Saturday, December 8, 2012

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

A few days ago, while preparing for an upcoming trip to Lexington to do some major grocery shopping, Andrea made a comment that I thought would make the basis for a good blog post. She said that for most people, going to the grocery store just requires making a list, unlike the days of preparation she was in the middle of. While her comment may have been a bit of an exaggeration, especially since many people, including those who shop sales or make the most of the use of coupons, do dedicate quite a bit of time to planning their shopping trips. Still, however, the point of the comment is still valid. Grocery shopping for us, particularly when we do our major shopping during Owner Discount Days at the Good Foods Market, is quite a bit different than the type of shopping done by most households.

When we moved to the country, we thought that we'd make a trip to Lexington once a month to shop, and then pick up the rest of what we needed in London, either when I was there for work, or during weekly or biweekly shopping trips. In reality, however, we only seem to make it to Good Foods 8 or 9 times a year, and tend to do more shopping at the small local grocery store than we had expected. Of course the local store is more expensive than the supermarket in London, and has less options than either there or Good Foods, especially when it comes to the types of items we prefer buying, such as organic produce and grass fed meats.

Good Foods has an Owner Discount Days event four times per year, during which members receive a 10% discount on all purchases. We like to stock up on as much as possible during these events, since it is a way for us to buy the items we prefer at a discounted price. While she doesn't always do this much preparation, Andrea began preparation for our recent trip to Goods Foods several days early. She started by going through and organizing the freezer so she could determine what we needed to stock up on. While doing this she decided to de-ice the freezer, which caused the task to take longer than normal.

Her next major task for preparation was to go through our spices and spice blends. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't normally include photos with my posts, but I thought this deserved one. Here you can get an idea of how involved the process was. After sorting through everything Andrea was able to put together a list of the spices that we were out of or running short on. She also determined that we needed to make a couple of additional spice blends for use on chicken, so had me search for a few potential mixes to try out. Based on this list she was able to decide if any additional spices were needed.

Once she had an idea of what we needed she was able to put together a shopping list. This wasn't the end of the preparations, though. We normally use plastic bags for the bulk dry goods and spices, but, even though we re-use them, they aren't the best solution. For this trip Andrea decided to take several jars and storage containers instead. Her last task was to gather and clean the containers, then attach labels which we could fill out in the store with the weight of the containers and the item # for the cashiers to enter.

After several hours of preparation, we were ready to make the trip to Lexington today. The items that we purchased were fairly typical for us. We bought 10 lbs of boneless chicken breasts, and 3 lbs of ground bison. Normally we would have also purchased several pounds of ground beef, but we stocked up last weekend at Pike Valley Farm. We also stocked up on spices, and dry goods such as nuts. We bought 9 lbs of rice, although will most likely be special ordering a 25 lb bag for the next owner discount days. We also normally stock up on pasta, but we've not been eating much of it recently, so still have 14 lbs left from the last major shopping trip. Other items we picked up include milk, cheese, potatoes, frozen strawberries and blueberries, and garlic, which is an item I hoped we would not have to buy this early. I'm down to my last couple of bulbs, however, which will definitely not least until the next Owner Discount Days in February. Normally we also stock up on bananas, but we still had plenty left from the last trip when we bought a full case, because I went through a period during which I wasn't eating smoothies as regularly as normal. Now that I'm on a healthier diet I suspect we'll need to pick up a case in February. I'm sure that I've leaving out several items, but I think I've covered the majority of items that we purchased.

We also like to use the 10% discount to buy items that we want to try before deciding if we want to later buy them in larger quantities. On this trip we bought several such items, including coconut oil, bagel chips, pita chips, and organic milk chocolate. I still have a couple of items from previous shopping trips that I need to try, such as ground elk and a packet of Spiru-tein, which I'm hoping may be a suitable replacement for the Carnation Instant Breakfast in my smoothies. Hopefully I'll get around to trying those our next major shopping trip.

Living out in the country certainly demands a different approach to grocery shopping than living in a town with multiple supermarkets. This is especially true when the purchase of specialty and organic items is a priority. We have found, however, that with a bit of planning the challenges can be overcome. The purchase of a larger freezer several months ago has also been a big help in this area. If we had no freezer at all it would be significantly more difficult for us to eat the types of foods we wish to eat without investing much more time and wasting much more gas making frequent trips to the market.

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