“When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” As much as retail therapy can be helpful, that kind of shopping is probably not what you have in mind as the holidays approach and you find yourself in the supermarket. Again. And again.
Cooking and entertaining can be stressful, especially at that moment when you are halfway through making a dish only to realize you are short an ingredient. How can we organize and streamline our shopping and make it more efficient and organized as we head into a month of Jewish holidays? (And don’t forget Shabbat in between!)
How can you go shopping if you don’t know what to buy? Making a menu is the first step towards better organization, even if you only have a rough idea of what you will be making. Start with putting down on paper the essential dishes so that you can start crafting shopping lists.
Once your menus are made, they will give you an overview of the total amounts of ingredients you’ll need so that you can shop once or twice and not make a thousand trips.
I always work backwards on the calendar. I look at the holiday and then pencil in a schedule of what dishes have to be made closer to the holiday like fresh vegetables or salads; then I work backwards on the calendar scheduling dishes that can be made more in advance. Kugels, soups, meats and many baked good can usually be prepared in advance and frozen. A cooking schedule helps establish deadlines for when certain items need to be purchased…and that helps organize the shopping lists.
LISTS, LISTS, AND MORE LISTS…
Only you know the stores you frequent for different items, so here is my take on how I break down my lists. Obviously, you can choose to get everything from one store all at once, but most likely you will need certain items sooner than others; or you may find it more cost effective to buy certain things in bulk wholesale.
Meats – I generally buy all my meats/poultry in one kosher market, so I have found it easier to build one big list, place an order, and then I have what I need in-house to either start my cooking or to freeze raw for use closer to the holiday. And hey, if you are making one brisket in advance, why not make two to cut down on your cooking, right?
Costco (or your choice of wholesale club) – Yes, I admit it. I am a wholesale shopper not just for toilet paper but for bulk dry goods like sugar, flour, eggs, oil, etc. as well as staple produce that I know will be depleted quickly during holiday cooking (but that also last for a while like onions, carrots, apples, and celery).
General shopping and last minute produce – I separate out my general supermarket shopping list and depending on how much in advance I have done this shopping, I sometimes opt to plan a “last minute” produce run the day before holiday. “Last minute” doesn’t mean unplanned or emergency; rather it is a short and scheduled trip to get those more delicate, perishable items you really want to buy fresh and close to the holiday like greens, berries, or fish. When I know it is on the schedule, then I also know to make time for it, and hopefully, with the rest of the shopping mostly done, it shouldn’t take that long.
Shopper’s tip: Organize your general shopping list by section of the supermarket so that you can efficiently work your way from one section of the store to the next.
Shopper’s tip: If shopping way in advance, buy under-ripe produce like green avocados or melon to stretch shelf life through the holiday.
Somehow, we all cross the finish line of holiday shopping and preparations. Some years, I’ve done it more gracefully than others. With a little bit of preparedness and organization, we can welcome in the New Year concentrating on the things we really want to and leave the stress behind.