Friday, December 29, 2017

Grocery Store Blues

So, this didn't rise to the level of a resolution, but I want to spend more mindfully at the grocery store this year.  I have discovered the magic of ALDI, so we spend less money-- especially less than when we used to shop at Whole Foods exclusively-- but I still throw away soggy produce before it's eaten and pitch half-eaten bags of stale snacks from the pantry.  We still scrap dinner plans and get junky takeout because the meal we planned doesn't actually fit our schedules.  I want to cut out these inefficiencies.  Any tips for me?

Looking back over our year in food, there are some recipes we definitely loved that made dinner time a little easier.  Let me share them with you:

1.  Indian slow cooker dinners:  We use a simmer sauce from ALDI and their naan which is delish and then thrown chicken, potatoes and assorted other veggies in the crockpot with tons of Penzey's spices.  Always good, always a little different, always a great way to get rid of extra produce.

2.  This lasagna:  It's awesome.

3.  This one-pot pasta:  EVERYONE LOVED IT

4.  Make-your-own pizza.  The kids ALWAYS adore it, and they will use homemade dough, English muffins, bagels, French bread-- all of it.  Another good way to get rid of produce.

5. Tacos. Kids might love tacos more than dragons.

6.  Spaghetti, sauce, garlic bread, canned vegetable, canned fruit-- my favorite $11 meal.  We also do ACUTAL spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs-- no recipe, just wing it, but use lots of anise or fennel in your sauce. And, of course, garlic bread.

7.  Chicken and noodles, my childhood favorite.

8.  Rotisserie chicken soup.  I call this my quasi-homemade soup because it starts with chicken and boxed broth.

9. Enchiladas:  The first thing I learned to make by myself, and I have been making it since college.

10.  Make your own chicken salads.  The kids are meh about chicken and even more meh about salads, but together:  YUGE HIT!

What are your most-made dinners?  I am literally always looking for more ideas.


  1. Mtbakergirl11:58 AM

    Try the 30 free trial at “plan to eat”, an online meal planning app that lets you import online recipes, plan your meals and generates a shopping list! It really helped me get my head around making new things and definitely tightens up the grocery shopping list (you may even be able to export the list to an online grocery store).

    You can find friends and import all of their recipes!

  2. Anonymous12:42 PM

    breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, french toast casserole, waffles, etc) and fruit is a big hit.

    my mom used to make quiche and with frozen crusts, it's a really easy way to use up vegetables. I also put vegetables into mac and cheese--anything orange (carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, winter squash) can be steamed and pureed into the sauce and stuff like spinach or other greens can get mixed in too. I also like doing baked ziti because it's easier than lasagna and I am lazy.

    We also freeze a lot of stuff before it's about to go bad. Like if we're going out of town we'll use up all the milk and yogurt and fruit into smoothies or popsicles, cook the vegetables into a soup or sauce (or just steam the greens, blanch the peppers) and then when we get back we have something to thaw out for the next day's dinner.

  3. Anonymous9:05 PM

    We dialed in our food spending last year, and the thing that really did it was having several frozen or easy meals always in stock for the meal-plan-fail nights. (We meal-plan-failed at least once a week.)

    I've been obsessed with sheet pan dinners lately. You can do all veggie versions or combine whatever produce you have that roasts well with meat (sausage works well). Just season and lightly coat the food in oil and roast in the oven (I usually do 375 for 30-45 min). So good, so easy, and minimal mess! I usually prep the pans before hand and then just throw them in the oven in time for dinner.

    We also enjoy fondue. We've only done a cheese fondue so far, but foods like apples, roasted veggies, carrots, brocoli, cauliflower, sausage work well.

  4. I’ve started doing my weekly calendar and meal plan at the same time so I don’t plan a time intensive meal for the same night that we have 30 minutes between activities. It’s helped a lot on the scrapping plans/grabbing drive-thru front. We have a super boring taco/spaghetti/chili rotation that makes me twitchy, but I trade it for not fighting the “what IS this?/can’t we just have tacos?” BS.