Is it just us, or does it sometimes feel like everyone at the grocery store has it all figured out? It's like every other shopper got some secret memo that never got passed along. There is no secret memo, though. To prove it to you, we talked to four busy people to find out how they shop, where they shop, and what they shop for. They all shop differently and have their own methods. Take a look in their carts, compare your methods, and maybe even steal an idea for your own secret memo.
Like a lot of working parents, Spencer says having a full week's meal plan helps save a lot of time and money. Next week's meal plan includes Salisbury steak meatballs and vegetables for family dinner on Sunday, vegetarian spaghetti with kale on Monday, tacos on Tuesday, breakfast for dinner on Wednesday, turkey burgers on Thursday, lemon chicken on Friday, and sheet pan salmon and vegetables on Saturday.
Fun to know, right? Keep reading to learn more about her grocery shopping routine.
How often do you go to the grocery store?
At least once a week, if not more. This is because there are certain things I like to buy at specific stores, especially Costco, which is where I buy milk and staples like peanut and almond butter, string cheese, honey, maple syrup, and lots of my produce. They have a lot of organic stuff!
Do you go by yourself or with the kids?
It depends. I work from home, so if I have free time during the day I will sneak off by myself. Or they come with me, which often ends in some sort of meltdown or crisis, because, you know, kids.
Actual tantrum happening in my house right now: "I DON'T WANT SKIN!!!"— Kate Spencer (@katespencer) January 30, 2018
Do you have any grocery store tips or common pitfalls?
It costs a little bit extra, but Ralph's has a program called ClickList where you order groceries online and then pick up in a specific parking spot and they bring your things out to your car. If my schedule is particularly packed — or my kids are sick — I sometimes do this to save myself some time. I rarely use InstaCart (because it costs more and I actually enjoy going to the grocery store and hand-selecting things) but it sure does come in handy if I am sick and don't have the energy to leave my house.
It really helps me save money — and room in our tiny kitchen — if I plan the week's meals, make a grocery list off of that, and then go to the store. If I just roll in with no plan, I buy way too much stuff that inevitably goes too waste (and is a drain on my wallet).
omg my 4-year-old just called chickpeas “hummus eggs”— Kate Spencer (@katespencer) December 9, 2017
When do you buy organic?
I will buy organic when it's cost effective (Costco has great organic berries, for example!), but shopping for a family of four is expensive and I pick and choose what I am willing to spend money on. I try to buy grass-fed meat and wild fish when possible. Also we are very fortunate to live in Southern California, where we have an avocado tree that's currently producing a ton of avocados, and friends swap produce from their own yards — pomegranates, oranges, lemons, figs, tangerines, grapefruits. It's endless.
Every time an Ina Garten recipe calls for “good olive oil” it feels like she’s quietly judging me— Kate Spencer (@katespencer) December 25, 2017
What's always in your shopping cart these days?
- Trader Joe's Frozen Rice, $3.49 for 30 ounces at Trader Joe's: This stuff is THE BEST. I hoard it in my freezer. It's so easy to add to a meal and takes three minutes to make!
- Tasty Bite Madras Lentils, $18 for six, 10-ounce packages: I buy these Tasty Bite Madras Lentils at Costco. These lentils mixed with some TJ's rice is a meal!
- Kirkland Signature Coffee, $11.50 for three pounds at Costco: I buy a lot of Costco's brand, Kirkland. Their coffee, their snacks — they just make good, affordable stuff.
- PG Tips Black Tea Pyramid Bags, $4.50 for 40 at Target: I am very loyal to PG Tips tea. I have mostly stopped drinking coffee, as it exacerbates my anxiety, but I knock back tea in the morning and PG Tips is my favorite. I've even gotten to that point where I pack it with me if I'm traveling.
- Kerrygold Butter, $6.50 for 1.5 pounds: I also love Kerrygold Butter, which I get at Costco. Can you tell I love Costco?
Stay tuned for more grocery shopping-related interviews with real people. We'll be running one each week during March!