Meal plan magic
If there’s one common denominator in adulthood, it’s grocery shopping. We all have to do it, learning the ins and outs of the overstuffed aisles of our favorite store. We learn their coupon policies (do they double? Up to how much?) and sales cycles; we look for their flyers and stock up during particularly great promotions. We know where they stash the good clearance stuff, and when the discount stickers often appear on yesterday’s meat.
Except me, apparently. I have no store fidelity.
Since we moved from our apartment to a neighboring town, Spencer and I have yet to find a permanent grocery home. I flit from place to place on Sundays, depending on my mood, and tend to choose the location based on whatever other errands I have nearby.
Some stores are certainly pricier than others, and cost is my motivating factor. The grocery chain I actually love most — for its atmosphere, I guess, if a corporate market can have “atmosphere” — leaves me flabbergasted with an obscenely high bill, so I try to shop elsewhere. But I often find myself returning to my first love.
When I still lived at home, a good friend used to see a local deli’s sales ads in our newspaper and rhapsodize about their amazing prices on meat. Sandy is a seasoned shopper and allaround knowledgeable adult person, so I knew she could ac- tually spot a “good value.” I could not. After Spencer and I married and my foray into domestic life began, I was shocked — shocked! — at the price of, say, a pack of chicken breasts. And how to actually cook said chick- en. My dad has always handled the weekly shopping and was the master chef at the Snider residence. My idea of “grocery shopping” was asking Dad to add granola bars to his list for me. By the following afternoon? They’d appeared! My favorite kind, no less! Magic.
I was spoiled (though not un- grateful), and I know it.
As I didn’t leave home until my late twenties, even commut- ing through college, there are still times I’m overwhelmed by the “adult” tasks I never han- dled until recently. Buying a vacuum cleaner. Doing taxes. Creating a will. Handling all the cards for family birthdays. Deciding between name brand and off-brand potato chips.
I like to say I cannon-balled into the vast, mysterious waters of adulthood; no hanging out in the shallow end for me. Within a year of getting married, we bought a house and I moved twice, then became pregnant with our first child before our first anniversary. Six months later, our son was born — two months early.
If I thought I was “adulting” before, that was another level.
Life has settled down a bit since then. Though I’m hesitant to describe myself as calm these days, I definitely feel like our little family has found a groove.
Just in time to welcome a fourth member, of course. I guess that’s how it works.
I never feel more grown-up than when I sit down to write out a weekly meal plan. Tired of the “what should we make?” cooking game, I try to take a half hour on Sunday morning to flip through recipe books, dog-ear meal contenders and draft a grocery list. It just makes life easier when we’re all back from work and daycare, hungry and tired. I’m a woman who likes a plan.
Spence and I probably eat four of five weeknight meals at home — a record for us. In our dating and just-married days, going out to eat was a way of life. My husband jokes that the houses around here were all built without kitchens, ’cause it seems like the rest of the world always joins us for crab cakes. Doesn’t matter the time or day; restaurants in Southern Mary- land are jammed.
But we work hard, you know? By the time folks get home from their long commutes, pick up the kids, tend to pets, sort through bills . . . well, they don’t feel like roasting a chicken. Not on a Tuesday, anyway.
I was that way, too — before Oliver. As I’ve shared, our adventures in dining are very limited with a toddler. Not to mention that, as he gets older, we’re also ordering for Ollie off the menu. So that’s three entrees we’re paying for, though our son’s meal is little more than $4 macaroni and cheese. Still. Costs are on the rise. When I started getting serious about planning for good, wholesome dinners (with left- overs for lunches), I noticed my grocery bill was actually dropping. I was no longer wandering the aisles grabbing things at random, realizing halfway through the shopping trip that I actually wanted to make tacos for dinner, not spaghetti, and needed to back- track to find all the ingredients I’d already passed by.
Less in the pantry. Less crammed in the freezer. Less cluttering up the fridge. And more money in my wallet.
Time is at a premium, but so is energy. At nine months pregnant, waddling around a cavernous store isn’t good for my stress levels or my hips. I was so winded from a recent shopping run that I immediately came home and crashed on the couch. Spencer brought in and unpacked everything as I tried to muster the willpower to . . . sit up.
I’m cutting myself some slack, though. The fact that I’m still working, meal-planning and (mostly) mobile is more than I could have hoped for at this point.
But if someone wants to bring dinner? Well, we’re always grateful. Never picky.