Friday, August 01, 2008

Grocery Shopping

With Suburban Hippie just back from England and Desmama in Peru, I think I better post about something really down-to-earth so I stop sitting here wishing I was somewhere else.

My sister-in-law and I once figured that you touch your groceries about five times (At my grocery store I bag my own, so add one to the tally) before they make it to your cupboard. Then you eat them all up in a few days and have to go back to the store. She was lamenting how much she hated the grocery store as we spoke. In fact, I've had similar conversations with almost every woman I know, particularly if they regularly take their children grocery shopping.

And, I admit, I've had my moments of grocery store hate as well: especially if it is 5:30 in the evening and you have to run to pick up a couple of ingredients with three kids and it is WalMart and it would have been faster to walk from home than to find a place to park in their ten acre lot and there is not an employee in the entire store who can help you.

During our first year of marriage, grocery shopping was always a pain. I never had the ingredients on hand that I needed and I always thought Plantboy bought more produce than we could eat. Though we both enjoyed cooking, the prospect of preparing something new and interesting each evening was daunting. Plantboy probably had more time to cook than I did, but I just felt so obligated to take care of all duties domestic.

Finally after about 18 months of this, and many evenings of going out to dinner just two days after grocery shopping, we worked out a system. It was less of a "light bulb" moment then a "duh- why-didn't-we-think-of-this-before" moment. Each week we make a menu. I then make my grocery list for the week from my menu and shop accordingly. For the last several months, I've mostly been shopping on Friday mornings after I do my paper route. Though I have to contend with armies of stock boys, I don't have to worry about other shoppers or my children. I'm home by seven a.m.

And. I. Love. It.

I love organizing and checking off my list and thinking of all the possibilities for that fresh food. I love watching my regular checker run all of my groceries across the scanner, estimating to within a couple of dollars how much I have spent. I love having a fridge full of yummy ingredients just waiting to be turned into something fabulous. I love the security of cupboards that won't hold anymore. I love the expression on my husband's face when I have made an incredible dinner. I love watching my kids eat everything on their plates, when they actually do. I love experimenting with new ingredients and recipes.

For me, food preparation is my favorite domestic responsibility. It is a perfect blend of creativity with structure, splurging with economy, indulgence with necessity--not unlike my whole personality.

Tonight's menu is a little bit nicer than normal: the missionaries are coming for dinner. I know that we are told over and over again how the missionaries are just happy to eat, sign up to have them and just serve whatever, it isn't meant to be a burden etc. But my experience has shown me that there is something to be said for going to a family that treats you like the most treasured company in town. It compensates for a lot of doors slammed in your face and thousands of miles away from your family. Besides, I'm not just feeding the missionaries, I'm teaching my sons that there is no greater calling.

So here it is:

Three Pepper Pasta
Broiled chicken breasts
Red, green, yellow, orange and purple peppers (okay, five pepper pasta) lightly sauteed with
Baby carrots, garden green beans and zucchini
Halved cherry tomatoes (also from the garden)
Whole wheat penne pasta
All tossed together with homemade pine-nut pesto with basil from the garden and balsamic vinegar

Caesar Salad with Newman's Own Creamy Caesar (is there any other dressing worth eating?)

French Bread with pesto or garlicky balsamic vinegar or marinara sauce for dipping. If I'm really ambitious and have time I may go for bruschetta.

Red Velvet Cake for dessert. The link is not exactly my recipe, but it is very close. Cream cheese frosting is often prescribed for this cake, but it does nothing for it. Chocolate is equally atrocious. (Nor does it work all that well with fruit, especially the raspberries with the tiny insects in them that I was served at Book Group last week, but that is another story.) I've never actually made this cake--my mother used to make it every year for my birthday and it is my favorite. The last time I had this cake (just last week), it was so mediocre that I had to call mum for the recipe and find the first excuse I could to make dessert. I think it would be fun to make it blue or purple instead of red . . . .

Anyway, the food will be fantastic, you are all, of course, invited. Especially if you do dishes. Dishes and ironing are in a two-way tie for Most Hated Domestic Task.


Janssen said...

I don't mind doing the grocery shopping either - I like having my list and just running throuhg it as quickly as possible. And not spending more than the budget.

FoxyJ said...

I also love planning a menu and shopping. I love food, and I love cooking, so shopping and cooking are two of my favorite things. I'm already getting anxious to stock up my new pantry when we get to CA next week.

FoxyJ said...

Oh, and shopping without kids makes it such a better experience. My old grocery actually had free child care, so my kids and I are both adjusting to shopping again after two years :)

Z. Marie said...

I'll come, I'll come! Although I doubt I can afford the airfare.
But you're oh-so-right about grocery shopping. Try doing it in a place where they don't carry things you want to buy -- like graham crackers or brown sugar. Even less fun.

Yankee Girl said...

planning a menu also helps me to save money. and I love the menu you have for tonight.


The graveyard shift employees at Kroger's all know me by name. :)
One of the cashiers used to take pity on me because he knew I worked throwing papers all night and that I had a lot of kids to feed. He'd sell me the left over rotisserie chicken that had been sitting out all night for a buck.

When he quit I was out of luck because they'd rather throw it away than sell it to someone who'll use it like me. (stupid lawsuits) But for that one year or so it was nice to have ready cooked chicken to throw into all kinds of recipes.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I feel the same way about cooking. It's an opportunity to experiment and be creative, and I can do it every single day cuz hey, we've got to eat.

And menu-making is a matter of emotional survival for me. If dinnertime approaches and I have no clue what to make or whether we have the ingredients on hand, it seriously stresses me out.

Slyck and Slim said...

I still make a couple of your recipes from the Champions Ward cook book and think of you every time I eat them. I remember the dinner you made for us when we went over to your house and knew right away you were not a mac-and-cheese mama. I must go try Mr. Newman's Cesar dressing. Cesar salad is a neccessity at our house. Thanks for the tip and recipe.

kanaboke said...

I remember recognizing and admiring that about you when I would babysit your boys at your house. I would see the menu on your fridge and your grocery list and I would think to myself "I need to do that!" have I gotten around to doing it yet? Nope! But I WILL..Oh yes, I will..and goodness gracious you guys have expensive in the heck do you spell that word?? Oh wait, you said it was Missionary Night..I take that back :-)

EmAndTrev said...

Oh my gosh. Your post made me so hungry. And I just ate! You know how it goes. The hardest part for me seems to be the actual execution of a good meal. I love looking at recipes, planning, and even the shopping, but then my energy seems to fizzle after that. I am definitely going to try that Newman's Creamy Caesar dressing. I like several of the others, so I bet I'll like it too!

CaLM RAPIDS said...

I love planning a week at a time and keeping all meals organized. Often there seems to be some item that needs replenishing at the last minute. Cait is now the go-to for last-minute errand running. And now she's working 2 doors down from Kroger--life is good.