Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kendall Can Go to the Grocery Store (Alternate title: The Procurement)

For background on the series, Kendall Can, you can go here. Living on your own for the first time is awesome and weird and you realize all the things you don't really know that much.

Let me just tell you that grocery blogging is about as exciting as it sounds.
There's the list of things to buy, list of things to photograph, the taking of notes, the sending and receiving of incidental texts and the mental management of, "...I'm probably forgetting something." I swear to Cosby, this particular trip to the grocery store would not have been possible without my iPhone and my new favorite app, ShopShop. I know what you're thinking, "I could just write down my grocery list." Sure, but how many grocery lists get written and then forgotten on the coffee table. And then, how many of you leave your phone at home when you run out to the store? I don't know the math, but I'm sure the overlap is minimal and incidental.
Oh, I love the way that feels!
This trip to the grocery store is mostly about basics, deals, and things that may have gone overlooked. Okay, my personal trip was for a more advanced homemaker but everything that was documented was about basics, deals and overlooked things.
We will discuss the creation of a grocery list at a later date. In the mean time, here we go.

First of all, get the reusable bags! Here's the thing about saving the planet, it's great for people who don't even care about saving the planet! (Not that I don't care about saving the planet, I just understand that sometimes it can be difficult to see big-picture.) If you, like me, make a competitive game out of trying to make only one trip from your car to your house with hundreds of pounds of groceries, this will up your chances of winning significantly! Seriously, I bought $45 worth of groceries and my skilled check-out-lady, Lucy, got everything into two bags. TWO! And when you have this boss-level greeting you before you can make it into your living room, you will respond with a heart of gratitude.
So you've got your list with you, you've got your reusable bags and you're driving to the grocery store. I recommend that on the way, no matter who you are, you try to listen to Passion Pit's, Little Secrets. It just will give you a good, I've-really-got-my-life together vibe. But that might only work for me. If I could get a sampling of people to try that out for me, I'd be interested to know the results.

When you get into the store, try to stage your plan of attack so that you end at the freezer section. Not only because it makes scientific sense, but also because when you have a cart full of stuff, already, you'll be less likely to throw in all of that expensive, gross, pre-made food.

I like to walk around the perimeter of the store, first, and load up on produce, fresh meat, bakery stuffs.
 Produce section: First, get whatever is on your list. Then grab a few fruits that you know you like. Apples, who doesn't like apples? Strawberries? This way when you're watching Fringe and feel like eating something sweet, you can eat an apple (which provides you with protein, fiber, and deliciousness) instead of mindlessly gnawing a box of pop tarts (which provides you with diabetes).
Meat section: This place has intimidated me for ages and so I have avoided it as much as possible. Meat always seems so expensive! But people like it so I think you should probably buy it if you ever want to eat it. If you're confused, just look at these two things:
There is .82 of a pound of meat in this package. That doesn't mean too much to you, probably, so round it around to kind of nearly a pound and then think about how a decent-sized hamburger is about 1/4 of a pound and then you think, "all of the meat in this package will make not-quite four meals and it costs not-quite $4.00, is that worth it to me?" And then if you're like, "Yes, a dollar a meal is a good price", then (wrap that puppy up in the provided plastic bags so that it doesn't leak or something) toss him in your cart. This was worth it to me so he came home with me.
If you can't find any of that meat that is affordable to you (and trust me, I've walked away from this section several times), then walk a little further and you will come upon something that I only recently discovered.
If you eat just one of these sausages for a meal (which both the FDA and myself recommend because no one should ingest that much sodium in one sitting), then each little weiner dude is fifty cents! If that's not worth it, I don't know what is. I know, you're thinking, "I'm not going to eat only one sausage for dinner." And I don't fault you for that, we'll get to sides. We'll get there. Particularly potatoes. I could (and very well may) dedicate an entire blog post to the very subject of potatoes.
Bakery Section: Okay, in all reality, you should just avoid this section. Go to the back of the store where they keep the day-old rack. That bread is just as good, it's just cheaper. Keep it in the fridge and it will last for about a week and a half (maybe, I'm so bad at estimating time).

