posted by Lisa

I do my shopping on a weekly basis and it’s something of a ritual for me.

It’s something that I learned from my mother, who did it mostly because she didn’t like to spend a lot of time in the grocery store.   She made a long list, hauled us kids in the station wagon, and made her way through the Shop Rite, aisle by aisle, piling her cart high with foodstuffs. What I do is not that much different.  Because I shop weekly, I have to be organized, so I keep pretty good lists about what I need or want, and because it’s a long-established habit, I can write these lists pretty quickly, unless I’m throwing a dinner party or it’s a holiday.  Like my mother, I buy a lot food. Sometimes, I can hardly believe how much food I buy.

I buy almost all of our food at 2 places: Trader Joes and the local farmers market.  About once a month I’ll buy a large stash of organic, free range meat at Whole Foods, or from Prather Ranch in San Francisco–by far my preference–and freeze it, and every few months I’ll treat us  to cheese and mortadella and grissini and many other excellent imported things from Woodside Deli.  But I try very hard to keep my shopping life simple.

All of our family food culture–and all of my marketing revolves around my local farmer’s market, which runs year round. It’s small, family friendly, and I’ve been shopping with many of the farmers for longer than I’ve known my husband.  I know that I could get a CSA box, that it would save me time and–very probably–a lot of money, but I’ve really come to love the farmers and the relationships I have with them. More important, Ella and Finn now have relationships with many of the farmers and opinions about their food and where it comes from, so that’s become an increasingly important part of our family food life.   So, while my list of how and what we eat really does start with the farmers, they are far too big a topic to deal with in one post.  Instead, over the coming weeks I’ll focus on one purveyor at a time in a series of posts: “To Market:  Where It Begins” so as not to overwhelm you.

I don’t plan my menus, but I rely on what is in the farmer’s market to determine our meals.  We eat small amounts of meat, and I let our produce and the season dictate each meal.  So keep on hand a range of dried goods and staples that will allow me to cook pretty much whatever I want in any given week with the fresh produce from the market.

For now, here is the list of  things that anchor our family food life, and as I prepare to write this I confess feeling a bit uneasy, a bit naked, as in, what will they think of me !? as in:  what will they think of my pantry ?! as in will they think i am a food snob?! too pedestrian?! unfit to be writing in the blogosphere?! will Sarah Palin’s assistant yell at me, too?

But in the spirit of full disclosure, in the Sexton/Plath/Lowell way of doing things, even though I’m probably more comfortable with the Moore Model, here is what I might have on any given week on my Trader Joe’s shopping list:

1 case Crystal Geyser Bubbly Water

cannellini beans

organic black beans

marinated bean salad

1-2 gallons 1 % milk

OJ w/calcium

brown bread, white bread, nan, italian bread, organic tortillas

organic bananas

Niman ranch hot dogs

organic tofu

Trader Joes masala or curry simmer sauce

baby bell cheese &/or organic string cheese

dubliner cheddar cheese, or gouda goat cheese, or cheese curds

fresh mozzarella

cottage cheese

cream cheese

Fage yogurt

prosciutto &/or pinot grigio salami


mild salsa

organic white corn chips


potato chips

rice crackers

pb &/or cheddar cheese sandwich crackers &/or

multi-grain entertaining crackers

maryland crabcakes

frozen organic crabcakes

frozen terayaki chicken (my one very recent capitulation to organic meat–more on this choice on the “suriviving first grade” post)

frozen pot stickers

frozen organic jasmin rice

frozen pizza dough

organic jasmin rice

organic pasta: 1-2 lbs, spaghetti/penne, whatever they have that I’m in the mood for


pizza sauce

Grade B maple syrup


Organic brown &/or white sugra

sun dried tomatoes

dried mushroooms

canned tomatoes

“eggplant” hummus

1-2 cans tuna in olive oil

1-2 bottles canola oil for frying, depending on the week

single origin chocolate bar

a tub of cookies

ketchup, dijon, mayo, capers, butter, sesame oil, soy sauce

beer. six pack

wine, 2 bottles red, 1 bottle white

whole organic chicken–I don’t like to buy these here, but sometimes I do.

Other staples I can’t get at Trader Joes, but which we keep in the house:  Papadam, too many different kinds of salt to list right now, several olive oils (standard, an excellent extra virgin, and infused), nori, Rice Krispies, wasabi peas, Jeremiah’s Pick Organic French Roast Coffee, Ciao Bella Gelato, Carnaroli or Arborio rice, Polenta or Semolina flour …Some of these I get at our lovely local, family owned Key Market.  Which I would shop at all the time if it didn’t cost me 3x as much as Trader Joe’s…