If there’s one thing I hate, it’s that walk back from the grocery store when you went a teensy tiny bit overboard. You know exactly what I’m talking about: reusable grocery bags (go you for remembering!) slung over your shoulder, each weighing approximately 50 pounds. A few sheepish paper bags slipping around in your sweaty hands, filled with the things you forgot you needed and had to grab on top of the Things That Made the List. It’s hot. You’re tired. The ice cream is dangerously warm. And you still have a few blocks until you’re even close to a freezer.
Let’s press pause on this tragic yet familiar scene and rewind to when things went wrong (no, it’s not when you decided to walk to get food. That’s still the right choice.). Grocery shopping is an art, and one that delivery services are driving to extinction. Before you arrive at Mariano’s with a few crumpled canvas bags and a shopping list in hand, follow these tips to make summer shopping painless and even, dare I say, a little bit fun.
1. Get your produce at the farmers’ market
I really, really, really hope this goes without saying, but you shouldn’t be buying fruits and veggies in a supermarket while the farmers’ markets are open. Make the objectively better choice (for the earth, for your health, for local farmers) and stock up over the weekend at one of the amazing farmers’ markets that Chicago has to offer. Grab a coffee and your reusable bags, and mosey on over to one of these outdoor markets to make the most of seasonal produce. Plus, this’ll make your load a lot lighter by the time you get to the supermarket.
Need some inspiration? Check out one of the demos by the pro chefstructors from The Chopping Block at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market each Thursday at 6pm during the summer.
2. Make your list by department
Grocery stores are largely laid out in very similar ways. Think about the store where you spend most of your food budget: chances are, you walk into the produce section, then go through the bakery, the meat department, and then onto dry goods and pantry items before hitting the good old dairy section and frozen food land. (Did I just nail the map of your home store?)
I have a food blog, so my grocery lists are often longer than a CVS receipt. It takes me forever to shop for all of the food I need, running around the store, and bopping back and forth from section to section. When I started making my list reflect the way the store was laid out, I saved crazy amounts of time (not to mention energy).
List the fruits and veggies you need first (although, if you’re doing this right, you shouldn’t have any left on your list after a trip to visit your farmer friends), then make your way through the rest of the store.
3. Shop the bulk bins
I’m about to rock your world. Are you ready? The bulk bins aren’t just for hippies. They’re for people like you and me who cook and bake and otherwise mess around in the kitchen and sometimes need to buy a crazy amount of rice on the cheap.
Load yourself up with some reusable shopping bags and venture into the bulk bins. You won’t regret it.
4. Plan for planless meals
The best meal is the kind that you don’t need to run out to the store to make. Having some staples in the pantry that you can throw together into a pizza, an epic salad, or a grain bowl to end all grain bowls is all you need to rock dinner this summer.
5. Skip cooking and let the pros at The Chopping Block do the work for you
Cooking for someone you want to impress or someone you’ve been impressing forever? Shake things up and let the professionals go grocery shopping for you. No prep, no dishes, and an amazing menu await at this summer’s classes at The Chopping Block. Check out the calendar here, and go have fun!