Friday, June 18, 2010

Rethinking Grocery Shopping

My Google Reader has been informing me for the past few days I have 1000+ unread items. Oh man. If I like an entry in a blog, particularly a vegan blog, I'll throw it in the list. Some days, when work is slow, I'll add one person's entire blog role to my list. So I have a very full reader.

But then I don't feel like reading, and I let it go, and next thing you know I have 200 posts on squids to read.

So I removed the ones I've stopped reading or that haven't been very interesting, but I kept all of my vegan blogs. (And just now, I added a new one - I usually write in snippets throughout the day).

All of this led me to actually reading my blogs, including the four unread Savvy Abby entries. A particular post repeated an idea I'd read there before and also in Robin Robertson's work, and this time, it really struck a chord.

The brilliant idea was this: put off grocery shopping and clean out the fridge/pantry.

Time to Clean!

I am definitely guilty of over-stocking. I love food, I love shopping for food, and I love sales. Sales are only economical if you use the products you buy though. I also love new things, so I've amassed quite a few exotic ingredients that don't get used much.

In the past few months, my household of two found that it was hemorrhaging money at the grocery stores. I'm fine with that in some ways. Waste isn't much of an issue and quality food is worth the price. Even still, it was out of control. And I'm normally quite frugal.

Robertson authored a guest post some time back on Savvy Abby, and I revisited it for what might end up being her most important tip:

Postpone Grocery Shopping. See how long you can put off going to the supermarket by using up what you have on hand. You may actually be able to go nearly a week beyond your normal shopping day, cutting the total monthly grocery budget significantly. This also encourages you to rotate on-hand items such as frozen foods that are approaching their "use by" date and nonperishables from your pantry, as well as stray produce that might otherwise go bad. It also stimulates your creativity. I like to choose a few items from my stash and put them on the counter, then let my imagination take over how to combine them. For example, a can of white beans, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and a box of pasta have "yummy dinner" written all over them. Some rice or quinoa, walnuts, frozen peas, and an onion can make a flavorful pilaf [...]

So this is my new project. I already subscribe to a CSA and already have to figure out how to use up loads of greens each week. Maybe this will free me from scouring my cookbooks for ideas. Now I have to get creative.

But I've been having to do that thanks to CSA and I don't mind admitting that I sort of resent it. I have a nice little cookbook collection and the vast majority of the recipes have gone unmade. Restricting my ingredient list annoys me at times, but I know that it's the better option.

The good news is that I have loads of canned goods and spices and sauces. I also have jar after jar of rice, grains, beans, and nuts. And you know what those go well with, right? Greens!

So I may get a little bitter and resentful at times, but I'm confident that this experiment will do a few things:
1. Clean out my cabinets
2. Inspire and foster (and probably demand) culinary creativity
3. Save me some money
4. Get me to rethink my buying habits

I'm really curious to find out how many days I can put off grocery shopping. (I'm declaring coconut coffee creamer exempt from this arrangement now). I can't start for another week, since I'll be out of town, but Tuesday is my normal shopping day, so I'll post my innovations, frustrations, and durations. (OK, I know, one duration, but can you blame me?)

Oh I'll be starting this at the same time I begin my bike commute to work!


  1. "I have a nice little cookbook collection and the vast majority of the recipes have gone unmade."

    Oh this so rings a bell with me! Good luck being inventive with your ingredients. I have an inkling that the more you do it the easier it will become.

    I gave up on the veg box delivery a while ago because i was frustrated like you with having to base my dinners around what i had in the box rather than what i actually felt like eating but at some point in the future when my veganism is more embedded i think i'll give it another go.

  2. cant wait to see what you come up with!
    cute kitties by the way : ]

  3. Thanks Jacklyn! I've tried some new combinations of things, and I'll be posting about them soon :)

    Good idea on giving it another chance Carol. I think I'll try another farm, since I'm not in love with what I've been getting. But it has gotten better since I started getting a greater variety of things and fewer greens.