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I might be the most disorganized and let’s-just-see-what-happens person on Earth. I like to think of myself as flexible and in my twisted mind organization opposes spontaneity. This approach really hasn’t worked out that well for me. But at 47 years old, I’m starting to learn that having a plan pays off. And when you decide you really want or need something, planning is the best way to make it happen and have more time for spontaneity!

In order for me to make clean, whole food a priority in our lives (pets and people) I had to get my act together. Winging it just wasn’t cutting it – lots of time and money wasted!

I have the great fortune of living within 5 miles of every store ever made. Except IKEA, and that’s probably for the best. My go-to grocery stores are Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Costco and occasionally Whole Foods. (These stores have great selections of organic meats and produce!) But running around, even at close proximity, takes time and I found that – and this is shocking, I know – preparation saves time and money. Profound!

Here are some of my strategies to plan ahead for what I need and always have the groceries on hand so there is less excuse for eating crappy food or eating out.

1. Make a list

I use an app on my phone, Grocery Guru. It probably does a lot of amazing things, but I don’t use any of the features. I tried using my steel-trap mind to keep track of my grocery list (how hard can it be, I buy the same things all the time) I’ve also tried writing down my list on paper that never leaves the house or if it makes it to the car it gets coffee spilled on it or blows out the window.

Whatever works for you in keeping track of what you need, that’s what you should do. For me, I found that this app is the answer. It’s on my phone, I always have my phone. Any time something comes to mind that I need, I add it to the list. I buy different things at different stores, and I have lists for each store. When Jon mentions we’re out of paper towels, I pull up the Costco list in my app and add paper towels (which I will do right now because he told me that yesterday and I don’t think I put it on the list!)

When grocery day comes, I check the fridge and the list before I leave. I do have things I buy every week, but I make sure they’re on the list anyway because I’ve learned 1000 times that anything can distract me and even though I buy cabbage every week, I may overlook it and get home without cabbage and that is irritating because I put so much effort into the list and the shopping! So, I put it on the list even if “there is no way I could ever forget cabbage.” I’ve seriously said that so many times.

So, the fridge has been checked (since that is where 90% of my groceries live) and the list is double-checked, I’ve got my shopping bags ready (please don’t use plastic grocery bags! Just don’t) and I’m going to have a super efficient and successful shopping trip. Yay me!

2. Limit your trips, shop on a schedule

Shopping regularly with purpose instead of whenever I was out of something freed up A LOT of time for me. I have altered my shopping schedule here and there to accommodate life, but it has now become a part of my looking-ahead-and-being-prepared thought process. “Ok, all this stuff is happening this week, when am I going to go to the stores….” It’s a serious part of my schedule, not an afterthought or something I squeeze in. Good food is a priority.

3. Shop online

I’m not sure how I functioned before Amazon Prime and Subscribe & Save. We had Prime for a long time before I really looked into the potential benefits to my life. We used Amazon a lot for books and gifts etc, but it wasn’t until I started wanting to buy food for the pets that was not available at Petco or PetSmart that I turned to Amazon. The “good stuff” was more expensive, and there it was on Amazon for a discount. Score! Then they told me that if I got it delivered regularly, I could save… well I always need pet food!

So, I subscribed to a couple things. Then a couple more, and a couple more. Because if you subscribe to having 5 or more things delivered regularly, you can save up to 15% on top of the already cheaper Amazon price. And if you have an Amazon Prime store card, you save another 5%. It took me a while to get in a groove with all this. But just like my grocery list, I have things I only buy on Amazon, and when something gets mentioned or runs out, I just pull up the app on my phone and put the thing in my cart. If it’s something I subscribe to, then no worries, it will get delivered.

I subscribe to most of my pet food and supplements, staples like canned coconut milk, cacao powder, other bulk spices like sea salt, pepper, turmeric, dried onions etc. (all organic, of course!) I also buy eco friendly laundry soap, gluten free shower soap and other household items on Amazon. I don’t need all this stuff every month, you can space it out how ever far you need to, and each month you review what is scheduled to be shipped and if you don’t need it, you skip the delivery and it goes on next month’s list. It’s so easy.

I’m always searching for the balance between price and convenience. Basically I buy meat and produce on my weekly shopping trips and most everything else on Amazon.

My nature is to wing it. I roll with the punches and fly by the seat of my pants. But that strategy just did not work with managing our fridge and pantry and being prepared to make the food I wanted us to be eating. I found success in having an efficient system in place for always having what I need on hand, no excuses!

Remove obstacles and simplify the process and you’ll be on your way to a lifestyle of eating healthy.