Food shopping is a chore for most people, and there is nothing more stressful than running around looking for last minute items before your guests arrive. A bit of forward planning and a few strategic shopping tips for your dinner party or home event will save you valuable time and money, as well as ensuring you and your guests are enjoying quality produce. 

A shopping list is absolutely essential when entertaining. When making your shopping list, remember to adjust the recipe quantities for the required number of guests. Check your pantry and refrigerator to determine what you need to buy.

Divide your shopping list into the following categories:

  • supermarket
  • butcher
  • greengrocer
  • fishmonger
  • liquor store
  • deli/gourmet store
  • specialty store (eg Asian grocer)

You’ll find a useful shopping list template that you can download on the life’s a feast website at www.lifesafeast.com.au.

A shopping list is essential when entertaining
A shopping list is essential when entertaining

Divide the above items into those that can be bought ahead of time, those that need to be ordered, and perishable last-minute purchases. I recommend shopping for non-perishable groceries a week before your occasion, leaving you ample time to attend to food preparation and other tasks that need to be done closer to the time. Always check the use-by dates, particularly on dairy and deli items.

Meat, fruit and vegetables can be bought the day before, whilst seafood and fresh bread should be purchased on the day. Order meat, seafood or special foods a week before, and confirm the order the day before collecting it. Some local suppliers will often be prepared to home-deliver if you are placing a large order.

Incorporating seasonal produce into your menu will save time and money. Seasonal produce is readily available, is at optimum quality and is easy on the pocket. Using fruit and vegetables that are out of season will cost you considerably more, and you may end up going on a wild goose chase trying to find what you are looking for. Our “What’s in Season?” guide in our free monthly newsletter will give you an idea of what fruits and vegetables are currently in season.

Incorporate in-season produce into your menu
Incorporate in-season produce into your menu

When ordering liquor, ring your order through and request that it be ready for collection. There are many online liquor stores that will home deliver, often free with a one dozen bottle purchase. For Australian readers, we recommend Vintage Cellars and Cellarmasters.

There are many time-saving products available these days which will make your life so much easier, especially if you are cooking for a crowd: shaved parmesan cheese, pre-washed salad greens, peeled and deveined prawns, chargrilled vegetables to name but a few! Another way to save significant time is when placing your meat order, ask your butcher to trim, bone, joint or dice it. Similarly, when ordering seafood, ask that it be filleted, boned or shucked.

Remember – it’s okay to cheat a little! Your guests don’t expect you to have made everything yourself. Take advantage of the wonderful assortment of quality products available these days – good quality dips are perfectly acceptable, as is a freshly baked dessert from a reputable patisserie.

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8 Comments

  1. A very helpful post, it must be read before going shopping. In fact, I can never be loyal to my list whenever I enter a market. Especially at delicatessen parts of markets.

  2. Hi Zerrin, I know what you mean! I am constantly tempted to buy goodies that are not on my list when I’m at a good deli or a market.

  3. the trick is to fill up on a good meal before shopping.

    standing in a goodie store on an empty stomach isn’t good for the wallet. good for the economy, though.

  4. Very wise advice! I can still easily be deviated from my shopping list when surrounded by beautiful produce or gourmet goodies!

  5. I am so impressed with your organization! I indeed make lists, but they are scrawled and scratched on half pieces of paper that are put on the fridge with magnets! Nothing like your beautiful computer list!

  6. Hi Joe de vivre, my handwriting is so bad sometimes I can’t read it, so computer generated lists are the way for me to go when I’m entertaining!

  7. Having the shopping list is really important, if you don’t want to miss things out or you don’t want to buy something that you already have. When doing shopping I mostly ask myself whether I have this thing at home or not, so I sometimes kinda buy something that already have at home. Nice post though.

  8. Shopping is essential for people living in western countries, as they only go for shopping one or two times a week. For easterners, they buy foods almost every day so as to get the fresher ones.

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