Kitchen Confidence

The Best Way to Organize Massive Holiday Grocery Lists

By • December 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Doing the big holiday shop the Type A way.



The holidays are here, and you've got a lot of cooking to do. With all the roasts and sides and sweets you've got in the pipeline, you don't just need a game plan. Your grocery list needs a game plan.

Jotting down on post-its is fine for your weekly grocery list, but faced with a taller-than-normal stack of recipes, it's easy to miscount, underestimate, or plain forget. We should know -- we shop for the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast every week for our photo shoots at Food52. So we rely on a simple system to save us from last minute dashes to the store.


 
Below is the super satisfying -- and effective -- grocery list method I learned when I interned in the Saveur Magazine test kitchen, and brought with me to Food52. All you need is your favorite word-processing program (Word, TextEdit, or even a blank email).

Your lists will be cleaner and shorter, and you'll always buy as much as you need (and not more). For the Type As among us, it makes everything make sense.

grocery list

1. Categorize. Start listing off sections of the grocery store you know you'll have to hit: Produce, Dairy, Spices, Booze, and so on. (Bonus points: List them in the order you'll see them in the market.) List any specialty stores separately: Butcher, Cheesemonger, Greenmarket.

2. Gather. Paste in the ingredient lists of all your recipes. (If the formatting gets crazy, try the command "Paste & Match Style" -- you'll love it!) Type in any ingredients from cookbooks or hand-written recipe cards.

3. Re-group. Start cutting and pasting! Herd all the ingredients into their appropriate sections. Creme fraiche, butter, milk -- head on over to the dairy section.

4. Combine like ingredients. A little culinary math helps, but when in doubt (or in a hurry), round up. 5 sticks of butter + 6 tablespoons of butter + 1 1/2 cups of butter becomes 3 pounds of butter.

5. Check your stash. Now that you know you need 11 cups of flour for all your holiday baking, you can more easily check against what you already have on hand. 5-pound bag of flour lurking in the pantry? Now you can decide if you really need to buy another.

 

Now you're well-armed to hit the grocery store with confidence and conviction. You can print your list and bring a pen for the soothing cross-off experience (and the ease of tearing the list in half, if you're bringing a buddy). Or go paperless -- email yourself your list or use a handy app.

While other shoppers are staring at the spice aisle, blank-faced, you'll be skating around them -- that much closer to home, your couch, and a nice hot toddy.

Grocery store photo by Sarah Shatz. All other photos by James Ransom.

Jump to Comments (2)

Tags: Kitchen Confidence, tips and tricks, how-to, grocery shopping, holidays, holiday, how-to & diy

Comments (2)

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Okay, this will prove that I am a triple type A -- but I suspect you knew that) -- fold your paper so that the text is on the outside when folded. It's so much easier to use while shopping! (I have to admit that I'm now mostly using the Notes function on my iPhone for my regular weekly shopping . . . and that about 50% of my holiday food shopping, or whatever percentage is non-perishable, is integrated into my regular shopping (always handy on my iPhone) within the 2 weeks prior to the week of the event. So my "big" shopping for big events has increasingly become just not that big. But the general strategy I use for coming up with and organizing the list is the same (except that many of my recipes are not digitized, so I do it by hand, on sheets of paper folded lengthwise -- with half of each page available for notes, calculations, doodles and arrows and similar artifacts of non-linear thinking. ;o)

Open-uri.30863

over 1 year ago GordonW

This is very similar to the method I use. I take the organization craziness a step further. I divide the page into 4 quadrants: meat, dairy, produce and aisle. The first three are usually on the outside wall of most markets. Then I fold up my list into a square along the quadrants. As I move through the store, I only look at one section of my list, refolding as I finish a section. This has the added bonus that when I go to different markets, I can shop the sections in the order that make sense in relation to the flow of that store.