In our house, I do most of the cooking. That is both by choice and by inclination – mainly because I enjoy it, and the other resident of our house does not. A part of our division of labor is that I am in charge of groceries, and she is in charge of dry goods.
I am fortunate enough at this point in our lives that my life is not so overscheduled that I can do it (most days) and thus get to do something both that I enjoy, and that is useful on a near-daily basis.
I am a pantry cook. I enjoy looking at what is available and putting together a meal out of it, with trips to the store being mainly to fill out what is lacking or to get something I need that is fresh.
But even when I get to the store, I treat it like my pantry too: I look for what is cheap, what is on sale or what has been discounted and use that as the basis for my meal planning. I have some rules of thumb in this department. For example, I am attracted to any form of fresh meat that is below $2 a pound, especially boneless meat.
I also mostly go to only one store – the grocery store near my house. There are lots of reasons I shop there. For instance, that is where my neighbors go, so by shopping there, I am in solidarity with them. I also get to know that one store really well and learn the rhythms of their discounting and sales. I also get to know the staff there, and I believe you should always have a relationship with the people who feed you, and, by my shopping there, I feed them as well.
Most days I stop by there after work to get whatever fresh thing I need for tonight’s dinner: a head of lettuce, some green beans, a pork chop. Actually, most days it isn’t to get the pork chop because my limited freezer space is filled with meat I bought when it went on manager’s special, their term for meat nearing its sell-by date and thus is heavily discounted.
But when I am there, I am constantly scanning. What is discounted? What is on sale, or just a really good price? What are we low on at home? Canned beans and tomatoes are a staple, as are frozen vegetables. I make it a rule to never leave with just what I came for. I am always stocking up the pantry.
This way of eating (and shopping) assures that our overall food costs will be lower than average since I am buying most things when they are heavily discounted and that we eat far more fresh things than is normal for most folks.