The Grocery Getter Girl

February Family 2012 117The family can survive on ice cream, and potato chips….. and you know this is true Moms and Dads! Do you ever feel like throwing up your hands and screaming, “You don’t love what I cook, FINE, see how you like it when I don’t cook!” And then mumble some obscenities out the side of your mouth while slamming some cupboards. You too? Oh good.

I like to cook, a great deal! I would go so far as to say I LOVE to cook. I went to culinary school after all, but only recently did I really start to think of myself as a chef. Not a high powered executive chef, just a normal, run of the mill-knows most of the time what shes doing in the kitchen-lowest rung of the ladder-chef. A home cook! I think generally, if you home make several meals for your family every week, and spend time researching good recipes, you feel the same way. You too, are a chef! Some of it is trial and error and what your family prefers. We love garlic, for instance, and a lot of it. We cook a lot of different types of food, but we go through many a bulb each week! Not everyone digs garlic, and that is cool, you just have to find what works. I feel like I have arrived, I have the self confidence to just go cook something, and make it delicious.

Before I went to school for it, I was surrounded by foodies at the Ypsilanti Food Co-op where I worked for 7 years doing many different jobs, mostly cutting cheese and making Awesome Avocado Sandwiches. I also had an opportunity to learn how to bake bread form my Brother-in-Law, the able Baker Charlie Muller, who together with Hilde and three young children they run Laughing Tree Bakery in Hart, Michigan! He taught me many things, like how to deliver bread in a decrepit mini-van, how to roll baguettes, and how to save any frustrations in your day for inanimate objects, namely a very particular chainsaw used to cut pallets into firewood for the oven:)

I also worked at the wonderful Zingerman’s Bake House where I learned more about customer service than food, but I will never regret that job. The training that you can get from a Zing-Train Seminar is worth every single penny you will spend learning how to increase customer satisfaction!

During culinary school (I went to WCC but never graduated), I worked as a line cook at the Cottage Inn Cafe’ which was a pretty real restaurant. We made almost everything from scratch, and the food was good. I was in charge of “bakes,” which were essentially pre-made pasta dishes like lasagna, manicotti, and spaghetti. There wasn’t a lot of creativity involved, I would simply pull the cold plated dish out of the cooler, throw on a scoop of “mar” (marinara sauce), and a large handful of mozzarella cheese, and then bake it for about five minutes in a very hot convection oven, which I loved so much I called her ‘My Blodgett!’ Then later on I had probably the most interesting sous chef position at the Oasis Cafe’ sponsored by Hope Clinic, where I got the amazing and once in a lifetime job opportunity to work with Paul Metler and Chef Johnny (an executive chef). I learned how to make a lot of fancy things there, but especially soup, and quiche which I can do with my eyes closed! We cooked gourmet food for the poor, it was like the Ritz Carlton of soup kitchens. I wish it had been able to stay open longer!

Now when I think about cooking, I think about books. I have so many books, I have a whole shelf in the kitchen dedicated to cook books. I highly recommend anything written by the folks at America’s Test Kitchens. In particular my Sister-in-Law got me what my family refers to as the “BIBLE!” The New Best Recipes, From America’s Test Kitchens. They take the time to spell out the reasons why they do everything they do. I love that. It also cuts down on the guesswork. I also adore anything by Mollie Katzen. She wrote the Moosewood Cookbook, and several others that are all worth your time! I like to sit down with a cup of Earl Grey and a cook book and read it. My kids laugh at me when I do this, but I find it inspiring. I recently got into the Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet by Tara Wohlenhaus and Nanci Slagle. It’s super cool because these ladies have a SYSTEM, I’m telling you, they knock it out! I have changed some ingredients here and there, but I love their overall concept, which is to do a whole ton of grocery shopping, and then a whole lot of cooking, and then freeze most of it so then for the rest of the month you have back up meals! So far I have only been able to do a weeks worth in advance, but really, every little bit counts, right?

I have had many food streaks in terms of what we do and do not eat. I have shared these with you, and I will ever so humbly admit, even though I steer away from wheat and grains in general, our gluten free diet only lasted a month. I remember the day I threw the pan of sourdough spelt bread on the floor in frustration, and that was it. I feel much better when I keep away from all but sprouted grains, but didn’t notice a huge difference in the kids. So….we’re back on the bread. But we are still dairy free. I don’t know how I managed to get such a great husband, but he was super on board with us trying new things to keep us healthier, and I so appreciate his support. My kids didn’t love it, but we all have happier digestive tracts and less eczema and ear aches. We are enjoying a lot of fresh squeezed veggie juices, and almond milk, and are pretty happy with meat only for special occasions. If you look around online, generally milk has lost it’s reputation  for being a super healthy elixir. Here is a link to Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate. They recommend less servings of dairy, and I am a fan.

My favorite thing to do every Saturday morning is hit the store as early as possible, before my brain is fried, and without so many customers I can just fly through and get the necessary ingredients for a bunch of yummy meals. And just for the record, no matter how much I plan, make lists, bulk order, etc. I always forget something.

What are your tips for grocery getting? Do you make a list of meals? Do you wing it? Are you a coupon user? Kroger or Meijer?Anybody like ALDI? Does anyone do Sam’s Club or Costco? I haven’t gotten on the coupon bandwagon, but I have heard stories….Tell me your shopping story!

my future grocery getting VW Bus!
My future grocery getting VW Bus! One day….

4 Comments on “The Grocery Getter Girl

  1. Hi Jen! So can you tell me exactly which of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks you have that you so love? I found several with similar titles so I think I might be missing something. Thanks!

    • Thanks Karen, there are so many great ones, my fav is: “The New Best Recipe” from the Editors of Cooks Illustrated! The other one that I love is “The Best Make Ahead Recipe,” which really comes in handy if you have family coming to town, or you are planning meals for yourself or a friend after they have a new baby….What is your go-to cookbook?

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