I write my shopping list directly in my planner – i.e., my lifeline – so that I know I won’t forget it.
Once you finish the meals you can make now, your next steps will be preparing for and going to the grocery store. This, however, is not going to be a regular store visit.
Three times during this process, you will have a specific shopping list and grocery trip, and they all have different purposes. The purpose of the first list/trip is to help you finish reducing the pantry to its bare bones so that it is ready to be built up with the staples that you use regularly.
In order to do this, though, you will need to confess.
That jar or box you still have in your pantry that you did not give away, throw away, or find a use for? You know the one I’m talking about – don’t try to act innocent with me.
We need to find something to do with it. We need to find something to do with all the things in your pantry or refrigerator that you don’t use very often but couldn’t bring yourself to get rid of when you were cleaning them.
When I first started putting my meal planning system in place, I had jars and jars of pickles. I had taken a canning class, and that was one of the things we made. It was a great class; I enjoyed it immensely.
The problem is that pickles aren’t my favorite food. I like pickle slices on hamburgers, and I will occasionally eat a pickle spear as part of an antipasto plate. But I had opened one of the jars for myself, and I had given several jars to friends. I still had five jars of pickles left. I knew that if I didn’t do something with them before I started filling my pantry back up, those five jars would stay there indefinitely, taking up space where food I actually wanted to eat could be stored.
So I searched for recipes that used pickles. For the next two months, my diet was pickle-intensive. I ate:
- Pickle slices in my grilled cheese
- Pickle hummus
- Pickle chunks in tuna salad
- Pickle chunks in pasta salad
- Fried pickles
- Pickle-brined chicken breast
With every meal until those jars were gone, if I could throw a pickle in it, I did.
(Do not try to make savory pickle waffles, even if you liberally spread sour cream all over them. Oh, the humanity! /psa)
I got really sick of pickles. You know what else I got? I got rid of all those jars so that I could move on with my life.
And that is what I want for you. So here are your tasks for this step:
- Identify your outlier ingredients that you held onto.
- Search for recipes in which to use said ingredients.
- Based on the recipes, make a shopping list of the things you will need to buy in order to use up those ingredients. Be very specific about the amounts needed and make plans to purchase as close to exactly what you need as possible, because if you just end up accumulating an overflow of different random items, that doesn’t help you.
- Plot the meals you will make with these recipes on the next open spots on your calendar.
This may be the weirdest shopping list you’ve ever made and the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten. I promise it won’t last forever (although if you have five jars of pickles, it may seem that way). When you are finished with this phase, you will actually have the space in your kitchen to make it start working better for you.