Entries in organized kitchens (1)


The Big Shop

Nobody calls me when things are tidy and the household is running smoothly. The nature of my business is such that when things in the home reach a tipping point, I get a call. Every house is different. Every client is different. Yet there are common themes that I run across time and again, one of which is the subject of this entry: over-buying groceries.

I walk into kitchens that are literally over-flowing with food. There are hundreds and hundreds of cans (soups, sauces, vegetables, tuna, you name it); there are myriad dried goods, plus jars of jam, salsa, mushrooms and just about anything that can be put in a jar. Often, much of the food is so old and out-dated that it has to be pitched. It is quite simply TOO MUCH. 

Most of this is the by-product of over-shopping and lack of preparation. Being organized isn't about the right shelves or the perfect hangers, despite what television advertisers would like you to believe. Being organized is about taking a moment to just breathe and think. It's about being thoughtful in your planning. Here are some hands-on tactical tips to keep the contents of your kitchen under control: 

1.  Plan your breakfast/dinner/lunch menus for the week. Planning the week doesn't have to mean that you abandon all spontaneity. This is an outline for the week, but it's not written in marble and you needn't be rigid about it. Plan your menu, then allow yourself some flexibility and wiggle room:  if a friend calls and asks you to come out for a quick bite one night, go enjoy the food and the company; if your kids want pizza night after basketball practice, order the pie and enjoy. But planning the menu prepares you for your week. More importantly, it makes it easy to follow step No. 2.

2. Make a list based on your menus before you head to the grocery store. After you take a few minutes to plan your menus, write down all the items you need.  Steps 1 and 2 will take you no longer than 15 minutes. [Maybe it'll take 25 or 25 minutes when you start, but after a while, you'll get to be a whiz and you can complete the planning and list making in 10 minutes flat.] When making your list, be sure to think about other household items you may need:  kitty litter, laundry detergent, paper towels, etc. The idea here is to do all the thinking at home and then go on autopilot at the market. 

3. Use only the coupons for items which you intend to purchase on your list. But what about all the money you can save with coupons? Hooey. 80% to 90% of coupons encourage you to purchase items you do not need, do not want, and may never use. If you have coupons for items on your list, even better. Otherwise, ditch the coupons. Use your list. And your head.

4. Don't fall prey to the 10 items "bargain. You've seen the deals -- 10 cans of butter beans for $10. You know what? If you buy 2 cans, it still only costs you $1 per can. Buy the amount you need and not in bulk. Most of us aren't cooking for an army. Don't shop as though you are. 

5. Don't impulse buy. Try to stick to the list. One thing that will help you to avoid impulse purchases is to eat before heading to the store. Shopping while hungry is a recipe for disaster.

As with any new habits, this may be uncomfortable, unpleasant or strange. Stick with it. Don't beat yourself up if you have way too much in the kitchen. And do not castigate yourself if you backslide or slip up. Just keep on trying. 

Last thought. If you take these steps above to re-take control of the shopping, you'll start seeing a difference in your kitchen. And in your grocery bills.