When I mentioned on here a couple of years ago that I was intimidated by the grocery store, I got the FULL range of responses. Some people thought I was being downright ridiculous, others shared their tips for how they grocery shop, and then I also had a bunch of people saying that they experienced the same thing.
I’m still not a great grocery shopper, but I have certainly gotten better. Two big contributors: 1) I learned how to cook and 2) I stopped eating out as much.
My mom did most of the cooking when I was growing up. Although I’d help her with baking, I never did with cooking. Other than doing simple things like soups and toast and scrambled eggs (but literally), I wasn’t sure about anything else. In college, I always had a meal plan. In NYC, my kitchen was so tiny that I ate out or picked up salads every day. If you know how to cook or love cooking, it’s hard to imagine being overwhelmed by even something as simple as cooking chicken. But trust me, if you really have NO idea what you’re doing, it seems daunting. I always looked at people who could whip up meals and considered them magicians of sorts. HOW could they just cook without instructions?!
When I moved to Connecticut, I was inspired by my big kitchen to start to flex my cooking muscles a bit. It was pretty challenging at first and I wondered how I could get to the point where I would feel comfortable.
If you are clueless in the kitchen like I was, I can’t recommend meal services enough. I used both Plated and Hello Fresh for a while. They seriously taught me how to cook. The best part was that they took the guesswork out of “what to have for dinner?” and even did the (dreaded) grocery store shopping for me. It forced me to learn how to build a full meal, from sides to the main thing. It encouraged me to cook things that I never thought I’d be able to do (like empanadas or pad thai). In the beginning, I was blindly following instructions but even still, I was definitely picking up tips, tricks, and skills. After about a year, I felt more confident in the kitchen. I could make a tomato sauce from scratch, pan sear a steak, bread a chicken, and cook with fish oil.
I eventually stopped the services just because it was hard to know when I was going to be home for dinner or not a week in advance. But I was so grateful for the skills I picked up!
(Things are a little different now that I’m living with my boyfriend because he’s so good at cooking and I pale in comparison. Even though this is what I would personally buy to cook for myself, this still applies to what I prefer to keep in the refrigerator and pantry!)
Depending on the week, I’ll try to figure out what lunches/dinners I’ll be having at home. Some weeks I look up a new meal online (I have been really into The Defined Dish and Inspiralized and keep whatever I don’t eat in one night as lunches for the next few days.)
– Vegetables: zucchini (for zoodles!), Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, arugula, salad/lettuce mix
– Fruit: bananas, clementines, avocado, tomatoes, lemon
– Starches: Jasmine rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, Ezekiel bread, English muffins
– Protein: ground turkey, tuna cans, chicken breasts, chicken sausage, salmon, sliced turkey, eggs
– Snacks: Cape Cod Chips, organic popcorn, dark chocolate squares, RX Bars
If I have a specific recipe I want to try to make, I’ll go into the grocery store with a list. If I don’t though, I know I can still pick up a few of these staples and have enough things to work with for breakfast, lunch, and dinners. I try to keep things as simple as possible during busy weeks. I load up on vegetables (roasted Brussels sprouts are my go-to), stick to one protein (like salmon), and add in a little starch (maybe some jasmine rice or a sweet potato).
Here are some of the things I make very frequently:
Breakfast: Oatmeal or avocado toast
Lunches: PB&J on English muffin, avocado toast, leftovers
Dinner: pan-seared salmon, tuna cakes, grilled chicken, zoodles and meatballs, and Buddha bowls
Would love to know what you keep in your pantry/refrigerator and what simple meals you make every week!