Last week I told the short tale of living at a Residential Treatment facility, where part of our salary was paid in food. For 5.5 years we had a pantry right on campus where we could get all the food necessities that we needed. This was grand...while it lasted.
When we transitioned out of our Houseparenting role in 2014, and made the move into the real world of grocery shopping - it felt a bit daunting. I had been out of practice for so long, and the Recession, and increasing food prices, had happened in that time.
My husband and I have a long-term dream of one day living on only half of our income, and giving the other half away (another post for another day). And one way to help make that happen was to be wise and prudent in our grocery purchases. Hence the main reason for our pared down grocery list. That, and I just tend to crave the minimal.
Several things have helped us:
1. Meal Plan: this isn't elaborate (it couldn't be or I wouldn't stick with it!) It involves about 10 minutes on a Sunday night (lately I've incorporated the kids into helping) and the main goal is to use what we already have. If we don't have it, we follow our....
2. Capsule kitchen grocery list: I wasn't the originator of this idea, I found it here. And though I am a rule follower, I did veer off the rules a bit. I needed to accommodate a family of 5 - with 3 of them being 'distinguished' taste palettes under 10. It was still a very scaled down list from what it could be and it helps keep meal planning streamlined.
3. Aldi: I am so glad it exists. Our goal is to spend no more than $200 a month on groceries. Aldi helps make that possible. Everything on my list can be found there and grocery shopping, even with kids in tow, can happen in 20 minutes.
As you can see, I stay a bit more general than the Capsule Kitchen dictates, but this allows me to have a bit of variety (i.e. pasta can mean spaghetti or rotini) and to shop sales (turkey on sale when chicken is not). Because, unlike the Capsule Kitchen that changes every 3 months, I have used this list for almost 3 years.
I love the ease of this list, because I can just run down it quickly, know if I need to replenish or not, and make my shopping list in a short amount of time.
It also has helped us eat healthier. You'll notice there is no room in the list of 30 to add in already prepared foods. Sometimes, on a crazy, hectic night, it's a bummer that I don't have something quick to pull out, but in the long run we've managed to adjust, plan ahead, and sometime be OK with popcorn, carrots, and cheese cubes for supper...
Also contrary to the Capsule Kitchen, I have a second list (shh...!).
These are items that I don't buy weekly or need to replenish often, but they are kind of needed (i.e. flour! and curry!)
I, by no means, think this is doable, or necessary, for everyone. We, thankfully, do not have food allergies or intolerance in our family that restrict our choices.
But, I hope it can give us all pause to realize that, in our culture of having everything we could ever want for food right at our fingertips, (or just a short drive to the store) we really can get by on a whole lot less than we think.