Preparing For Battle

by jenna on September 20, 2010

Something I get a lot of requests for are grocery shopping posts. I used to post my groceries all the time so today I thought I would bring it back!

What you see here is a very typical week’s worth of groceries. I aim to spend $50-60 per week on my groceries and it usually works out, thanks to Trader Joe’s and a well planned out list. If I don’t have a list all hell breaks loose.

Trust me…I know from experience.

Now, I usually will buy my produce either at the farmer’s market or at the farm stand, but this morning I was coming from a particularly challenging yoga class and already starving so driving to two food locations just wasn’t in the cards.

And I’m not going to lie. Since I stopped posting all my meals I’ve become incredibly boring. Seriously. I eat a lot of egg sandwiches on paper towels and caprese salads for quick dinners on the run. However, I do try to cook one or two “big” meals a week for Almanzo and I that leaves leftovers to get creative with. Last week I made us white chicken chili, and other “big meals” in the past few weeks can be found here, here and here.

Do you have a particular grocery store strategy? We are getting a brand new HUGE Whole Foods here that opens in four days so I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for battle in the bulk bins. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A fun book post to follow–stay tuned! Also, voting is now open for The Next Food Blog Star..wahoo!

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{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Tabitha (From Single to Married) September 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

Not really – I try to go with a list, but I almost always get more than what I planned on! :)

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Liz September 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

New Whole Foods- so exciting!
Where are you moving?????

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jenna September 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I’m not moving anywhere! :)

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Liz September 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Oh haha I thought you said you’d be in your current apt till March… Just wondering if you’re staying in Cali :)

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Cara September 20, 2010 at 11:58 am

Are those purple plums or figs in the backround? If they are figs do u peel them or eat the whole thing? I’m in Canada and the closest Whole foods is almost and hour away…….sigh……

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Katie September 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I HAVE to make a list too, and I stick to the outside perimeter of the store. I also like to have one or two recipes in mind for the week to get ingredients for. And getting a lot of salad ingredients every week is a must!

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Sarah (Oc2Seattle) September 20, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Wild rice and pistachios are my favs in the bulk bins. Also, a must go to for their tea selections as Whole Foods is one of the only places I can find nettle tea, a natural iron booster I take to keep my anemia on the slight side.

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megan @ whatmegansmaking September 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I always make a list and have meal ideas for the week. But the biggest thing that helps me is using cash. I have a set amount of cash for the month, and when I use it, it’s gone and we’re stuck eating whatever I can find in the cupboard for the rest of the month. That helps me stay disciplined :)

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Julie September 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I plan 2-3 meals for the next couple days and pick up the ingredients + personal staples- usually I get less than a hand basket/tote bag full at a time. Every once in a while I commit to finishing EVERYTHING in the fridge (besides condiments) to make sure I don’t have too much uneaten food sitting around. I’d rather shop a few times a week than have to eat old food. Plus, I’m not always sure what I will feel like eating in a day or two because fajitas could sound great today but kinda meh by the time weds rolls around.

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Allie (Live Laugh Eat) September 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm

The days I enter TJ’s without a list, I come out with the most delicious foods :) I fear for your wallet come Friday! I have no strategies besides just sampling straight from the bins…wait what??

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Rachel @ Fit Fun and Fabulous September 20, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Oh man, good luck with Whole Foods. I can’t even step in there without at least $100 flying out of my bank account.

It is like magic, really. Dark, dark magic.

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Marie September 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I have my go to staples I need every week and I try not to persuaded at TJs, I love them though!!! I usually do TJs and Whole Foods

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Jessica @ How Sweet September 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I always go with a list, but never follow it.

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Heather (Heather's Dish) September 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm

if i have the time to plan out a list, i do that – otherwise it’s just throwing stuff in the cart and hoping i’m under budget. it’s a totally adult way to handle shopping…

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Natalia - a side of simple September 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I try to stay with the list tactic, too, and I’ve even brought limited funds with me (no cards, just cash) to make sure I stay on track haha. Very jealous you’re getting a Whole Foods, but I suspect many wonderful recipes will come of it!

