What am I going to make for dinner?
For a time, I was so good about writing out a weekly menu, and shopping accordingly. That has fallen by the wayside, although I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly why. I let my subscription to the Menu-Mailer expire long ago, and my unread issues of Everyday Food are adding up. Cooking started to feel like any other household chore.
Until 10 days ago.
On August 12th I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon at Chef Geoff’s (in DC) hosted by Giant Food. Giant Consumer Advisor Andrea Astrachan provided us with ways to save time and money at the grocery store, and Chef Geoff Tracy was kind enough to treat us to a cooking presentation and a delicious four-course meal.
Andrea’s advice (these tips apply to any grocery store, not just Giant):
- Be Prepared
* Keep a “to buy” list handy so that you (and other family members) can write down what you need throughout the week.
* Check the circular for items on your list that may be on sale. If you don’t get the Sunday ads, or miss it in the mail, you can always find it online.
* Plan four dinners for the next week, taking into account that you’ll probably eat out one night, and eat leftovers the two other nights.
* Follow the list!
* Don’t forget your reusable bags. Many supermarkets (including Giant) reward you with cash back for each bag you use. And it’s better for the environment, obviously.
- Use Coupons
* Clip them from magazines, newspaper ads, or print from the Internet.
* Be careful – only use coupons for items on your list.
* Remember that even after a discount, store brands can still be cheaper.
* My tip – keep an eye out for days that grocery stores double or triple coupons. I just saved $27 last week doing that.
- Buy on Sale and In-Season
* Use seasonal sales as opportunities to stock-up. Store non-perishables and label and freeze perishables.
* Buy in season!
August/September – canned tuna, peanut butter, jelly, frozen waffles, Pop-Tarts
October – brisket, sausage, soups and chowders, pasta, squash, mac & cheese
November – baking goods, flour, nuts, cake mixes, rib roast, maple syrup, condensed milk, turkey (buy two – one for Thanksgiving and freeze one to eat early in the year!)
The fact that not only fruits and vegetables are seasonal was a revelation to me! Let me know (by leaving a comment) if you want a complete list for the entire year and I’ll email it to you.
Andrea’s main advice when it comes to cooking is TAKE SHORTCUTS!
* Buy prepared foods – soups, chicken tenders, rotisserie chicken (my favorite, because they are so versatile and affordable)
* Precut veggies, bagged salads, and grated cheeses all save you time in the kitchen.
* Use frozen foods – vegetables, seafood, pastas, waffles, bagels, etc. – for their convenience and shelf-life.
* Cook one-dish casseroles or pasta dishes, but make two and freeze one for later.
* Enjoy “no cook” meals once in a while, like salads and sandwiches.
I hope these tips helped you out as much as they did me! I realized what I needed to get excited about cooking again was inspiration, and boy, did I get it! Enough so to make a trip to Giant and try out some of their store brands:
If there’s a Giant near you, pay them a visit this weekend (and no, they didn’t ask me to say that). Today not only are they unveiling a new logo (that I was one of the first in the area to catch a glimpse of!), and a new website (check it out and enter to win free groceries for a year), they’re also bringing more technology into their stores, to make shopping faster, easier, and maybe even fun:
* Personal scanners that let you scan/bag items as you shop.
* Electronic scales in the produce department, that let you print out a price sticker.
* Touch screens at the Deli that let you place your order and pick it up when it’s ready. The neat thing is that the computer remembers what you ordered during previous visits. Oh, and they’ll announce your name over the speaker when you’re order is ready! No time wasted standing around waiting.
* “Smiles for All”: new family-friendly lanes that offer better snacks (think string cheese, not Skittles), age-appropriate magazines (no half-nekkid photos of Britney, for instance), and sticker rewards for kids. I know this isn’t technology, per se, but an advancement nonetheless. I detest having to deal with a temper tantrum in the checkout line as a result of not buying Maya a Ring Pop. It just makes for a cranky Mom and an unpleasant ride home.
Being fairly new to the blogosphere, I was more than honored to be invited to this event. Midway through the luncheon I received a call that my grandma had had an accident, so I wasn’t able to stick around to chat with the other wonderful local bloggers in attendance, though I did meet the Moms behind TechSavvyMama, Petroville, and Okinawa Hai, in passing. Thank you to Giant Food, Chef Geoff Tracy, and the lovely ladies at 360 PR who made my experience so special!
So what are you making for dinner tonight? Do you have any advice for making cooking and grocery shopping more enjoyable? I’d love to hear it!