They seem like distant memories, but I remember when I used to have all the leisurely time in the world to grocery shop. I could browse the aisles, comparison shop, and even plan meals while in the middle of the grocery store.
And now? Working full-time, as well as having a spirited two-year-old daughter, means that grocery shopping is a sprint to get through the grocery store as efficiently and quickly as possible, always with a list. I've honed my grocery shopping skills over the last few years, especially since I used to shop for a busy test kitchen, but I now have one basic rule that I stick to when planning out a big grocery shopping trip.
My number one grocery shopping rule? I never cook dinner from scratch the day of a big grocery store run.
Dinner might be eating out, ordering takeout, leftovers, or picking up something pre-made at the store, but I never plan on cooking from scratch on those days. Instead, I focus my time and energy on the shopping, and more importantly, putting the groceries away when I get home.
Use Cooking Time for Grocery Organization Instead
Unloading groceries isn't a hard task, but it can be time-consuming, especially on the weeks when I'm testing up to ten recipes for The Kitchn. When I'm faced with a mountain of groceries, the most efficient way I've found to put everything away is to clean and prep food as much as I can immediately.
This means washing and drying produce so it's ready for eating or cooking, measuring out bulk ingredients or transferring them to containers, or breaking down packages of meat into smaller portions that go straight into the freezer. Sometimes I need to spend a few extra minutes clearing out old food from the refrigerator too.
All of this prep and organization takes time, so I use the time I would usually spend making dinner to do this instead. Knowing that dinner is pretty much taken care of takes some pressure off and lets me focus on putting away my groceries in ways that will save me time in the future.