My Hack to Simplify Your Shopping
Get in and out of the grocery store in a snap.
How are you? How’s your kitchen? I shared my Trader Joe’s favorites a few weeks ago, talked about my must have pantry staples for meal prep last week, and I’m about to head out to the store to restock my fridge, so I’ve got grocery shopping on the mind.
Are you still buying your groceries IRL? Because I am. Spending an inordinate amount of time perusing my local market is one of my very favorite pass times. But sometimes a trip to the store is less about leisure and more about utility, so it needs to be quick.
And that’s what we’re talking about today: a quick tip for getting yourself in and out of the supermarket in a snap.
But before we dive in, I want to share a little anecdote about my mother, who inspired today’s Fresh Letter tip. When I was just around 20, finishing up college, I was home for the holidays. We host every year, and my mom cooks a fabulous, traditional meal. She had forgotten a few things at the store, but was too busy in the kitchen to head there herself, so she enlisted my services.
Off I went with a list of everything she needed written in her distinctive and exquisitely neat half-cursive-half-print handwriting burning a hole in my pocket. I arrived at the store, referred to my list, looked up to my right and spotted the first thing on the list in a big display immediately to the right of the entrance—fresh cranberries for the cranberry salsa we make every year. I made my way through the produce section, checking what was next: sweetened condensed milk for the sweet potato soufflé, which happened to be down the next aisle. I continued this way, winding through each aisle and finding everything I needed with complete ease as I did.
Now, mind you, I was doing this grocery shopping on Christmas Eve, a notoriously hellish day to be in public, let alone in a store, but this was one of the most frictionless grocery trips of my life. Once I was about halfway through the items on the grocery list, I realized why: my mother is a grocery store savant. She has the entire store and its contents memorized. When I got home, I interrupted her cooking to confirm my suspicion and yes, she had indeed written the grocery list in the exact order the items would appear in the store. At the time, I thought she was a genius. I still do, but now I’ve got an additional decade of grocery shopping under my belt, and I’ve found myself in a bit of an apple//tree situation, which brings me to today’s tip:
When writing a grocery list, divide it into the following categories: produce, dairy/meat, and packaged goods.
Not all of us have the exact location of every single product in the store memorized like the back of our hands (but mom, if you’re reading this, I’m getting there!) but adding this very small organizing principle to a grocery list will make the trip immeasurably easier, trust me.
Why? Well, I’m sure you’ve already clocked that grocery stores are almost always laid out like this: produce immediately after you enter, dairy and all other refrigerated items around the perimeter of the store, and dried/packaged goods (and freezer aisles) in the center.
Writing your list in a way that mimics the natural layout of the store will help you move through, grabbing what you need with ease, limiting the number of times you need to double back for something that slipped your mind—or was written further down your list than you thought!
For reference, here’s a photo of the my list for today’s Trader Joe’s run:
Bonus tip for the iPhone users: you can add bubbles to check off items your grocery list as you shop in your notes app by selecting the part of your list that needs the bubbles, then tapping icon I’ve highlighted below.
Okay, please let me know, are you already doing something like this? If not, would you try it? Are you like my mother and have the entire store memorized? Or are you doing the bulk of your grocery shopping online these days? I love to chat anything and everything pertaining to supermarkets, so please feel free to respond to this email directly, or leave a comment for the group via Substack!
Before I go, a reminder that Abigail and I have a few cooking classes coming up, including a Knife Skills class next week! Peruse them here.
Alright, that’s about it from me this week. I hope you have a lovely, well-fed week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,