Once you've got fresh food, then you can go into what I just now dubbed, "Preservative Island". Let me remind you that this is not a trip to the grocery store for the healthiest eaters on the planet. This is a reasonable trip to the store for someone who has recently entered into the world of adulthood so let's not pretend like this person isn't going to, at some point, be looking for the Spaghetti-o's or the Kraft macaroni and cheese.  You know, I can remember a time when macaroni and cheese cost less than a quarter. Those days are gone, my friends.
Let me take you to a little section, though, that is a more grown-up version of macaroni and cheese. That's right, the Rice A Roni section. It's the San Fransisco/ McPherson, Kansas treat.
I mean, look, it's a dollar and you have more than one serving in there. Let's say there's two servings in there, add one of your 50 cent sausages and *bam* you just ate dinner for a dollar! I don't know if this is how your brain works, but this is how mine works and it makes me feel a lot better. I think about what I can get at McDonalds for one dollar. I mean, a McChicken is yummy and everything but... eh.
So, sometimes in life you think "I want to have lasagna for dinner" or something and it's all very thought out and organized and you make a list of all of the ingredients and then procure them. And sometimes you get home from work and you're like, "Crap! I'm hungry now." And you'll need to lean on something that has already been procured. And in that instance, it's good to have a box of Rice a Roni. I'm not suggesting that you eat this every day, though.
Other things, I always keep for those "oh crap" moments: a box of pasta and a jar of Prego in my cupboard. A bag of frozen chicken in my freezer (I'll tell you later about how easy it is to make dinner with frozen chicken). And a bag of potatoes in my potato drawer (not everyone has a potato drawer and I feel really bad about that).
I also, when I'm thinking about it, grab all of the non-perishable ingredients for making the simplest pot of chili. This is, for me, the gastronomical equivalent of stuffing a five dollar bill in the pocket of your coat before you put it away for the season.
 You're really not supposed to eat canned tomatoes because apparently they give you cancer or something? But it sounds like everything gives you cancer but everything else prevents cancer so maybe if you do it right, you'll even out? I'm really not sure (does anyone else feel like this post has gotten way too long?). I buy two of each diced tomatoes and chili beans (sometimes I get black beans or a can of corn--it's your dinner, do what you want), one can of sauce and one tiny can of tomato paste. You COULD use all fresh ingredients but this is intended to sit in the back of your cupboard until one day when you're like, "I am really in the mood for chili".
When I, one day, do actually make this chili I promise to give you the full recipe. In the meantime, if you buy these things, just wing it. And toss in a packet of taco seasoning. It's beans and tomatoes. What could go wrong? This is my kitchen philosophy.

Now, let's talk about those taters.
TWENTY CENTS A POTATO!! You can cut those up and bake them in the oven and, bam, you have french fries (How much is a bag of frozen french fries? Like four bucks.) If you eat a baked potato with that sausage you should have bought, you just ate dinner for SEVENTY CENTS. Yes, this is blowing my mind. Why are we not buying more groceries?! You can make a baked potato in the oven (just scrub it first) in an hour or you can make a "baked" potato in the micorwave (not that I recomend this--I don't recommend microwaves at all, but you're going to use it anyway) in three minutes (just scrub it and poke a hole in it first).
You can cut it up in squares, boil it for about 7 minutes, drain off the water, add some butter and a splash of milk and mash it up with a fork and you just made yourself some mashed potatoes. How easy is it to make mashed potatoes? Well I just gave you the recipe--in one sentence. You can do this, you guys!

Let's talk about, specifically, the Dillon's store. I like to go here because they put things on sale and they don't do that at Walmart (in our tiny town, we have two choices for grocers). Granted, some things are more expensive but really not everything. And they put stuff on clearance. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't recommend that you buy a lot of food on clearance. But you can use your discretion, probably. I would stay away from on-clearance dairy unless I'm for sure going to use it that day (it's a mental block for me, it may be okay for you). Veggies, though, I always buy on clearance. Mostly because they're vegetables so I'm going to use them soon anyway and also because you can get introduced to new things.
Do you see what we're looking at, here? That's purple cauliflower. The next day, I cut it up and roasted it for lunch. It was delicious. Tasted exactly like cauliflower.
Choosing the right check out person is imperative. If I can help it, I stay far away from teenage boys because they, generally speaking, don't really give a crap about whether or not my bread is on the bottom of a ten pound bag of groceries. You don't want the oldest lady in the world, either, unless you just have all night and no ice cream. My check out lady was named Lucy. She was fast and had been doing her job for years and years and years and she packed my bags like a hero. Cans on the bottom, potato chips on the top, all the cold stuff packed together betwixt the layers. And, as mentioned before, got my next two weeks worth of groceries into two reusable bags.

Now, go home, put every thing away and revel at your full pantry and try not to eat everything all at once.

Do you ever stash money in your coats (sometimes I put it in books) for you to find later?
What are your grocery essentials?
Are there any recipes that I've mentioned here that you really want me to expound upon?


Katie MyLittlePony Hurl said...

Hi. I love everything about this. It made me laugh out loud at work. I want to learn how to cook butternut squash. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I stash money in my pants to find later, but then Doug finds it on laundry day and threatens to keep it. I love this post. I want more like it RIGHT NOW!

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