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Katie September 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

You can’t really go wrong with any of the granolas in the bulk bins. The staples like oatmeal, flax seeds, cous cous, quinoa are all great buys…you really get more for your money buying bulk!! The Whole Foods I work at has awesome things like nutritional yeast, all kinds of flour (oat, spelt, etc), and dates which really makes me smile because I can just get what I need without having a ton leftover!! Ahhh the bulk bins are so amazing!

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marie September 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Ooh, I recognize that TJs enchilada sauce – a staple in my pantry.

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Laura September 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I’m a hardcore grocery list person. Even so it seems like our bill always ends up higher then I think it should be for 2 people. I wish I could get away with making smaller meals but the hubby would probably freak if there wasn’t a “big meal” planned for each night. I’ve tried doing the coupon thing but so far it just isn’t sticking.

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sarah k. @ the pajama chef September 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

my husband’s like that too. i’m really into couponing but use it more for things we really eat (yogurt, cheese, cereal, crackers, some condiments, bread are good examples. you can also get produce coupons if you get on grocery store’s mailing lists. not as good as farmers markets but in winter in IN i have no choice.) and i compensate for big meals by playing the drugstore game to get almost all our toiletries for free. feel free to contact me thru my blog if you want more of an explanation on that! :) (anyone!)

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Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf September 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I try not to meal plan toooo much because then I end up spending WAY too much. However, if I don’t meal plan at all, I keep having to go back to the store during the week and I end up spending WAY too much anyway.

I’m not sure I’ve found that balance yet.

It might be a good thing that the closest Whole Foods is a good seven hours away from me.

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Angharad September 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

When we do it “properly” grocery shopping involves a detailed list with meals we’d like to eat and everything we need. We go to the farmers’ market for produce, trader joes for bulk/dried goods and our local coop for everything else. Time consuming but good.

When we don’t do it properly we eat banana on toast and quesadillas all week long and walk around looking at each other sadly. Organization is key!

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katherine September 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm

i, too, am trying to prepare myself for the new Whole Foods here in SR. it’s so close to my house!!! my hubby and i drove past yesterday hoping they would be open…just a few more days! woo-hoo!

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Caity September 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm

It opens on Wednesday, I can’t wait! I live within walking distance and my bank account is already cringing…

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Melissa @ Journey to Marvelous September 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Me three! I drove past last week and saw all of the new shiny shopping carts out front! I thought this day would never come. :)

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Allison September 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I have a form grocery list that my mom made up years ago and graciously sent to me. It’s organized by specific aisles and sections: (1) produce, (2) meats, (3) dairy, (4) condiments, (5) cereal, etc. You get the picture. Within the categories are commonly-purchased items with blanks to the left to allow you room to write in the quantity of the desired item and margins to the right to allow for specifiers (exact quantities, colors, etc.). Some of the items listed are generic (i.e., lettuce, carrots, ground turkey) and some are brand-specific (Coke, Tide, etc.). The form also has space on the far right for any extras you need to write in. I try to shop the perimeter as much as possible and only venture into the center aisles for things like bread, organic PB and oatmeal. I also set a budget and try to get the most bang for my buck by comparing the price per ounce of different varieties and sizes of whatever I’m purchasing. The system is slightly OCD but allows for an efficient and wallet-friendly grocery shopping experience! Have fun in the new Whole Foods. I’m hours and hours away from the nearest one and completely jealous!

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Heather September 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Ooh, get ready, Whole Foods is a ton of fun. Sadly I don’t have any words of wisdom for you on that front, I try not to let myself go there because I walk out having spent waaaaaayyyyy too much cash.

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman September 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm

My only tip for living near a Whole Foods: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a nearby Whole Foods, must soon break her budget.

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Michelle (The Runner's Plate) September 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’m jealous. . . there isn’t a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s anywhere close to where I live. I would have to hop a plane to get to one. (I live in Alaska.)

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eatmovelove September 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I NEED to do the list thing, because it gets bad…really bad…I need to aim for your budget too.

