How I shop, Part 3.
It's not until after I've decided on my meat purchases that I can figure out exactly what we'll be eating. Generally, this is actually a simple process, despite how it might sound. I cook using a combination of basic staples and HOMEMADE MIXES. So after I know what meat I'm buying, usually there are only some "special" ingredients I need to pick up, as well as restocking any staples that are low. I keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge and another on the inside of the pantry door. All week I write down things I realize are running low so that I know to purchase them while shopping. This usually isn't that much, since I also stock up on things when on sale, but occasionally I'll go a stretch of time where I don't find something on sale, like perhaps olive oil or rice, and I'll need to pick some up because we're running out of it.
"Special" ingredients just means something like zucchini or dried kidney beans; something I don't keep on hand but would need to complete the meals, not anything very expensive or "gourmet".
I will start checking for the special ingredients and the staples in the first store we visit and if the prices are good there, I go ahead and buy them; otherwise I wait to see the other stores.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a frozen turkey breast for $2.50. I cooked it in the gravy it came with and that night I served hot open-faced sandwiches (turkey slices on bread slices with caramelized onions and the gravy), oven fries, steamed carrots, and peaches. A couple of days later, at lunch, we had a spinach salad with diced turkey, a bit of bacon, some homemade croutons, and sliced carrots, served with some garlic biscuits. We also had a night where dinner was turkey pot pie and apple slices. By deciding in the store that these were the meals I would make with my turkey, I knew I needed to pick up fresh spinach, peaches, bacon, and some frozen peas (for the pot pie.) I already had other ingredients/foods, like the apples. I always buy potatoes, onions and carrots if I'm low - I consider these staples. And because I was buying the bacon and spinach, I knew I'd need to come up with something else to make with it, so we had a mock-quiche* that week, too. Because I decided to make the quiche, I had to pick up some swiss cheese. This was too expensive at store number one, but at a good price at store 2. Because I was buying swiss cheese, I also decided to make a two-cheese (also used cheddar, which I keep on hand) scalloped potatoes dish and I served that with some sausage, which also happened to be on sale that week. I'd already figured I'd serve some sort of potato dish with the sausage, so once I decided upon the quiche, I knew just what potato dish I'd want to make.
Note - the turkey pot pie required a sauce and crust, and the scalloped potatoes had a sauce, all of which were made from some of the mixes I keep on hand, so I didn't need to buy anything extra for that.
I have a feeling this sounds utterly insane! But I hope this is making at least some sense. The point is, I first determine the meat. Then I figure out what we'll be eating with that meat, then I make sure whatever I buy for the meat can be used up - that I'm not buying something I'll never use again. Sometimes it may be that I freeze something for use later, but I will definitely use it.
I think you can see that my meals are pretty simple. We don't eat the exact same thing every week - there's no Meatloaf Monday or Spaghetti Thursday - and I do make a variety of casseroles and soups to use up ingredients, but what I don't do is cook anything hugely fancy or costly or full of one-time-use only ingredients.
I'm assuming this will be more understandable if I really break down an entire shopping trip and all the ingredients, so that will be my next shopping post.
(Also - I mentioned shopping in only one store before, and I haven't forgotten that. I will get to it soon.)
*mock-quiche: I brought this up once before, but mock-quiche for us is some variation of what Bisquick calls IMPOSSIBLY EASY PIES. I vary the ingredients by what I have on hand and use my own "master biscuit mix" to make these.