Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Perhaps it’s a bit of compulsion or simply experience kicking in, but I’m a list maker. Not always, although I should be. I’ll make a list in my head for simple mid-week grocery runs. I’ll recite it a dozen times- even aloud to make it stick. “I got it”! The minute I set my hands on the buggy (that’s grocery cart for you non-Yinzers) poof! I turn into Dory, ‘a boat? hey, I saw a boat’. I can't remember shit. Every. Time.
I volunteer cooking for the majority of holiday feasts for my extended family. I enjoy it; truly, I do. To me it is fun being busy and creating dishes mostly reserved for these yearly banquets. But with these elaborate spreads comes a long list of ingredients. And if I am not organized forgetting even the smallest of ingredients throws off all of the preparations.
So, I’ve devised a plan--a list to keep this Dory-esque brain from becoming Annie Proffitt (you know--Goldie Hawn in Overboard?). They say a forgetful brain is a superior brain…I say it’s a nuisance.
Set Your Menu
Write down the things you’d like to serve, in order of serving them- appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts, drinks.
Write the ingredients needed for each menu item. Some ingredients will be pantry staples while others will need to be purchased or ordered.
Compile and Organize Shopping List
You may have specific ingredients on multiple menu items, like garlic or flour. Only write them once on your shopping list but account for the amount you will need.
I don't always like to admit it, but I believe that my organization skills are really because I'm inherently lazy. I like to find the most efficient way to do things, so I don't waste time or energy. Most groceries stores are set up the same way. Write your list in order of how your store is set up— Almost all grocery stores start with the Produce department and then line the walls with Meat, Seafood, Deli & Bakery. Then the center of the store encompasses the Grocery department, along with Beer & Wine, and Health & Beauty. The Front End is where the cashiers and baggers finalize the shopping experience.
side note: I’m late for everything. There, I said it. I like to call it optimism. One more thing can be accomplished or one more thing taken off my mental to-do list before the next thing starts. Once the grocery store changed around the store layout and I saw several patrons walking like confused water bugs, like myself because their muscle memory was thrown off by the rearranged grocery aisles. Having your list organized may help when they change the perfectly fine produce section, or rearranged aisles. And it keeps you ontime for picking up your son from school— cause heaven forbid a teenager stand by himself for a few minutes. 😉
Once at Home
I set up a staging area for my groceries—a collapsible plastic table— dry ingredients in one space, perishables in garage frig or even just in garage. The car no longer is stored there and the temperature is rather cold. Savory and sweet separated so it's easy to find ingredients.
Starting with tasks that need to be completed first and leading up to day of preparations. Cooking rib roast is a task for Christmas Day, buying the oysters should be absolute last minute, so that is Christmas Eve morning. Same thing with the bagels from Bruegger's. Making pierogies can be a week earlier and frozen. The bacon scallion cream cheese can be done a few days before. Aaahhh!! Too much stuff to do...I have to make a list!!
Finally, making a list allows me to enjoy the process. It can be overwhelming; making it look easy is a hard feat. But with good organization skills and going through the process, you can make it seem effortless to put out a spread everyone will talk about and enjoy for a long time.
Word of Warning. Don’t lose your lists. I am old school and need the actual papers with me while I shop- my phone doesn’t cut it with this brain. I’ve left my list at Costco before and was panicked. Thankfully someone found it, delivered it to front desk, and made my day!