Honestly, I actually hate going to the store now because I can’t get what I want re: money, and then either spend time pining over it ;)…or somehow escaping with it, feeling regret, but indulging big-time…;)

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Lizzie September 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

My strategy is the one they keep telling everyone – stick to the outside aisles, THEN venture inward (carefully of course!:)). And make a list. And don’t shop while you’re hungry. I pay for the groceries for my husband and I (and I don’t earn a ton), and try to keep it to about $80/week. That’s over and under depending on the week, but less over as I am stickler for budgeting! :) Though as my mum says, if it’s healthy nutritious food then you shouldn’t feel bad! I’ve been shopping at Whole Foods f/t for a few months now, and have to say that a lot of their own brand products are the same cost as other supermarkets and if I get meat/veggies on sale, or buy their own brand of frozen, then I don’t feel like I’m walking out of there with a hole in my pocket. Plus there are 3 within walking distance of our apartment.

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Estela @ Weekly Bite September 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I have a Whole Food’s less then a mile from my house… and let me tell you… its dangerous!! No matter how many lists I make… I always break the bank at Whole Foods ;)

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Lauren September 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm

This is totally off subject, but Jenna, where do you like to get your frozen yogurt w/ all the yummy toppings like mango, strawberries, and choc chips?

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Brenna September 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Save your pennies! Whole foods gets me every time!

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Samantha @ Food Edu September 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I like to buy my meat and non-perishable items from the grocery store and buy or obtain my produce from farmers markers or from trades with other ranches my husband will arrange for. For example, we were given a bin of peppers yesterday from a local farmer and I am so exited because peppers are sooo expensive! We don’t have any of the fun grocery stores in my area-I’d love a Trader Joes; I don’t think we have the demographic for a Whole Foods.

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Amber K September 20, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Unfortunately, we shop at four different places right now.
WinCo for the cheap staples. Fred Meyer when we need something extra or forgot something since it’s close. The Farmer’s market for local produce and New Seasons for the rest of the organic produce and to be able to buy healthy food.

I need one store to start carrying affordable, healthy, and local/organic food!

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Kendra September 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I’m not going to lie, the bulk bins are hard to walk away from. I have jars at home, though, that everything ends up in (and they’re really pretty) so I know I have a limit for how much I can purchase. I can’t get more of one item than fits in one jar and I can’t get more than eight items… until I buy more jars, of course.

I have a policy of only buying the really special products at Whole Foods. I split my shopping between several stores because of both price and quality.

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jenna September 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

i love grocery shopping! it’s the highlight of my week! call me lame…

I usually try to mentally make up a menu in my head and make sure i have a well stocked pantry and fridge…all the basics milk bread eggs fruits and veggies and beans of course. strict meal planning can be hard, it just doesn’t suit my lifestyle so we just go with the flow if i have time during the week we’ll have a nice dinner, if not we make egg sandwiches and get on with our lives…its what ya gotta do.

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Nicole@TheSaltedKitchen September 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I moved 3 blocks from a whole foods more than a year ago, and I thought it would rob me of all my cash. The first month I went a little overboard, but I quickly learned that I don’t need to purchase all my food from whole foods. I buy the must haves from WF; products I really think are worth the extra money and I can’t find anywhere else, and the rest I get from Trader Joes, which is just a mile from my place. You may freak out at first, but if you have a mint account like I do and watch it, it won’t last long;)

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Katherine @ Left Coast Contessa September 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I have a rule in Whole Foods that I’m not allowed to get a basket or a cart. I can only buy what I can carry in my arms which keeps my spending in check. If I didn’t have that rule I would be totally broke. I do the same with FM + TJ’s. Glad to see we have the same food budget!

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Charise September 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I need to do that! Usually I just fill up my one reusable shopping bag I bring in with me, but last night I got a cart and spent almost twice as much as I was planning on. YIKES!

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DEBORA September 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I was wondering if you have read the book “the shack” by william p young
and if you had what your thoughts were?

