Ready to take your food shopping online? Here’s what you need to know beforehand.
With online shopping and curbside pickup now so popular, many grocers are making it even easier to get what you need with shoppable recipes that add items to your cart automatically as you browse and select recipes to prepare from their website. This approach may tempt you for its convenience, but it can leave you sticker shocked because recipes tend to favor pricier, prepared ingredients. Plus, in the long run it still creates extra work because you’ll need to edit your list depending on what you already have on hand.
Most importantly, unless you’re the type of cook who enjoys the challenge of mastering a new recipe every night, it leaves you in the lurch for preparing the dishes you know and love. So why not create your own personal menu plan? If you choose to shop online, after a few weeks of trying this strategy you’ll have your own system in place with orders that are easy to repeat. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Choose recipes that you know work well for you. Start with your family favorites or look around for a new dish you want to try – but be on the lookout for recipes that will use some common ingredients and provide leftovers for easy lunches. This is especially important when online shopping because some retailers limit your ability to buy in smaller quantities; having several ways to make good use of that family pack of chicken breasts is key. Consider, too, what your week will look like and how much time you will have to spend in the kitchen.
Always have a “plan B” recipe. Even the best laid plans are prone to change, so make sure your menu includes at least one dish with ingredients that won’t spoil quickly if you need to shift gears midweek. A pasta dish that relies on canned beans or frozen shrimp is a good option.
Make a master list. Take a closer look at all the recipes you’ve selected. Do you have 4 recipes that call for onions? How many will you need to get you through the week? Compile a shopping list that accounts for all the ingredients you’ll need. As your needs can change from week to week, it’s helpful to account for every item, even if you already have it on hand, so you’re less likely to forget anything on future purchases.
Don’t forget the dish soap. When creating a master list, remember to include other household items you regularly buy, like trash bags and cleaning products.
Picture yourself in the grocery. Once you’ve drafted your shopping list, close your eyes and imagine walking through the store so it’s easier to reorganize your list, grouping what you need to buy in each department – online sites are organized the same way you would navigate a grocery store, so the time you spend looking for each particular ingredient will be much faster if you already have a list that corresponds to this format.
Save your work. Many online sites will save a record of prior purchases, so when you want to repeat a weekly menu the ordering process will become much easier with time after you’ve done this a couple of times. But keep those menus you create so you’ll know exactly what you’ll need the next time.