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A Full-Time Chef and Engineer’s 3-Step Process for Grocery Shopping Success

published Mar 15, 2023
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Credit: Lori Monte

Name: Lori Monte
Location: Queen Creek, AZ
Age: 53
Number of people in household: 2
Occupation: Chef and Engineer
Where you shopped: Albertsons®

Grocery hauls aren’t just what you fill your cart with: They’re also the possibilities that spring from a single trip to the store. Inside all those shopping bags are potlucks with friends, family game nights, comfort meals when we need them most, and nutritious starts to the school day. So we don’t only want to know what ingredients folks are buying — we also want to know what moments they’re making with them.

As a full-time chef and engineer, Lori Monte is constantly concocting ways to have fun with food. Whether she’s prepping for pizza night or an afternoon of watching sports, she starts by getting all her essentials at Albertsons® — and picking up some surprises, too.

“I LOVE LOVE LOVE the variety I get when I’m at Albertsons®,” Lori says. “I’m able to try new foods and dishes that I may not have heard of before. If I’m unfamiliar with something, I can ask a butcher for suggestions on how to make a dish or what to serve with it.” With reliably high-quality produce, meat, and pantry items — plus digital savings — Lori can get even more for her money. Here’s how she does it.

Credit: Lori Monte

What’s your grocery strategy?

Lori has a simple three-step process for grocery shopping success. “First, I see what we are out of (or almost out of) and add what we need to our shared grocery list app,” she says. “Second, I sit down and plan out the meals for the week, then assess my pantry and freezer for any ingredients I need to add to the list. And third, I review store circulars for sales and items that I may want to stock up on.”

That preparedness extends to when she shops, too. “I go to the store when it first opens. It’s less crowded and, more often than not, the shelves are fully stocked. I will also speak with the department managers in meat and produce to find out when they restock or when the new stock arrives.”

How do you meal plan?

Lori is a huge advocate for meal planning and prepping. “I create meals that match the season, like thick and hearty soups or pot roasts in the cooler months,” she says. “And I take one hour every Sunday to cook a big batch of protein, like a huge roast or chicken in the slow cooker. That way, when we have our meals, we only have to worry about the sides and veggies.”

Credit: Lori Monte

Cubano Sheet Pan Pizza: Friday Night Pizza and Games Night

Lori starts prepping for this relaxing weekly tradition on Tuesday night, when she makes five or six balls of pizza dough that cold-ferment in the fridge until Friday. (Did we mention she’s a pizzaiola?) “On Thursday, I send a group text to our ‘Friday Night crew’ about what toppings they can bring.” Her Cubano pizza features pulled roasted pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and bread and butter pickles.

Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese Spaghetti Sandwiches: Quick WFH Lunch

Since most of Lori’s weekly work calendar is video meetings, she often schedules them for 45 minutes instead of 60. “Those are my golden 15 minutes when I can have a meal without being rushed, but it’s still something really delicious,” she says. “It’s my mental break from the workday.” If spaghetti and meatballs were on the menu the night before, she’ll turn the leftovers into one of her childhood favorites, ‘Sketti Sandwiches: warm and gooey sandwiches on garlic butter-slathered Italian bread with melted Italian cheeses. Perfetto.

Credit: Lori Monte

Roasted Cauliflower with Thai Peanut Sauce: Saturday Afternoon “Me” Meal

Saturday afternoons are Lori’s quiet time alone in the house, so she likes to relax with a comforting meal. To add more veggies to her diet, she does a takeout spin on roasted cauliflower with spicy peanut sauce, cilantro, and roasted peanuts. “I can shut everything off, sit at my kitchen table, look out at the palm trees, and just relax.”

Pizza Pasta: Her Husband’s Favorite Dinner

This dish is a little gift to Lori’s pasta-obsessed husband. “I married into an Italian family,” she says. “My husband wants pasta every day.” Since Lori is always craving pizza, this meal is a great compromise: It’s full of crispy pepperoni, Italian sausage, shredded Parmesan and mozzarella, and fresh burrata.

Credit: Lori Monte

Spicy PB&J Burger & Tater Tots: Game Day Meal

Lori and her husband like to cook together, too — especially when it’s time to whip up a batch of burgers and crispy tater tots on game day. This is Lori’s spin on PB&J, with crunchy peanut butter and hot pepper jelly. “It’s a family meal,” she says. “One person does the tots, one person preps. Then we assemble everything and watch sports together.”