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Suzanne de Cornelia September 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I love Whole Foods, TJs, Farmer’s Market. They are close together so go to all three. I buy mostly all fresh/organic. At TJs I buy: organic strawberries, oranges, bananas, $1.99 bags of organic baby spinach (addicted), the huge bunches of basil, bok choy, cherry tomatoes, large container of TJs organic Vanilla yogurt $2.79 & really good & mix cut up fruit/almonds or walnuts in this. TJ frozen things I like: jumbo shrimp (quick stir fry with garlic, lemon, butter, thai curry paste, baby bok chop or baby spinach–very healthy & good), & some vegs like corn, blueberries. A package of organic corn is around $1.50 & really good. At Farmer’s markets tend to buy fresh herbs/greens/strawberries.

Love Whole Foods frozen mahi-mahi for fish tacos, buy their brand gallon of OJ, their organic brand canned tuna, crab, salmon for salads, their organic brand beans. Also buy a lot of cheese/jumbo organic eggs–as very rarely eat chicken/meat. Rarely eat bread. Am basically very health oriented and love fresh colorful foods & fish. Often make pasta/Asian stir-fry.

Once every few months have a treat at a French bakery–and the rare baguette or croissant. This will undoubtedly change when move to France next year. I never buy anything GMO, never air fresheners or sprays (cancer causing) never commercial cereals or mixes as loaded w/sugars/chemicals. Never commeerical milk etc as loaded with dangerous chemicals so get organic Almond or Rice Milk instead. Would be an exceedingly boring food blogger as too picky of eater which started in childhood from mother studying nutrition & also being a picky eater. C’est la vie :)

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ida September 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Bring cash only!

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td September 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I don’t know if Santa Rosa has Indian grocery stores but when I lived in Alameda county, there were lots of Indian grocery stores and the spices that they carried were so much cheaper than getting them @ mainstream grocery stores.

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Jil @ Peace, Love & Munchies September 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I always go with a list…but I always end up with a few unplanned items in the cart. haha

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kate September 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm

hey jenna. looking for a yummy shrimp dish? what’s best shrimp recipe you have made, ready go!

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jenna September 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm
Mom September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Oh!! I am actually making this tonite!!

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Chels @ Just Gotta Tri September 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm

E-mealz gives us premade shopping lists and recipes each week. The recipes can be boring, but I try to get creative with them and make them healthier. I don’t make the time to plan for ourselves so this has been huge to saving money and time. Plus, it keeps us from making multiple trips to the grocery store because we forgot this or that.

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Marisa @ Loser for Life September 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I try to plan ahead and go with a list, but then I get suckered in by any new item ESPECIALLY at Trader Joe’s! I used spend about $80 per shopping trip there and now…this past week was $150!!!

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Lauren at KeepItSweet September 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I also HAVE to make a list or I’ll be all over the place. Even still I have major problems with “impulse” shopping!

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Kelly September 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I buy any bulk item (besides the candy) that is on sale. This means my cooking has variety and I’m trying stuff when it is at its cheapest. I don’t buy tons of it either, just enough for 2-4 servings. If I like it, I know I can buy more next time.

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MoniMeals September 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Yes, lists are a MUST. I do have any idea for you though, if you don’t want to buy a crap load at the store(meaning you really do but you need self control), ride your bike so you are forced to not buy so much! I do however have to report this still can back fire and are left with figuring out how to drive your car back to get the rest. ;)

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S @ extremebalance.net/blog September 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I love grocery shopping! And it’s about the only thing that I keep simple in my life–I just don’t go down about 75% of the aisles, and the rest takes care of itself.

However, if I had a WF near me, I’d definitely need to go over to the list-making side.

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Caity September 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I always make a list and then limit myself to only one or two additional items that aren’t on the list. The grand opening of the new Whole Foods is 10:00am on Wednesday, I will definitely be stopping by on my lunch hour :)

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) September 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I am 100% a list girl. If I forget it – I might as well go home!

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Charise September 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I spend a a couple hours a week at stores, plus another 1/2 hour to hour meal planning, but I love it! I pick a few “bigger” meals each week and a couple quick/easy meals that can be made mostly from pantry items with fresh produce, keeping a balance between meat-heavy, meat-lite, and vegetarian meals, with a budget of $80-100 for 2 people. In the summer through early fall, almost everything comes from the farmers’ market unless I’m travelling too much like this month – produce, meat, cheese, eggs. I have staple items I get from Trader Joe’s, specialty items from Whole Foods, and then supplement with trips to the regular grocery store. ALWAYS with a list, and I go into my meal planning with a good idea of what’s in season here, as I am a big local/seasonal eater over organic (although that too, particularly for the dirty dozen). I usually plan for one impulse buy, generally our snack/guilty pleasure for the week. :)

I love reading about other people’s grocery strategies. Are we food nerds or what?

