but it’s my household job: how I made my chore less loathesome

  1. I go to the farmer’s market for fresh produce once a week, and Trader Joe’s once a week or once every two weeks.

    I used to LOVE grocery shopping. Now, I still like it but am horrible at it and end up coming home with random things like purple cabbage, pinto beans, apples and bubbly water. When my husband looks in the fridge after I shop, he either says 1) Wait, there’s still nothing to eat. Or 2) Holy crap, we have enough food for a whole month! How much did you spend?

    I know meal planning is the key to my future success, I just have a mental block against being that organized. Maybe I’ll check out E-mealz.

  2. I like grocery shopping. What I don’t like is clothing shopping, since it usually means a day of frustration unless I go to one of the few stores that I know have things that work for me and they haven’t changed their sizing.

  3. What? Stores that are not HEB? *recluses back into TX*

    I’m horrible about grocery lists. I used to try. Now I don’t bother. I know I will always forget something. Me and my boyfriend just go aisle by aisle. But luckily we have the time for that. Ha. I’m sure that will change when we have kids.

  4. I shop at the Farmers’ Market, and I only take the cash that I’ve budgeted for food with me. My system is: I purchase one item from each vendor until I run out of dough. I start at opposite sides of the market each each. Totally OCD, but that’s my style 😛

  5. i work in a small grocery store…and can i just tell you WE HATE YOUR DAMNED IKEA BAGS!!! i love it when my customer’s bring in their own bags! some of them are super awesome and make me jealous that i don’t have that one. but the extremely large bags are terrible! let me tell you a secret…groceries are heavy! a gallon of milk weighs approximately 10 lbs. and you just bought 2 of them and want me to put all of that, plus a 10 lb roast and a 2 liter soda ALL IN ONE BAG! that thing is now VERY heavy, and i like my back, and i like not having to lift overly heavy things that could have been much simpler and SAFER if you had just brought a couple normal sized bags. now putting laundry in these bags sounds like a great idea, but please, leave these monstrosities at home.

    • Aw. I guess I should be clear — I carry my groceries out! No, definitely don’t inflict the FRAKTA on baggers.

    • They actually have a sign at some grocery stores in Australia saying that cashiers (as we don’t really have baggers here) have the right to refuse bags if they’re too freaking huge.

  6. My wife and I use this app on our Android phones to note down what we need. Now if I’m at work and I think “oh shit don’t we need more toilet paper” or my wife decides she wants hamburgers for dinner, we can just mark it down in the app and BOOM. Synchs to both our phones like magic.

    And it’s freeeeeeeeee!

  7. Here in the UK I do our grocery shopping online once a month for non-perishable goods and all our meat and fish which we then freeze. I usually pick up some dairy stuff too, but not loads. Then we pick up our veggies and fruit, and any other bits we need about once a week. We plan our meals based on what we have in the freezer, and what we got in veggies (ie what was on offer). Do they not have online grocery shopping in the US? It’s SO good, especially for us, seen as we dont have a car. They charge £4 for delivery, and you choose when it is delivered (In 2 hour time slots). And as we dont drive a taxi from the local store is £5 at least, so it is easier and saves us money!

  8. I have to admit if someone had tried to persuade me to adopt meal planning I would probably have dismissed it as too complicated and a waste of time. But I actually fell into it out of necessity – when you have no money and no car you don’t want to carry a ton of food home only to watch it go off in your cupboard – and found it really simple.

    I’m not super-organised, I don’t have a meal plan drawn up or anything like that, I just pick 7 meals I fancy eating and buy the ingedients for them, then eat them in any order I feel like. For example if I have red peppers and guacamole left over and I know I always have chiken and spices I’ll buy wraps and some veg for salsa and make fajitas. The next day I might use the other half of a tin of tomatoes from the salsa to make curry. Or I might make bolagnase instead.

  9. I’m all about meal plans, grocery list apps, only buying what I eat.

    I’m also all about going when I know my favorite cute cashier (Brendan) is working. He even called me sweetheart last night. Don’t know if he has a girlfriend or not, but I’m a single lady and need to get my kicks somewhere!

