My favorite time to go is after 10PM but I’m usually sleeping then, and most of them aren’t open that late anyway, so I settle for before 10AM weekends or around 3PM on Fridays. You can go whenever you like but I recommend avoiding 10AM-2PM Saturdays and Sundays unless you are a masochist who enjoys watching amateurs fumble around in each aisle directly in front of the item you are entirely sure you would like to purchase.

 Take an inventory of the pantry, and the fridge (but that should be just about scarce by now). Make a list keeping in mind the current store of goods. Don’t forget about the winter squash and abundance of tomatoes you just got from your farm share. What will you do with them, and what else do you need to do it? Figure out how many stops you have to make. One stop shopping? Or a triple threat with stops at the local independent natural market, the fruitery, and the supermarket? Each approach has its advantages so picking one is usually up to what you need, how much time you have, and your mood.

 Park the car, remembering never to back in, so that the trunk is readily available to receive the bounty. Take the beat up reusable bags out of the back seat and hold onto the list – don’t forget the pen. Walk in through the automatic door and find your chariot, give it a quick test to make sure it doesn’t have a wonky wheel or an ear-piercing squeak. Push it through the next set of doors and your quest for comestible triumph begins.

 The list is key – but know what is necessary; the oatmeal you eat every morning and the sack lunch staples, and the ingredients to complement your farm share odds and ends, and what can be abandoned in lieu of what entices you during your journey; almost everything else, however it should be a one for one swap by category. They all set it up so you start with produce….but buck the system and go there last. How can you possibly know what produce you need before you have picked your proteins, and know what state they are in? Which are fresh and will be used in the next day or two (they will need to be paired with ripe produce), and which are frozen, often fish, (and require produce that will ripen as the week progresses), and what specific meatless meals you have decided upon and what produce they require? Once you have the rest sorted out and in your carriage it’s time to forage through produce, hopefully the selection meets the aforementioned needs of meals you have mindfully planned, if not now is the time to make some substitutions.

 Check out and try to bag the groceries by category: frozen and refrigerated, dry goods, produce, non-food items. This will make unpacking much smoother. Once it’s all put away, take a load off. All your efforts will be rewarded in the coming days when you can come home to the makings of a good meal without any thought at all.