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Stacey September 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I’m so sad :( We don’t have a Whole Foods near us! But we do have a Trader Joes and I couldn’t be more in love with them <3

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M September 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I personally love reading you “boring” meals….bring on the egg sandwiches
or whatever! I just like your eating combos (no matter how boring you think they are!)and I actually get inspiration from them!

Hope you will once in a while post a regular lunch or breaky….I miss those simple posts and love ‘em! ;)

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey September 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I have no self control with bulk bins… I’m glad I have to make a special trip to go to WF or else there would be hell to pay.

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rebecca lustig September 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm

oh i totally go in with a list, bc i confince myself that i’ll stick to it. woops….

i always feel like trader joes has something new, exiting and exotic to offer EVERY time i walk in the door!

have a great night!
bec xo

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Deva (Voracious Vorilee) September 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm

We plan out 1 week’s worth of meals – including lunches. I eat a LOT of oatmeal for breakfast, so that’s the only thing that isn’t really planned (beyond the standard “milk this week or next?” question), and buy what we need to make those meals happen. We have a loose grocery budget that we try to stick to, and over a four week period it balances out pretty well (around 70-80 a week for 2 people and 3 cats). My list is organized by areas of the store – produce and natural foods, meats, etc. It’s easier to stick to it when I’m not back-tracking a lot!

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Kellie September 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I am with you – a grocery list is an absolute must. If I don’t plan it all out then it is grocery shopping chaos – serious aisle wandering and overspending. I cook 4 “big”, planned meals a week and I also spend $50-60 a week! My blog is all about meal-planning, grocery shopping and cooking, with the focus on health and budget.

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Diana @ frontyardfoodie September 21, 2010 at 12:36 am

Lists are super helpful but let me just say Whole Foods is a total ripoff. This year Kansas City is FINALLY getting a Trader Joe’s! I’m so excited.

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Emily (The Culinary Couple) September 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

I also can’t shop without a list — and it must be organized according to the layout of the store.

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Krista September 21, 2010 at 9:50 am

I used to work at Whole Foods, we all thought it was a BIG DEAL then because it was the first in Canada. Living in Toronto was expensive, I was only a couple years out of pastry school and not making much money. But of course I wanted to buy everything in the store. I’d drool over the fancy water section fantasizing that myself a patron of some chic outdoor cafe sipping Badoit (yeah…I’m a dreamer). So, if you pick up the flyer (I think they e-mail it these days too) and shop the sales, shop the bulk bins, eat lots of free cheese samples, you can leave without your “whole paycheck”. Not to say that I didn’t occasionally leave with a cute little tin of smoked paprika, flavoured olive oil or marcona almonds ;) Another crazy idea I’m just going to throw out there. Why not work at the whole foods part-time? Then you’ll have a card that gives you 20% of everything in the store. Even with a shift a day or two a week it would be great for keeping your pastry skills sharp. I worked under a fabulous British pastry chef, he made me laugh like crazy and I learned some great new skills. Plus we’d trade the cooks a few loaves of fresh bread for whatever dish looked super yummy (everything did but particularly the guinness braised lamb shanks). The C.E.O. of the company is a wacky Texan who was always shooting his mouth off and getting in big trouble for it. Pretty kooky company, I enjoyed working for them and would go back in a heartbeat if they had one in the Canadian rockies. Peace out – Krista

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Sophia September 21, 2010 at 10:35 am

Going to Whole Foods is such a challenge! I always want to buy everything! I use this Healthy Food Grocery List when I go shopping. That’s my strategy.

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Daniella September 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

I feel the same way! No list = total chaos!! Even if I go to the store hungry, having a list keeps impulse buying to a minimum :)

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