  10. We signed up for emealz after you mentioned it last time, and OH MY GOD THANK YOU. Grocery shopping used to take two hours (my boyfriend likes to look at EVERYTHING, even though he looked at it ALL last time) and happen every couple of days. Now we’re going once a week for half an hour, and I have yet to not like a meal. So again. Thank you for sharing it here. They should pay you for this.

  11. Every week I make a list of “stuff that needs to get used” (i.e. produce and any meat that got thawed and never used), and see what meals are inspired by that list. The goal right now is to use up as much of our stockpile as we can, because in a week or two we’re re-arranging the kitchen, and because I’m developing this tendency to hoard food.

    My biggest problem lately has been that whenever we go shopping, we start at the grocery outlet store, which means an inconsistent supply of most items, so we can’t really count on getting anything there, and if we find a good deal we will get it. Also, I have some chronic illnesses that have made sticking to the meal plan very difficult. I never know if that ambitious meal I planned for next Tuesday will find me with a migraine or just sick and run down and unable to step foot in the kitchen. It means a lot of dinners get switched on the fly, and a lot more food goes to waste than I’m really comfortable with happening (both for the budget and the environment), so lately the focus has been on lots of simple meals that don’t require a lot of energy or thought. It’s taken some of the creativity out of it, but I keep telling myself it’s temporary while I get some other life things under control.

  12. I don’t really have any strategies to add, just some things i do to make grocery shopping feel more fun? I like to bring my headphones, sometimes screaming babies and arguing couples can really bring you down. also fun music is just helpful. And I might be alone in this, but I like to dress up sometimes? wear clothing i never seem to have a reason to pull out of the closet but love. so what if I look like a weirdo in a pretty dress for no reason, I look like a weirdo anyway.
    I completely agree about the off-peak hours too, it takes an extra 30 min if you have to constantly weave around other carts.

  13. I’m in my second week of making a grocery list (kept on the fridge so we both can add things we need). It’s this one from design sponge — which I added our most common grocery items to. I just started using this meal planner because I felt the other ones I was finding were too ridged for our household. I am loving knowing our meal plan and grocery list, it really keeps us on budget and we don’t end up buying things that go bad before we use them!

  14. Oh and we shop primarily at our local food co-op, and sometimes the grocery store chain for things like toilet paper & butter (which is hella expensive at our co-op).

  15. I keep thinking of things that help me! I love Eat Your Books, which you add your cookbooks to and then you can search by ingredient or keyword. It’s really helped me use my cookbook collection more.
    I don’t work for any of the companies or websites I’ve posted, just wanted to share what has helped me.

  16. My husband and I just bought a freezer this past weekend, and have already loaded it up with $1.00/lb chicken breasts and I also bought a whole turkey to make ground turkey from (not the best deal – got 3.5 lbs of ground turkey meat from a 13 lb bird) but then I got about 9 1/2 pints and 5 pints of broth from it too, so what do you do but learn from the lesson, right? Can’t wait to fill the freezer full of bargain deals!

  17. I love grocery shopping. I’ve also got an excel spreadsheet where I keep track of price paid, price per oz, how often we buy each thing etc. I’ve got an ‘on hand’ list where I keep track of everything in our freezer, fridge, and pantry and when it needs to be used, and a standard grocery list.
    After recently getting yelled at by a stressed out mom in the crowded grocery store, I’ve renewed my commitment to shop in the mornings on weekdays at my local store. It’s quiet, calm, and there are very few other shoppers (and those that are there tend to be friendly and polite.) Shopping in the morning has also allowed me to shave a bit more money off my already lean grocery bill, because that’s when the best meat deals are there.

    I also found that my local Asian supermarket offers much better prices on herbs, fish and fresh produce than my local supermarket chain can approach.

  18. I used to have an account with emealz and I was very happy with their service, but I just found out that they have a partnership with focus on the family. super disappointed, but sadly not surprised… I canceled my membership.

  19. I love these tips. I too hate grocery shopping… I always make a list of items in the specific order they appear in the store for super-fast shopping! I actually do that for any shopping….I really don’t enjoy it much! Ha.

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